Literature in 60 seconds?

I got an e-mail from the folks at 60second Recap about their service. They use video trailers to summarize - and/or interest students in - great works of literature.

Check out the new book trailer for Night by Elie Wiesel. Do you think the trailer will make more students interested in reading the book (I thought it was interesting that they said “watch to find out,” not “read to find out”)? Also, here’s a complete series of videos for George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Many more are available at the site.

What do you think of these videos? Are these viable alternatives to the venerable CliffsNotes or the more recent SparkNotes or eNotes? Do these types of services fill a valuable function for students? If so, would it be more valuable for students to make these themselves?

11 Responses to “Literature in 60 seconds?”

  1. I think these recaps have a place and use. I think they can be encouraged as a starting point or review aid. I think they’d be good for engaging reluctant readers or those behind grade level. I find some students can’t get the main point because the language is above their level of ability at the current time. However, if they have the main point they then have a starting point from which to try and contextualize the rest of the content and writing.

    No doubt, it would be more effective for students to create their own 60-second recaps with the ones on the site serving as exemplar templates.

  2. I think this is an amazing idea. Definitely the creation of video trailers for books would be a great way to get students engaged and involved.

    In any case, this reminds me of CommonCraft videos, as another great example of creative videos for reluctant audiences.

  3. If I send you an email, Scott, will you advertise my product on your blog for free? 🙂

  4. Scott,
    I’m in partial agreement with what both you and Blair have to say. Let me start at the end.

    It would be more effective for students to create their own 60-second recaps if that’s what I wanted them to get out of them. I’ve had to learn to watch out for the trap of having my students do something new and cool because I think it’s new and cool rather than a strong fit for the essential questions and enduring understandings we’re dealing with. It strikes me as strange that I wouldn’t do that with a book. Reading

      The Perks of Being a Wallflower

    and realizing it was an amazing creation didn’t lead me to have my students write their own first-person epistolic coming-of-age novels. Electricity does funny things.
    I don’t think of them in the same way as Cliffs or Spark or all the rest. I think of these vids more as trailers for the books. They whet the appetite or create questions. By virtue of the fact they’re only 60 seconds long, they won’t be able to provide the same insight or depth of their predecessors.
    Good questions.
    The thing these vids make me ask is “Why do they make teachers excited?”

  5. I don’t think 60 seconds is quite enough time. We decided that the minimum for anything of substance was 10 minutes and have a project called Lawdibles (i.e. audio law professor).

    We pay law faculty $100 to create 10 minutes answers to frequently asked questions – typical questions of the type that a student will ask the day before the final exam.

    So far, the quality of the podcasts we have gotten from faculty is very high and we hope to create hundreds of these over time.

  6. It’s a great idea, really well done. These 60 second recap videos are tightly scripted — the ease with which the host carries on belies, I think, the discipline behind the conception and execution of the material — so a lot gets packed into those 60 seconds, but without it devolving into a speed-talking exhibition. I’ve seen a number of my students (I teach 10th grade) get pumped about Great Expectations after seeing these recaps. Beyond that, they seem to acquire a heightened acuity as they tackle the material. It’s uncanny.

  7. I really like the 60 second format. With the multimedia world that our students are growing up in, a short, to-the-point review is the best approach.

    Certainly with other applications of this idea you will need more time; however, booktalks should be short.

      Reading Rainbow

    was the first place that this was done. The popular PBS show had students talk about a book for a short period of time. This allowed the student to give an overview of the book-just enough to get others interested in the book.

    If you are looking for true cliff notes, then 60 seconds does seem short. It’s all about the intended purpose of the project and your audience.

  8. Maybe the really, really, down and practical side of this product is using it as something to get the kids started while you were taking attendance or some other mundane chore. In other words, kids could watch the “topic of the day” while you were still figuring out the paperwork for the office.

    Scott is right, the kids should be doing this. Probably won’t end up with the high-key background and other production values, but it would take the learning up to the authorship level with a high interest project. Use the pre-made ones until you have enough student-made projects to cover what is happening in your curriculum?

  9. I think these are a great starting place or hook for a unit of study on a novel for students–particularly for reluctant readers who may have a hard time wrapping their head around a book that is above their reading level. I took a look at the Animal Farm series of video (our 8th grade just finished up this book) and I think the lot would have been good supplementary material, along with other materials that the teacher is already using, for engaging students in the book and helping many of them get a better grasp of the themes and messages in the book. Not at all like Cliff Notes or Spark Monkey, which are still text based resources, that not all students find engaging or accessible. I liked them!

  10. I watched a few of the re-caps. I think the featured titles are more for the higher reader that doesn’t need a lot of encouraging to read. I think the site has potential if as it grows it re-caps a variety titles for all levels of readers.

  11. I thought the idea was interesting – and I liked the “pick of the week” featuring newer novels. Most importantly – I liked it as an alternative to the traditional book report.

    We distill our ideas down to 140 characters when we tweet – why not 60 seconds to hook someone on reading?

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