Literature Review: Enhancing ASL Learning with Video Technological Supplements

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Larry Umberger

Lamar University: DLL Program


Enhancing students’ creativity is a primary undertaking of education in the 21st century (Robertson & Al-Zahrani, 2012). Using Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and integrating old and new teaching and learning methods in higher education is a necessary element for success (Robertson et al., 2012). Potential effects of cumulating digital technologies on students’ creative thinking have gained the attention of educators (Al-Zahrani, 2015). One example of this technology, the educational video, has been in use for over 20 years, and has increasingly evolved as an innovative and adaptable supplemental classroom tool (Cruse, 2011). A study by Cruse (2011) showed that two thirds of students acquire more knowledge when videos are used. Teachers found that students successfully learn and use new vocabulary through this digital technology (Cruse, 2011). Videos are also beneficial for keeping students engaged. Nearly 70% of teachers who often incorporated video technology in the classroom reported an increase in student motivation (Cruse, 2011). Overall, video technology is highly valued as a means of teaching more effectively and creatively.

Benefits of Digital Videos in Education

Educational technology such as online videos enhance classrooms by providing a supportive visual learning experience that cultivates students’ practical thinking (Al-Zahrani, 2015; Sherer and Shea, 2011). Digital storytelling plays an important role in education by promoting critical thinking skills and increasing interaction and collaboration (Yang & Wu, 2012). Students are encouraged to watch videos for further extensive receptive practice (Banado, 2006). Ronchetti (2010) stated that recorded video lectures are beneficial for students seeking to view missed lectures or gain additional knowledge. A variety of tasks can direct and engage students in classrooms (Sherer et al., 2011) and this can promote a more stimulating and interactive teaching style (Ronchetti, 2010). The growing obtainability of digital video has created and ignited virtual learning environments (Xu, Park, & Baek, 2011).

Learning from Digital and Online Videos       

In today’s digital age, students are raised with skills and knowledge about technology. Those skills vary between types of devices and each require different thinking processes (Stoerger, 2009). Students have been acquiring their knowledge of technology through informal activities such as participating in video games, multitasking, and web browsing (Stoerger, 2009). Choi’s and Johnson’s study showed the potential of videos to enhance learning (Choi & Johnson, 2005). Many students prefer online videos that allow them to watch lectures at home (Herreid & Schiller, 2013). The results of Canning-Wilson’s (2000) survey show that language learners prefer to learn language through the use of action videos over film or documentaries. Videos help students visualize the rhythms of body language and see the language being used in authentic situations (Canning-Wilson, 2000). Providing video content as a means of education can increase learning if it contains information corresponding to the lessons (Brunvand 2010).

Teaching Strategies Videos

As technological capabilities are expanding, educators are expected to continue increasing the use of videos as important tools for learning (Sherin, 2004) and engage students in various activities with materials to suit their individual learning styles (Cherrett, Wills, Price, Maynard, & Dror, 2009). Without careful planning, videos on their own are not necessarily efficient learning material; they need to be carefully thought out in order to not confuse or overwhelm learners (Cherrett et al, 2009). Selecting appropriate video clips and applying them as  organized teaching tools with lesson plans, is significant in preparation for learning (Berk, 2009). Finding adequate videos or producing their own is a great way to gain the attention of students (Maria, 2012).

Teacher trainings that include observations of classroom practice videos support educators in their own classrooms by allowing them to connect the theory to practical situations and later create their own supplemental videos correlating to their lessons (Seidel, Blomberg, Renkl, 2013). Furthermore, they can recognize success in the compatibility between learning materials and the learner’s styles (Karppinen, 2005). When educators think broadly regarding various learning approaches, they will be able to see how to be progressive and open minded to new behaviors outside of traditional learning, and discover what will best fit the apparent needs of their learners (Elik, Wiener, & Corkum, 2010).

Documenting significant learning plans for the course is important in that it provides guidance for educators to improve and strengthen their classroom by concentrating on student thinking (Kisa & Stein, 2014). Kisa et al. (2014) noted that a student-centered course plan will assist active student participants in their learning process. Continuing with the process of developing, revising, and redesigning pedagogy, and consistently adding new developments to the classroom, educators create a more effective learning environment (Avalos, 2011).

Availability of online video platforms allows faculty to upload videos or to create online video content sites (Topps, Helmer, & Ellaway, 2013). In a study by Bandos (2006), one university developed its own e-learning platforms to facilitate language learning. The faculty was responsible for devising teaching strategies and for communicating with IT departments for assistance with online modules (Banados, 2006). The students involved in this online program made significant strides in language learning over the course of the study and reportedly enjoyed participating in this online style of learning (Banados, 2006). The results of this study demonstrate the successes that can be achieved through e-learning platforms.

