Multimedia: A Way to Increase Inclusivity in Diverse Classrooms

Picture a classroom full of diverse learners and teachers. Imagine if teachers had and were trained to teach with videos and other multimedia so they could create a truly inclusive and engaging place to learn. Students who learn best visually or through audio will benefit just as much as those with low vision, poor hearing or reduced motor functions, or who are struggling with the language of instruction. A broader array of learners could all be served in the same space. 

Even better, all the students will become adept with multiple ways to communicate, including video, the dominant communication form of our day. Over half of all American adults aged 18 to 34 watch videos on their phones or tablets daily. Twenty-eight percent of Generation Z, born 1997 to 2012, consider themselves to be content creators; 11% consider themselves to be influencers, with thousands or even millions of followers. Fifteen- to nineteen-year-olds don’t like books or newspapers; they spend only nine minutes a day reading for pleasure. Suffice it to say, people younger than 23 are engaged by videos.

With broad access to digital platforms, this inclusive vision is within reach from a technology standpoint. But there is a large training gap for teachers and administrators. In the past, educators generally were not taught how to make or teach with videos and audiobooks. Teaching how to write a five-paragraph persuasive essay is very different than teaching how to persuade through video. Furthermore, much of our religious curriculum is not available in video form at the different levels students need to engage with it. Teachers do not need to be Steven Spielberg, but if they want to appeal to their students where they are, they need to use smartboards, tablets and phones to channel just a little movie magic.


Differentiation Through Video and Audio

Videos can provide rich and memorable learning opportunities. Following some best practices, studies have shown videos are effective in teaching biology, engineering, and foreign languages. Many education colleges teach “multimedia design theory” to future curriculum developers. The underlying principle is that short-term memories have limited working capacity and start to fade after 10 minutes, but video can enhance memory. Learners are more likely to remember new information if it fits into something they already know or if it is emotionally salient to them. Videos offer far more than written words to hang a memory on: a familiar setting, color, voice or piece of music can offer a scaffold upon which to build new information. Making a point with video and audio all at once reinforces the information. 

Expanding the utility and purpose of multimedia in a classroom, “differentiated curricula” are designed to serve people with varying levels of skill or disabilities. Teachers help students find the medium and level of instruction that serves them best, choosing from or creating text, videos, images, animations and audio books. These materials work especially well in flipped classrooms, in which students are expected to engage with learning materials as homework before class, then come to class to ask questions and work through problems. 

Today’s students expect two-way video communication. Video is their native language. You can increase engagement by assigning a video or a multimedia class presentation, instead of a book report.


Lights, Camera, Action!


Eliene Augenbraun

Want to become more of a multimedia maven? Here are some skills and information that will help.

Technology. Schools are generally doing a good job of adopting technology and training teachers and students to use laptops, tablets and smart boards. Many schools also are teaching teachers to use cameras. You probably already know how to use your smartphone camera; most of your students probably will know as well. Other equipment like microphones, tripods or gimbals can help, but they are not necessary. A computer, tablet or smartphone with a video editing app is required, as well as a place to store and play completed videos. A private YouTube channel could work.

Engagement strategy. Videos are stories and need a beginning, a middle and an end. Like text-only stories, every video story should include one theme or big idea, plus must answer what, why, who, where, when, how and how many. If you are not sure how these underlying story-making rules translate to videos, grab your smartphone and practice. Your goal? Viewers expect to be hooked on a story in the first five seconds. (How many colors are in a rainbow?) In the early middle, you want to make the viewer curious about what happens next. (It depends on who’s looking, because humans cannot see all the colors; if you really want to know, ask a shrimp.) End with a worthwhile payoff. (Humans see with the three types of color cones in our eyes. But the mantis shrimp has 16 types of color cones in their eyes, so they see at least 10 times more color than we do.) Make your characters and situations relatable to your audience. 

Scenes and shots. A “scene” is a place, usually depicted in a sequence of “shots.” Different types of shots convey different kinds of information. For example, you might want to use a “wide” shot to set the scene and show where an action is taking place. A “medium” shot shows what the action is and who is doing it, and a “cutaway” shows details of the action. 

Useful techniques. Lighting should illuminate the subject well enough to see what you need the audience to see. For a person’s face, it is best when you see a twinkle in their eye. Voice-overs and interviews should be recorded so you can hear the voice clearly over background noise.

Accessibility and clarity. Everybody has some learning difference they may not even be able to identify themselves. Material should be made accessible to all. It is not only a way to make the material more engaging and understandable to everyone, but it is also the law. The Americans with Disabilities Act ( outlines requirements. The standards for digital media accessibility are described in the Web Content Accessibility Guide

In brief, every image needs alt text describing what you mean the viewer to see in the image. Every video needs closed captions, the text on the bottom of the screen that reports the words said. Every podcast needs a transcript. Generative AI products can help make a first draft of alt texts, closed captions and transcripts.

Legal requirements. The bottom line for school leaders and teachers to keep in mind: You cannot use someone else’s likeness or intellectual property without their written permission. School leaders should be aware of what intellectual property, privacy and other rights are involved in filming students, who are likely to be minors. Schools may have parents or students sign media releases, which can be written so the school can use the student’s likeness, voice, photographs or creative work product in some way described in the release. Media releases need to be reviewed every year, as media law and legal risks change frequently.

Eliene Augenbraun

The Torah says (Leviticus 19:14): “You shall not curse the deaf nor place a stumbling block before the blind.” Adding video, audio and other digital elements to your teaching toolkit will help you remove obstacles to learning for many students. Accessible instruction is not a shiny object you’ll find behind a building at the end of a rainbow; rather, it is a promise to find ways to educate the whole rainbow of learners in our community. Jewish day schools can lead the way.

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AI and Tech
Fall 2023
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