Video journals

Subject: Medieval and Renaissance Archaeology. Course: Archaeological Excavation. Study level: Semester 2, BA. Size of class: 10-25.

Motivation for the activity

I wanted to encourage the students to actively consider the project of which they were part, instead of just being present. I also wanted them to gain an awareness of terminology, process and interpretation. 

Central learning objectives for the course

The course provides students with knowledge of the principles for and process of field archaeological excavations, insight into basic work routines and registration and measuring methods, and understanding of excavations as part of a research process. 

Central learning objectives for the activity

The activity is based on the notion that obscure thinking leads to obscure words, and it is used to strengthen the students’ use of terminology and make them actively consider the process of which they are part, thereby helping them to present and understand what they see.  The students actively present their knowledge in a combination of oral and visual communication by using a video camera in the teaching and learning situation.

Description of the activity – how and why?

The teacher makes a list of topics which the students should include in their video presentations.

The students take turns to assume responsibility for documenting the progress of the project each day using a video camera – in this case by describing the individual finds of the excavation and the process of registration, interpretation and excavation.

Sometimes one student shoots the film and does the voice-over, while on other occasions the students film and interview each other in teams. 

Outcome of the activity

The course is the students’ first practical encounter with the use of excavations to obtain new knowledge about the past. This is a steep learning curve. It starts with an (unrealistic?) hope of finding a medieval two-handed sword; and ends in academic discussions of the formation and relative age of earth strata, the identification of traces of past events, and registration processes.

The purpose of the activity is to get the students to actively use the terminology of this field and reflect on the work and interpretation process by working with an ongoing excavation.

The spoken format, involving speaking in front of a rolling camera, requires a different form of focus and clarity which is a good addition to the pocket journal that each student keeps as well. By writing notes and drawing sketches in the pocket journal, the student goes through a corresponding learning process using a different kind of medium which invites more individual reflections.

The video sequences show a clear progression in the students’ learning. The technical quality is rarely high, but the video itself is not the purpose of the activity. Instead, the purpose is to experience the process of learning and focusing which happens in front of the camera.    

Useful tips

The activity can be used in all learning processes, but the use of videos is particularly relevant for types of project which are not only text based.

Picture of the activity

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