Increase Engagement for Videos in American Sign Language Lesson

Interactive language learning tasks can be achieved through online modules that allow students to practice their language skills (Banados, 2006). Digital video offers many possibilities (Bayram, 2012) and the availability of online video platforms presents the opportunity for online video content sites to be created (Topps et al., 2013). Learning channels containing information that corresponds to lessons can provide exposure to multiple perspectives and viewpoints and encourage deeper analysis (Brunvand 2010). Therefore, learning to design and implement an American Sign Language (ASL) curriculum and develop effective teaching strategies is crucial (Wilcox & Wilcox, 1997).

Fenicle & Cripps, Cooper, Sever (2015) noted that students are sometimes overwhelmed by the length of the Signing Naturally homework videos in the Level 3 textbook, a common curriculum used in college ASL classrooms, which can cause them to lose focus (Ramirez, 2016). Therefore, educators should explore existing digital resources or create short videos in order to motivate and engage learners. Fenicle et al. (2015) recommended shortening the videos and dividing them into segments. This learning approach engages learners in language and culture by facilitating interpersonal communication with the community and natives to work on their second language skills (Fenicle et al., 2015).

In addition to lengthy presentations, using ineffective videos with poor quality, reproduction, or unrelated content can be factors that negatively affect ASL learners’ comprehension and engagement (Dobrian, Sekar, Awan, Stoica, Joseph, Ganjam & Zhang 2011; Hooper, Miller, Rose, & Veletsianos, 2007). These visuals can be time consuming and erratic, and consequently fail to contribute to student learning (Hooper et al., 2007). Guo, Kim, & Rubin (2011) recommended reproducing lesson plans into segmented videos shorter than six minutes to increase active participation.

Using a video quality enhancer can assist in improving the quality of the recorded video (Kanumuri, Guleryuz, & Civanlar, 2014). By implementing an online dataset that measures the amount of student involvement with instructional videos and categorizes data for how often and for how long students pause or re-play videos, educators can collect findings on the usage of the program to aid in determining student engagement (Guo et al, 2014).

Enhancing Learning Approach: A Constructivist Blended Learning Approach in ASL Classroom   

Constructivism is a perspective of learning in which students enthusiastically participate in the process of learning to seek and construct knowledge and acquire skills for themselves (Brunvand 2010; Duffy & Jonassen, 2013). Robertson et al.’s (2012) findings strongly suggest that pedagogical approaches to integrating ICTs into the classroom should be based on students’ needs, preferences, and learning styles. A progressive educational model in a blended learning environment combines classroom learning with online learning (Azizan, 2010). This approach allows learners to control the time, pace, and place of their learning and develop critical thinking skills (Azizan, 2010; Graham, Woodfield, & Harrison, 2013; Tucker, 2013). To accomplish this, teachers can have the students work in groups, and facilitate students as they share ideas rather than passively learn from a lecture (Lattuca, 2006). Establishing online toolkits of interactive instructional strategies, talents and resources provides many prospects for constructivist learning to strengthen students’ observational, communication, and interpersonal skills (Fill, 2005).

There is evident weakness in the traditional approach in the ASL classroom (Fenicle et al., 2015). Fenicle et al. (2015) stated that most college ASL classes use the Signing Naturally curriculum that provides extensive signed vocabulary, phrases, sentences, and narratives from deaf individuals. However, classrooms who strictly follow this traditional model have flaws such as a lack of time spent on developing conversational skills and infrequent meaningful real-time feedback from the instructor in the classroom (Fenicle et al, 2015). While the traditional approach has been widespread for decades, its restrictions call attention to the need to reform the learning techniques used in the classroom (Fenicle et al, 2015).

Fenicle et al. (2015) proposed ways in which the setting of the blended learning approach can be applied to the ASL classroom to enhance language learning. With the blended learning approach, students take the knowledge they acquire in class and apply it to real life situations (Lattuca, 2006). According to Al-Zahrani (2015), students in classrooms that have adopted this method of instruction have proven to be more successful by demonstrating higher scores on examinations than students in classrooms using a traditional approach. One way to achieve this is to supplement the Signing Naturally curriculum with online resources that allow students to view class lectures outside of class at a time that works for their schedule (Fenicle et al., 2015). Editing and supplementing the Signing Naturally curriculum has the added benefit of exposing students to a variety of signing styles (Fenicle et al., 2015). These learner-centered activities help students develop effective thinking skills and to understand or construct a meaning on their own (Banados, 2006; Cherrett et. al, 2009). Creating and facilitating an online learning environment by integrating educational videos to provide real-world settings, experiences and interactions increases students’ interest and improves learning in the classroom (Zhang, Zhou, Briggs, & Nunamaker, 2006).


Incorporating technology with the use of video supports visualization and leads to successful, well-organized teaching for a second language (Al-Zahrani, 2015; Vandergrift & Goh, 2012). Through the constructivist approach, teachers transform instruction to facilitate independent thinking and learning in their students (Herreid & Schiller, 2013). It is apparent that adding new developments and video technological supplements to the ASL classroom reinforces teachers’ effectiveness, creating a more interactive learning environment that engages college students to learn the second language completely. Online educational resources have the potential to provide an effective, constructivist learning experience for students to master their critical thinking independently or collaboratively and to engage in multiple activities.


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