Using Technology to Build a Better Relationship with Students 

Dave Monahan is an award-winning filmmaker, professor at University of North Carolina Wilmington, and coauthor of Looking at Movies, an introduction to film text. As part of his work on the book, he has created dozens of videos illustrating cinematic concepts and techniques. In this blog post, Monahan reflects on how multimedia learning and adaptive quizzing created a positive change in his introduction to film classes.   

Dave Monahan
Image Credit: Andre Silva

When I first started teaching introduction to film courses, I quickly realized that words only got me part of the way. The concepts and techniques students best understood and retained were those I was able to illustrate using images and sounds. Combining images with explanation makes the abstract tangible.  

Back then, I supplemented my lectures and exams with clips culled from the big bag of VHS tapes I lugged everywhere. From the moment I joined Looking at Movies as an author some years later, my goal was to use integrated media to give our readers a chance to look at as many movies as possible. Creating video tutorials on core concepts to accompany the book soon became just as meaningful to me as my work on the text itself. 

The concise, dynamic format that these videos took on enabled us to bring in a greater and more diverse array of movie examples. Frequently, the videos isolate stills from various movies and include voice-over that models film analysis for students. The wealth of examples allows students to recognize and compare, for instance, a single cinematic technique across a range of applications and concepts. Other videos offer a detailed and immersive analysis of how cinematic language is employed in a single scene, or an entire feature.  

While I’ve heard over the years that the videos have gone over well with students, using them in my own intro to film course made it clear to me that they would be an even more powerful tool for instructors (and students) if it were easier to assign them. InQuizitive has enabled just that. An easy-to-use, interactive learning tool, InQuizitive offers a low-stakes assignment for every chapter. The questions include images as well as the videos and are more interactive than simple multiple choice. Students are encouraged to return to the ebook (where the videos are also embedded right on the page) to read up on various topics from the chapter while answering the questions. 

Assessment turned into something positive and productive. 
InQuizitive served as far more than a test of what students retained from reading. It functioned more like a second, deeper reading of the chapter. Students recognize what material they grasp and are gently reminded of, and allowed to revisit, information that they didn’t absorb on the first pass. They’re rewarded for acquiring missed knowledge instead of punished for not retaining it in the first place. Videos embedded in the question stems motivated students to watch closely and apply what they learned.  

This converted dreaded assessment into a positive interactive learning experience that kept students participating until they reached their highest possible grade. Because it’s illustrated and self-competitive, it’s actually fun. Students were spared the stress of screwing up and hurting their grade. The worst that can happen is they have to answer more questions.  

Class time became more meaningful. 
Before InQuizitive, I couldn’t depend on my students to read the assigned chapter before class. So, my only choice was to sacrifice precious class time to reviewing that material so that everyone had the knowledge necessary to fully engage in screenings, lectures, and the kind of discussion and activities that take full advantage of our time together. Because InQuizitive allows students to continue learning until they get the highest possible score—and because it’s interactive, illustrated, and fun—I’ve found that virtually every student comes to class having not only read the assigned pages but also having spent time reviewing, considering, and practicing the ideas we’ll explore more deeply together as a group.   

InQuizitive also made flipping my classroom easy.  Knowing that students arrive having already engaged with the material frees me to be a teacher: leading discussions, coaching exercises, directing activities, and digging more deeply into familiar concepts. I’m no longer a human textbook reviewing material no one read in the first place. For example, I can play a scene from Moonlight, and students already know the key terms we need to start discussing how the camera movement and angles help convey the overall mood of the scene. And, instead of spending class time reviewing cinematography terms and showing them examples from different films, I can use class time to give them real experience with hands-on group work. I can ask them to use cameras or cell phones to create at least five images representing the different camera angles discussed in this chapter (eye-level, high-angle, low-angle, Dutch-angle, aerial-view)—and explain their motivation for each type of shot or angle used.

I have time to actually teach—not just enforce grades.  
I became a teacher to teach, not to grade exams and quizzes. InQuizitive freed me from those most tedious kinds of grading. The platform records their scores and even the topics where my students are excelling and struggling most.  

The time I once spent on grading quizzes can be spent providing feedback on papers, analyses, and exercises—the fun stuff that makes the most of my educational expertise and my passion for movies.  

For example, I like to have students break into small groups to collaborate on an analysis of a short clip as a way to initiate a class discussion. Those discussions are great, but in a large enrollment class not every student has a chance to share their observations, much less get a direct reaction. I now have the time between class meetings to respond directly to every group’s analysis, providing the kind of meaningful professor/student engagement students in large sections rarely receive. The added instruction deepens their grasp of course material, and the acknowledgment helps motivate greater engagement.  

In this way, InQuizitive has even improved my relationship with my students. I’ve become more of a mentor and less of the enforcer.  As it turns out, by bringing more technology into my classes, I’ve actually come to enjoy a more personal, engaged classroom experience.  

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