An Instructional Activity: Student-Produced Viral Videos
I implemented my plan to have my undergraduates (mostly 18 to 20 year old students) create “viral” videos for one of our in-class activities. The first part of this post is geared towards educators and administrators. It provides a rationale for this type of learning activity. The second part describes the characteristics that help define a viral video so that these attributes can be presented to the students.
Young People’s Use of YouTube
The rationale for this activity is based on How Teens Use YouTube & Social Media: The Online Generation Gap:
- Teenagers today see online video as a normal every-day type of activity. During middle school and high school years, YouTube is always a hugely popular platform. Most teens consider it to be the “normal” way of watching video (as opposed to television). Certain YouTube videos would take the younger generation by storm; they’d be talked about in the hallways of schools to even the dining table at home. It’s just about impossible for teens to remember the days before YouTube and other online video websites.
- Teens Share More Videos Than The Older Generation. Teenagers consume these videos as they would gossip and TV shows and magazines – whatever video makes an impression on them, they share.
Creating videos for this generation comes as naturally as creating an essay in school. Teenagers are not only creative; they are very impressionable. They express their findings in life both verbally and visually, through all means of technology.
Encouraging Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Creativity
Given these “knowns”, asking teen and young adult students to produce their own videos related on the content begin covered in class should facilitate an engaging and authentic learning activity. This learning activity also addresses some of the 21st Century Learning Skills: the 4 Cs – communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity – as proposed by Ken Kay (via Edutopia) and the Partnership for 21st Century Learning. P21 & FableVision collaborated to release an animated film about the 4 Cs:
Assignment – Producing a Viral Video
My young adult students will not be interested in any of the above information. This is provided for educators and administrators to gain an understanding regarding how and why integrating the production of videos can enhance learning. They will be interest in the characteristics of what makes a viral video.
- Make them laugh.. or cry. The best way to compel someone to send a video to friends and family is to stir up emotion, whether it’s laughing or crying. There are some common traits among the most viral videos — “music, dancing, attractive women, Candid Camera-style pranks, children and topical and political references’ (Lauren Dell).
- Keep it short and snappy. A video needs to be easily “consumed by a multitasking generation” — viewers shouldn’t have to watch a long-form video to get the joke. “Keep your clip or video short, interesting, edgy and give us a surprise that makes us want to forward it to our friends” (Lauren Dell).
- Surprising Contrast. When we see two things that don’t normally belong together, and someone finds a way to make them belong, the reaction it creates is one of surprise. For example, Big guy with a little voice; small girl with big voice – Do you remember the little girl who sang opera on YouTube and how quickly her videos spread? (Jim Chao)
- Three things every video should have:
- Connection—humorous (The Annoying Orange), touching (Transcending), or surprising (Susan Boyle).
- Visceral—We’re all really, REALLY busy. Unless we’re moved on a gut level, we won’t forward anything (L. Drew Gerber).
- Include one or more of the following as viral videos tend to include these types of content:
- Political humor
- Song parodies
- Video blogs
- How to (Eric Olson)
These suggestions were presented to my interpersonal communications students (18 to 20 years old) along with the desirable content – to demonstrate via different types of nonverbal behavior as presented at Nonverbal Modes. They worked on these in small groups during class time. Here is one example:
The results are not that great as you can see but the students were engaged (quite difficult with this particular class of young college students) and they learned about nonverbal behaviors.
. . . and this parting shot of a short clip written and produced by my gifted students from a few years back.