Video provocations – use small screens to develop conceptual thinking

Video is a powerful medium for provocation.

Images, words, music can help us visualize powerful concepts and support storytelling that explores big ideas.

Traditionally, teachers gather the children into one group and all watch the video together.

Yet during this process how much precious learning time is wasted:

  • Organising the children to sit down in one place and be quiet before starting
  • Children fidgeting to get into a comfortable position
  • Teachers disciplining fidgeters and moving children to ‘better spots’
  • Waiting while the teacher pauses to talk about the passages that the adult finds interesting
  • Missing key pieces of content if someone talks (this is made worse when the teacher redirects off task children).

When I look at that list I see a lot of lost learning opportunities.

How can inquiry teachers make better use of video provocations to stimulate curiosity and develop their understanding of a concept?

Multiple screens enable opportunities for collaboration

Use more than one screen

Instead of having the entire class watch one big screen put your in-class devices to work!

The simple act of putting the screen into the hands of the child enables her to:

  • Pause – Is there an idea that interested you that you want to think about or talk to your buddy about? Maybe you just want time to write this idea down.
  • Rewind – was there a section of dialogue you weren’t sure about or an idea you want to hear again?
  • Stop – Maybe this video is not helping the child to connect with the concept. Model abandoning media that doesn’t serve a purpose.

In order to see concepts, children must first learn there’s more than one way to look.

Space considerations

A lot of screens, a lot of potential for noise.

Create QR codes or viewing stations and scatter them around the learning space.

This enables children to:

  • Spread out and not distract other groups.
  • Physically move and look for information.
  • Take time between viewings to reflect on what they’ve seen.
Physical space for viewing

Multiple contexts to explore a concept

We know our learners bring in varied interests and experiences to the classroom. A video a teacher finds a powerful may not provoke the same emotion from the learners.

In our current unit exploring wellbeing the children were given an opportunity to view short video examples where actions in the community led to improved well-being

And also the opportunity to explore where well-being might be threatened.

Were some contexts more powerful than others?


The children were doing what we all do when we see something powerful, pass the experience on.

Did everyone see all the videos?


Some children stayed longer with some videos while others preferred to move along if they felt the video didn’t meet their purpose.

By making the content invitational rather than prescribed, my time as a teacher was spent less on keeping a large group of children ‘on task.’ Instead, I was free to talk with small groups about their observations, questions and any connections they had made.

Exploring a concept in different contexts honours student interests, provides multiple entry points into a unit and helps create a culture of learner agency.

Where the unit lies
By providing multiple contexts for learning, we give space in our units for students to engage with concepts.


Documentation – make note-taking and viewing collaborative

It’s funny. The minute we give children devices, we assume everyone needs to be doing the same thing!

However collaborative learning shouldn’t stop in the presence of digital technology.

By designating one child in charge of pausing and rewinding the video, another can make notes on padlet (a concept mapping app). The children negotiate where to pause and what parts they find interesting. This enables the children to engage in collaborative meaning making conversations about the content they are viewing.

This concept map can be shared from the device to the class Flickr account for viewing by others or the child can screencast their understanding of wellbeing.

Collaborative learning strategies shouldn’t stop when using ICT – using padlet to concept map and another device to view.



Is there still a space for whole class discussions?


However, by giving time, space and multiple perspectives first, the children were able to move beyond their observations of the initial content.

The discussion about well-being quickly moved into ideas about safety, independence, cross-cultural parenting, freedom, space, pain, nutrition, conflict, and poverty.

Children invoked not only the videos they viewed but also their own experiences and beliefs in the discussion.

Moving video provocations from a singular big group activity to a smaller collaborative learning engagement created an environment for children to engage in bigger ideas.

As a teacher, this process enabled me to really listen to their children’s interests, attitudes, and understanding to further help plan the unit.


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