Teaching Tools Continued…

Teachers are always looking for good resources. Books and articles are within easy reach. But for courses that aim for experiential learning outcomes, my teaching guru Dr. Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan suggests that teachers always combine theory and activity. This is particularly important for courses that deal primarily with subjective content, but Thiagi’s approach can liven up any course. For the Tales project, this theory/activity approach has produced over 120 videos, and from this teacher’s perspective, the project has produced some unexpected results.

Tales videos are created in a course that focuses on intercultural communication. But I have been using Tales videos in another course that focuses on conflict management. In the first module of the conflict course we examine conflict within one’s self. The course closely follows Marshall Rosenberg’s nonviolent communication approach, and so in this first module we explore “self talk” and how our feelings can reveal met or unmet needs.

Freeze frame from ‘Sami – A Chance to Change’

In the Tales video Sami- A chance to change, a young Finnish man seems to be quite lonely, and a chance encounter find himself joining a hockey team. Throughout the video alcohol seems to be Sami’s constant companion, and in Finland young males evidence a high rate of binge drinking. Sami is played by Sami Rogers, who does an excellent job of bringing the fictional Sami’s feelings to the surface. We see Sami embrace his new friends and his new hockey team, and he experiences a sudden and dramatic event in which he scores his team’s winning championship goal. As the drinking continues, Sami rejects his friends and his studies while asserting that he doesn’t need them any more because he will go forward as a professional hockey player, only to fall further into depression and drinking. In my course I invite students to observe Sami’s behaviour and his communication with others, and particularly his self talk. In the nonviolent communication approach we seek to explore for underlying needs that are unmet. Students have suggested that Sami has unmet needs related to emotional safety and preservation, personal health, belonging, compassion and empathy, a purpose in life, among others. Sami is a complicated mix of unmet needs, and so using the video’s “a chance to change” approach, the students seek to explore how Sami might reverse his course and attempt something new. Of course this would require that Sami becomes self-aware at a deeper level so that he can identify his unmet unmet needs and try to address them in a positive and constructive manner.

Finding a classroom use for a Tales video outside of the Tales course’s intercultural communication topic was a happy accident for me. Now I can teach a substantial number of conflict course modules using Tales videos. In future blog posts I will describe more examples of this transferable nature of the Tales video. In the meantime, teachers everywhere are free to use all of our videos as a rich source for teaching resources.

-Steve Crawford

Sami- a chance to change:

Dr. Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan:


Binge drinking by Finnish youth: