MARCH 23, 2020: Digital media has changed the essay through videos! Video essays create a visual structure that analytically digs into the content to provide a reflective experience. A basic rule: be flat-out interesting!

A video essay is a short online video which pieces and cuts together content from one or more resources in order to reveal new insights about them. Their intention is to be interesting critical videos that make arguments about media and culture. As video essays are meticulously narrated and edited, juxtaposing video footage, images, audio, and text to make an argument, it resembles the structure of a traditional essay. In the Ted Talk: How YouTube Changed The Essay, Evan Puschak traces the history of the written essay and the essay-film, showing how these two strands feed into the video essay which is becoming increasingly popular.

Evan Puschak is the creator and producer of The Nerdwriter, a popular web series of weekly video essays about art and culture that puts ideas to work. The Nerdwriter is an eclectic channel with the purpose of bringing intriguing topics that capture attention by understanding a basic rule in media: be flat-out interesting! Video essays are great lessons on persuasive and argumentative writing as they present compelling questions or topics that critically dig through evidence to offer a new perspective or insight and being able to transmit it to an audience. If you want to make video essays, there’s no better film to study than Orson Welles’ 1973 masterpiece, F for Fake. Watch below some of the lessons to take away from it about structure. No spoilers!

Through video essays we can ground our arguments in important cultural or political topics, exposing the ways dominant media represents and oppresses minorities through race, gender, sexual orientation, class, age, ability or culture. How has media evolved and influenced the world as we know it? Video essays can become a platform for critical communication, a clear example is the channel Vox. Vox critically reflects on issues in politics, culture, and history with explainer-style videos that challenge dominant discourses. Vox helps you cut through the noise and understand what’s driving events in the headlines and in our lives. Below watch how robots are writing their own essays! Learn how computers just got a lot better at mimicking our writing language.

Video essays take a visual structured approach that analytically digs into the content to provide a reflective experience. To start your editing journey below are two resources where you can embed questions into videos, allowing the audience to actively engage with the content they are viewing. iSLCollective is perfect for creating videos to test reading comprehension, listening, and vocabulary. Questions are imposed on top of video segments. You can create different types of questions like fill-in-the-blank, multiple-choice, matching, and open-ended. There is also an option to make an interactive dictionary where students click on different parts of the video. Learn below how to design a video! 

EdPuzzle is an online program that allows users to embed questions directly into any video as well. Once an EdPuzzle video is assigned to a student, that student’s video will automatically pause anytime there is an embedded question. The program will not allow the student to continue watching the video until they answer the question. As a creator, you can embed various styles of questions, but the program can self-grade multiple-choice style questions. This makes checking for understanding and gathering formative assessment data a breeze. Choose a video, give it your magic touch and track your students’ comprehension. Test out EdPuzzle and make any video a lesson! Watch below…