Sunday, June 1, 2008

Video in the Classroom, The easy way

by J Charette

Using digital video in the classroom has always been viewed as a very time consuming undertaking. The typical scenario included using expensive video cameras, microphones, downloading video typically in real-time, then editing the video, followed by exporting the video back to the camera or burning DVDs. Getting it online was a whole other issue that most teachers don’t want to tackle. It appeared daunting to say the least.

Thanks to Dave and Sandy Perloff, the idea of making videos in a classroom is no longer daunting. The equipment involved includes a Canon Powershot digital camera, a couple of SD memory cards, a card reader, iMovie (found on the MLTI laptops), and a program that converts the files to flash. All that’s needed can be had for a minimum investment, no big expenses, no fears of students breaking that expensive equipment, and most importantly no huge time requirements!

My project was a Step Up Day video. The basic idea was to take a 7th grade Language Arts class and ask them to provide information to the 5th graders who will be coming to the school next year. We brainstormed topics, formed into teams of 3, chose a topic from our class list and then began the real work of putting together a scene of approximately one minute. Each student chose a role, writer, director, or editor. The writer was responsible for taking the script through the writing process. Each student had ideas that needed to be meshed together so they develop a rough draft, conferenced with the teacher, made revisions, and put together a working script. The director was responsible for all filming, setting up shots, and coaching the “actors” which were team members, teachers, and friends. The editor was then responsible for downloading video into iMovie, working on editing, arranging effects and exporting video. Even though they chose roles it turned into a collaborative effort that required give and take to produce the final product.

Before the start of the project I laid the groundwork for the project. In class we looked at scripts, learned how to set up scenes, practice speaking to an audience, and viewed other student produced videos. In this way, I was able to generate excitement among the students about the upcoming project.

At the start of the project, I practiced the technical aspects of converting video to flash, set up the video player, and posted the video to a server. This part of the project required a little technical knowledge but with the assistance of Dave Perloff, I was able to learn the process (through e-mail conversations!) quickly and easily.

The only other piece was training the students to use the camera. This was done through an in-class “workshop” with the directors from each team. We practiced with the camera and discussed basic filming techniques. I laid out a time line from start to end of about 10 class periods from start to finish. This was shortened to eight because Step Up Day was moved forward due to a scheduling conflict. This didn’t prove to be a major problem as we had it completed on time and premiered it during the morning to the enthusiastic 5th graders! The video was posted online the same day and has been viewed many times by students, parents, and community members! The students were thrilled to say the least! Although we may not challenge Iron Man at the box office, the students have the satisfaction of creating, producing, editing, and premiering their “first” video. It used many different skill sets they had been learning about in the classroom. The final product was for someone other than the teacher which proved to be the most motivating factor.

I can’t say enough about how easy this process was. It actually was simple, effective, and fun!!! Please check out the video.

Video in the classroom doesn’t have to be daunting. It can be simple, effective, and fun. It has the advantage of being real world, as well as opening up your school, your classroom, and your own teaching. I plan on this being a yearly project, with several possibilities of expanding video use in next years Language Arts classes. I encourage others to try using video in the classroom!

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