Maximizing Discovery Streaming in Social Studies




Videos for instructional use. What images come to mind? A VCR strapped to a cart? A lazy teacher pushing play with coffee in hand? A sea of bored students with wrinkle marks on their faces?

No no no no nooooooo. Video and many forms of multimedia can and should be used in a 21st century classroom, by dynamic, effective teachers, using a variety of interactive formats to engage students and personalize instruction.

In fact, Common Core standards require the use of multimedia sources in instruction. Just a few samples of standards:

  • Compare and contrast a text to an audio, video, or multimedia version of the text, analyzing each medium’s portrayal of the subject (e.g., how the delivery of a speech affects the impact of the words).
  • Compare and contrast a written story, drama, or poem to its audio, filmed, staged, or multimedia version, analyzing the effects of techniques unique to each medium (e.g., lighting, sound, color, or camera focus and angles in a film).
  • Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
  • Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums (e.g., print or digital text, video, multimedia) to present a particular topic or idea.

So what are the values and uses of video and multimedia in instruction?

First, let’s start with background knowledge. Lack of background knowledge can be a major impediment to learning. According to Robert Marzano, “What students already know about the content is one of the strongest indicators of how well they will learn new information relative to the content” (2004). John Guthrie claims comprehension is impossible without prior knowledge (2008). A teacher must provide scaffolds for students who have gaps in background knowledge, and multimedia can help fill in content gaps quickly, and without a heavy lift from teachers. A first step of a learning activity can be accessing Discovery Streaming clips to build background knowledge on a particular topic. If students are studying the Civil Rights Movement, and a quick formative assessment reveals some students have no prior knowledge of Brown v. Board of Education, those students can access a short video clip on Discovery Streaming. A textbook passage on Brown v. Board of Education might be one or two paragraphs, but a video clip can engage students, and provide details and context absent from a traditional textbook narrative.

This video clip even includes a rolling transcript. This is a valuable tool for students with hearing challenges and for ELL students. I also find it very helpful for myself as the teacher, I can just browse the transcript, click on the words, and it takes me to that section of the video. Teachers can also see the standards alignment for the clip.

Brown v. Board of Education
















The video clips in Discovery Streaming are integrated with lesson materials and other Discovery Education services. In my opinion, the survivor testimonies and oral histories are one of the best assets of Discovery Streaming. The Holocaust survivor testimonies, provided by the USC Shoah Foundation and their iWitness website, are integrated with Discovery Streaming and Discovery Education’s Social Studies Techbook. For example, Eva Abraham-Podietz’s survivor testimony about Kristallnacht is available on Discovery Streaming, and integrated with Holocaust instruction in Social studies Techbook.


















The Streaming player includes links for additional teaching materials, which includes reproducible biographies of the survivors and links to interactive activities, like webquests.










Discovery Streaming has non-video multimedia that bolsters effective instruction. Discovery Streaming includes 205 “Stuff You Missed in History Class” podcasts, among other podcasts.








Do not think of Discovery Streaming as narrated secondary source videos alone. Audio clips of speeches can be a great instructional tool for primary source analysis. Students can read along to a transcript while they hear a speech. Teachers can also download speeches and create quick audio snippets to embed in a presentation. Students can do the same when creating boards in Discovery Educations Board Builder, or other student created activities.  The audio files of historical speeches are primary sources that add another multimedia layer to instruction.

Here’s a small sample of some of my favorites:

John F. Kennedy: “Ich bin ein Berliner” Speech (June 26, 1963)

Gerald Ford: “Whip Inflation Now” Speech (October 8, 1974)

Samuel Gompers: “Labor’s Service to Freedom” Speech

Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Quarantine” Speech (October 5, 1937)

Richard M. Nixon: Resignation Speech (August 8, 1974)

Freedom for the Philippines William Jennings Bryan c.1901 (Audio Only)

This blog post is only a small sample of what Discovery Streaming and Discovery’s Social Studies Techbook has to offer. Because the offerings in Discovery Streaming are so vast, teachers can personalize instruction for all their students, through learning menus of pre-selected content, through Webquests, through multiple format options of the same content, etc.

Multimedia in instruction can no longer be a best practice, it’s increasingly becoming an expected practice, and Discovery Education provides teachers with tools to transform instruction in engaging, interactive ways.