Creative Ways to Engage Students with Video

Moira West


When students are engaged, they learn better. But reaching students who use technology all day, every day, can be challenging — unless you’re using technology, too.  That’s why Nicole Schnibben, a ninth-grade English teacher who knows a thing or two about integrating technology into her teaching, has a bagful of tech tricks to add interest to her instruction.

Though they also do written work, Nicole’s students chat with authors via Skype, get lesson visuals delivered on a Smart TV, and use Twitter simulators and meme generators to make points about literature.

A big part of Nicole’s technology strategy also involves video. She explained a few of the ways she uses Animoto to create, or have her students create, videos that support student learning.

Student projects

When Nicole’s students study Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, they create a webpage that includes an Animoto video related to their topic–sort of a student-created mini-documentary. She also has had students create video book trailers to make traditional book reports more exciting. Students must give information about the plot of the book and find ways to get other students excited about reading their selection.

Her students take pride in their work, using video projects in digital portfolios for college or showing them off in history class. And all that effort means the students remember the material better. “I think there is a higher amount of retention when they’re taking pride in the work that they’re doing, and they definitely take more pride in the videos than they do writing an essay or even just making a poster.”

Videos to introduce units

When her classes start a book that takes place in Russia during World War II, Nicole can put together a brief intro showing photos and video of the period to give her students visuals from that era. As Nicole put it, “It could be something that could take the place of PowerPoint very easily.” The visual aspect of the video will help students focus on the information and remember it better than they might if they’d listened to a lecture.

Videos recapping student work

Nicole also uses video to create highlight reels of her students’ work, which she shows to her classes. “I think even the toughest kids need a pat on the back; to be told they’re doing a good job.” She tries to highlight different students each time, so every student gets positive attention during the year.

Sometimes she’ll take students’ digital work and compile a video using image files. Other times, she’ll take out her phone and snap photos of work students do in class (as in the video below).

Students are always excited to see themselves or their work on video, and because Nicole posts many of these videos on her class page, parents get to feel connected to what their children are doing in the classroom.

Even if you’re not sure you’re ready to incorporate video into your lessons, Nicole’s advice is give it a try anyway. “I think one of the problems is teachers think they don’t have time to learn how to use new technology, but when you have a resource like Animoto, it takes all of two minutes to learn it.”

Already using video in your classroom? Show us how what you or your students are doing by reaching out to us on Facebook or Twitter, or send us a link in the comments below.