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Pop Quiz: Cable in the classroom?

When I was in high school, my foreign language teacher had a live cable hookup in her classroom. The official rationale for this was that it would allow her advanced classes to watch foreign language programming and improve their skills, though in reality it often meant we would watch whatever Martha Stewart was cooking that morning.

Of course, even the official rationale was a little dubious–none of her classes were really at the necessary level to watch and understand most programming in the target language without subtitles. Nevertheless, this became a frequent means of babysitting the class on Fridays or other days when no one felt like working.

While this is a bit of an egregious example of the phenomenon, I remember spending quite a lot of time during my primary and secondary school years watching screens: the movie of the book we just finished, a documentary about a subject we were studying, or just something to shut us up while the teacher marked work for some other class. And while I do make (somewhat sparing) use of videos in my own teaching, I wonder if it is ever really an appropriate use of classroom time? After all, technology has reached the point where it’s easy enough to assign these kinds of things for students to watch on their own time, rather than burn precious classroom minutes that could be used for discussion. Or do we just deserve a break sometimes?

What do you think? Do you ever use tv/video in classroom instruction? Is it mainly a time filler or are some videos really preferable to traditional classroom instruction?

The Pop Quiz This Pop Quiz is a question for you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for them on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 3pm ET.

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Dan holds a PhD in Music History from a major Canadian university and is now pursuing a M.Ed in Higher Education at another one, because he likes to collect very expensive paper. He performs stand-up comedy at venues all over Toronto when he's not busy playing JRPGs with his cat, Roy. You can follow him at @incontrariomotu, but he isn't going anywhere. You can also send him a tip on PayPal ( if you like his work!

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