Freeze frame

March 5, 2009 at 11:02 am 13 comments

My 14 year old daughter came back from school yesterday enthusiastic about what she had learned in her history lesson about the suffragette movement. This was a little surprising because she has told us in the past that she has no enthusiasm at all for history largely because her teacher does nothing to inspire the class –  ’45 minutes of the teacher droning on followed by 15 minutes of us writing things down’.

On this occasion, however, my daughter found the actual subject matter so compelling that she forced herself to take notice. She was particularly taken with the story of Emily Davison throwing herself in front of the kings horse at the 1913 Derby at Epsom and suggested that this moment would have been ideal for the class to do a freeze frame.

The way a freeze frame works is that a moment in time is selected and the students enact a freeze frame of that moment (in the case of Emily Davison this would be the moment she threw herself in front of the horse). The students hold the freeze frame moment until they are tapped on the shoulder by the teacher when they describe what they feel is going on in the characters mind at that moment.

I don’t know why I haven’t come across this before but I think it is a fantastic technique, which judging from my daughter’s reaction the students enjoy. Yet in her experience the technique appears to only be used in Drama and English.

In my vision of a 21st century learning environment in which the students themselves select from the range of resources available to them I imagine freeze frame would be rather popular.

Entry filed under: 21st century learning, Freeze frame, Learning environments, Students.

Widdicombe or snowman 19th century education meets 21st century building under BSF

13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. E.A.  |  March 5, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    Love this idea – try a different type of freeze frame with a YouTube video – my name sake Emmeline Pankhurst and reflect on how she is reacting in certain frames ….

  • 2. Pete Burden  |  March 6, 2009 at 8:27 am

    It sounds like a great technique, I particularly like the idea of the moment of touch – I imagine this allows the kids to spontaneously reveal both what they think and what they feel about the situation.

    Looking at a picture of the scene – – and imagining the moment just before she threw herself forward, I can imagine her thoughts of her situation, her mission and purpose, her family and so on.

    And I can feel the fear, the racing heart, the blood pounding through her veins, underlined by the steely determination and sense of strength to take the plunge.

    In 21st century education, I imagine fully immersive experiences – both feeling and thought-based. Is this a possibility? Do future plans and technologies allow for this more multi-dimensional experience?

  • 3. Mick Landmann  |  March 6, 2009 at 11:17 am

    The thing I like about the freeze frame idea is actually that it is not to do with technology, but is good old tactile human interaction that demands a great deal of use of the imagination.

    However, where technology does potentially come into it is in extending the idea out of the classroom to the individual or group of individuals through the use of say youtube as EA suggests. This then extends the ‘reach’ of the technique.

    So, an answer to your question, Peter, is that the technology already exists to allow this more ‘multi dimensional experience’. How it is embedded into our lives, whether for learning or not, depends on our own imaginative and creative thinking.

    In another context the historian Niall Ferguson discovered that playing the game ‘Making History’ which reenacts very accurately World War 2 scenarios changed his own perceptions of the war.

    Imagine then the possibility of reenacting, say, scenes from the Iraq war and adding that experience to the rest of the ‘data’ we have about the war. What, I wonder would this ‘multi dimensional experience’ change about our own perceptions, fuelling public opinion, and indeed the perceptions of the politicians responsible.

    All of this makes me realise that the scaremongering by people such as Susan Greenfield and her claims that:

    ‘Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Bebo shorten attention spans, encourage instant gratification and make young people more self-centred.’

    for which by her own admission she has no evidence assumes that our lives are not multi dimensional and that everyone who uses, say Facebook, do not do anything else with their lives.

    This is clearly not the case but the trick, though, is to find the right mix.

  • 4. Clive Shepherd  |  March 6, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    This is a great idea. By the way are you taking some sort of blogger’s Viagra?

  • 5. Pete Burden  |  March 7, 2009 at 8:25 am

    Susan Greenfield’s comments remind me of “systematic” (ie a natural response of the system) attempts to scare people that occur when any more democratic media emerges (usually two themes: they are bad for our health; and bad for our morality).

    Historically, this seems true for every new medium, probably since the proliferation of papyrus beyond the king’s own court.

  • 6. Pete Burden  |  March 7, 2009 at 8:34 am

    Also, there are many dimensions involved in this aren’t there? Online *and* offline. Emotion *and* thought.

    I was pleased to see that our own kids are being taught basic emotional literacy at school (how to distinguish a thought from a feeling, for example).

    Watching them play with a Wii is interesting. It’s clearly as much an emotional and, of course, a physical thing, as a it is a right brain and left brain kind of thing. Creative and more linear thinking are being engaged, but also they get right upset when things don’t go well! There’s frustration, delight, joy, satisfaction. I am not sure I have seen raw fear yet but I have definitely seen them jump when something unexpected happens!

    This kind of really immersive feeling and thinking simulation seems potentially valuable to me.

  • 7. Sue Korman  |  March 9, 2009 at 10:24 am

    We’ve used many of the brilliant ideas for making history come alive here.

    The one called ‘Where are the Vietcon? – will certainly make students jump!

  • 8. Mick Landmann  |  March 10, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Been offf the case for a while, Clive, so just trying to catch up. No Viagra needed, not for the blogging, anyway!

  • 9. Pete Burden  |  March 10, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    ‘Where are the Vietcong’? – What a great idea. Loved it.

  • 10. Mick Landmann  |  March 10, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    I loved it too, Peter. This really does get very close to the sort of immersive experience that Nial Ferguson describes in relation to his participation in the game ‘Making History’.

    I must say I’m really getting more and more impressed with this concept of combining what is available through rich media, in this instance film, with live experience.

    I’m more impressed still with the fact of my daughters enthusism for such participation.

  • 11. S Haselock  |  March 10, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Surely there must be possibilities for some kind of interactive freeze frame solution. Imagine a video like a documentary but with the ability to freeze frame at any point in time to explore and enable the discussion.

  • 12. Mick Landmann  |  March 11, 2009 at 8:56 am

    Indeed an ‘interactive freeze frame solution’ is eminently possible. In fact the beauty of youtube is that it is a massive rich library of materials that can be used in this way.

  • 13. donaldhtaylor  |  April 6, 2009 at 7:49 am

    Sounds like a great idea. Strangely enough it was (in a way) predicted in parody by Saki in his short story The Schartz-Metterklume Method (, although that revolved around acting the entire scene rather than freeze framing it.


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