I found it interesting that there was initially little empirical evidence that videos enhanced learning. I wonder if this was due to the limitations with the studies or whether the seeming increased valuing of video is somehow linked to the fact that our culture is becoming more and more visually, or multimedia saturated. When doing a listening activity with a FSL 8 class, I did witness how video enhanced comprehension. I first played an audio clip from a CD, but most of the students were completely lost even though the words were ones they had already learned. When I was provided with a video version of the same audio segment, the students were able to follow each part. Canning-Wilson notes that visual aids can distract second language learners from what is beings aid. This is probably because there are too many cues to be taken in at once. In my experience with the video boosting student comprehension, I wonder if they actually understood more French words, or if they processed the information much like they would have for a silent film.
Some friends just starting to learn French commented that watching cartoons originally in English was useful because they knew the storyline and the fact that they were dubbed was not as obvious as for movies with live actors. If I showed visual content the students were already familiar with, would they focus more on the audio? This ties back into the difficulty of teaching and assessing listening skills since I wouldn’t be able to tell what was going on students’ heads.
If visual cues can distract from the audio in videos, does this apply in real life? One approach we’ve been taught is to speak almost completely in French using hand gestures to facilitate comprehension (the AIM uses this approach). Canning-Wilson’s comments make me wonder whether my students who understood my meaning based on my gestures simply focused on gestures and didn’t hear the French words. In my own experience, this may be the case the first time, but if gestures are repeatedly paired with the same words, once I become familiar with the gestures I will start to focus more on the words themselves. If this is the case with showing videos too, then playing videos at least twice is important.