Student Engagement

Using Multimedia to Create an Emotional Connection in the Classroom

March 23, 2015

I often turn to stories to provide answers to questions my children have. Stories have a way of providing a simple and profound learning experience that can get to the heart of the matter.  We now live in a time where stories take on many multimedia forms—including short films and photography—all of which are available online for free. How do we navigate this terrain as parents and teachers? 

I have found that a good approach is to seek and share stories which provide a humanizing element. In our overwhelming digital age, a film can provide a way to digest information, both emotionally and intellectually. I enjoyed reading Mark Phillips blog Film as Great Motivator. Film, he describes, has the potential to grab and hold students’ attention effectively through the emotions. He writes that visual multimedia, such as film and photography, have the power to create an emotional connection to the subject matter, engaging students in a powerful way. 

I recently experienced this while giving a workshop with Chicago public high school teachers. During the workshop, I screened a film about gang youth in Ecuador. The film focused on a former nun, a peacemaker who, with immense compassion, gained the youth’s trust and steered them away from violence through building community. The English, history, and language teachers in the room, some in tears, were all sympathetic after recently experiencing a rise in violence with gang youth in the streets of Chicago. One teacher was struck that the gang youth in Ecuador are experiencing what their Chicago students are experiencing in the U.S. with violence.

Teachers discussed ways this film could be used in their classrooms as well as in their school community. They described that a film like this can expose their students to people with similar challenges in a different culture. Teachers also said the film could provide an opportunity to bring teachers and parents together, engage in a dialogue around violence, and find ways to work together.

This experience hit home for me; it shows, like Mark explores in his blog, how a film can engage students and teachers emotionally. I’d love to hear some of your experiences. What are some of your favorite multimedia resources? How are you using them with the young people in your lives? 

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.

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  • Social & Emotional Learning (SEL)

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