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Video Time!

Video time

by Andrea Robertson

When this article was written videos were still being widely used. These days, DVDs have taken over. The same principles for their use applies.

Using videos to enhance your prenatal education program is popular with parents. They are very comfortable with TV viewing and find it a familiar way to receive information. It is also a useful tool for the educator – it enables you to quickly illustrate points you are making, to include other speakers and viewpoints into your program in a brief yet effective way and it provides welcome variety and a break from other teaching strategies.

Using videos wisely and effectively takes careful consideration and presentation.

The power of television and the aura it creates (if you saw it on TV you are more likely to remember it and also to believe it), while useful as a shortcut to getting a message across, also presents some potential pitfalls. Here are some ideas you can use to make the most of your video presentations.

Choosing the best video

Think carefully about what you want the video to achieve. Would another teaching strategy (e.g. a visit from some new parents or a guest speaker) be more effective? If you have decided that the convenience and flexibility of a video, plus its unique content would be a helpful addition to your teaching plan, the next step is to choose the best video for your purpose. No video is perfect – there is always something you wish the video makers had left out! You need to be selective and decide whether the video, on balance, will help your cause and that of its viewers.

Always look at a video a few times before you screen it to the group. As you view the video, appraise its qualities: check for bias; make sure it says what you want it to say; think about how long it is and the time you have available; consider the emotional impact it may have on its viewers; plan what you will say to introduce it and also to wrap it up and generate discussion. Don’t forget that scenes you are very familiar with (such as perineal views of birth) may be quite shocking to the uninitiated. Try and look at the scenes shown through the eyes of a newly expectant parent – how might they see it?

Some videos focus on problem solving, e.g. breastfeeding films on positioning, and this can create a negative impression that may be counterproductive. Try to balance such a video with some positive input on the topic as well, or else some parents may assume that breastfeeding is not worth the trouble!

Be wary of videos offered for free by promotional companies and especially manufacturers or distributers of maternity equipment or products. These are basically commercial in nature and are designed to encourage sales of their products. When selecting videos, choose those made by independent producers with no commercial or vested interest in the subject matter. They may cost more (they are usually priced to reflect multiple screening and licensed for group use) but they are not biased in their message.

Presenting the video to your group

Your group members will remember what they saw on the video long after they have forgotten what you said on the topic. Take time to set the scene and prepare them for what they will see. You can help them identify the points you wish to emphasise by saying “as you watch this, notice how the father reacts” (or what the midwife says, or how the mother handles the contractions etc). This will help the audience to focus on certain aspects of the video and perhaps reduce the impact of less desirable scenes.

Some other points to remember:

  • Not everyone wants to watch a video, especially of birth. Negotiation around this issue is essential, well in advance of your intended screening. If some members of the group are reluctant, then consider screening the video at a time when they can be doing something else.
  • Make sure you have enough time for comfortable viewing. Schedule it before a break (but not at the end of the session) so that you can follow up with individuals if necessary and there is time for discussion.
  • If time is short, consider showing excerpts rather than the whole film. There is no rule that says you must show the entire video and sometimes using a series of highlights, such as several birth scenes conveys a more useful message anyway (there are a number of ways women handle labour, for example).
  • Don’t dim the lights completely – you want to be able to watch the audience to gauge their reactions. Sit to the side where you can watch them inconspicuously.
  • Never start the video and then leave the group to watch while you leave the room to prepare the refreshments etc. It is vital that you monitor the reactions to what they are seeing so you can lead an appropriate discussion afterwards.
  • Playing the video with the sound down or off gives you a chance to provide your own commentary. This can be especially useful for birth videos where you can highlight those aspects that complement your other class content.
  • Use the pause button if you want to highlight a particular point or prepare the audience for the next scene.

Leading discussion

Video viewing often raises strong emotions and important feelings. At the end of the screening, allow some time before launching straight into discussion. Bring the lights up gradually and give people a minute or two for reflection. Open the discussion with some open ended questions or feedback on your observations of their responses:

  • “How does seeing a birth like that make you feel?”
  • “I felt that some of you were a bit surprised by ….”
  • “What did you notice about …..?”
  • “What did you think about ….?”
  • “It can be hard to take it all in …. are their any aspects you want to talk about right now?”

There is a tendency for parents to think that what they have seen on the screen will happen to them. It is important to keep the discussion general, and not to imply that this is how labour and birth, for example, will be for them. Mention that the birth they have seen was this woman’s unique event and we were looking at her responses to what she was feeling.

Schedule enough time to discuss the video in full. You may want to refer to it again in the next session (especially if it was shown towards the end of the previous class) incase further questions arose after the class was finished.

Some educators have a library of videos they make available for parents to view privately. This is one way of solving the “lack of time” problem in the program but has potential pitfalls. As it is difficult to predict the impact a video, especially of an event that is so personal as birth may have on the viewers, looking at it without the opportunity for immediate debriefing can be a problem. Parents may also misinterpret what they are seeing and be left with a mistaken impression of the events they have seen. If you are going to loan videos in this way, make sure you give parents a chance to debrief their reactions afterwards.

Videos can be a valuable teaching tool and provide welcome variety into a prenatal program. Used wisely they can tell a story or show information difficult to explain in any other way in a class setting and they can enhance your presentation enormously. They can also be just plain fun!

Published in The Practising Midwife Vol 3, No 6, June 2000

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