“To fulfill the promise of digital citizenship, Americans must acquire multimedia communication skills that include the ability to compose messages using language, graphic design, images, and sound, and know how to use these skills to engage in the civic life of their communities.” ~Renee Hobbs
As we head into the New Year, it is exciting to see a number of great video competitions open to students. From our regional spring SEVAs competition to NextVista’s national and international events, students can hone their 21st century skill set (critical thinking, communication, creativity, collaboration, (digital) citizenship) – as they build their ePortfolios and digital footprints.
It is also exciting to see a growing number of free online tools and tips to help student filmmakers through the process of taking a message and transforming it into a media gem. For example:
Rule of Thirds – This basic camera rule/practice will rock your world – and your students – if you’re not already familiar with it. Here’s a great video by Kids in Action on everything you need to know about the rule of thirds. Once you’re aware of the rule of thirds, it will change how you view videos – such as this trailer from High School Musical (thanks again to Mathew Needleman for sharing this one).
Wide-Medium-Tight Shots – I had another big ah ha moment, right up there with learning about the rule of thirds, when I attended SECC’sSEVA Training session with News 10’s multimedia journalist Nick Monacelli. I recommend watching the entire 40-minute session on Building a News Story. But if you’re short on time, move the play head about 15 minutes into the presentation and watch Nick explain the importance of taking B-roll footage. It’s B-roll tight shots – not transitions – that “professionals” use to quickly and smoothly move a story along.
And the big ah ha? Hey, until hearing Nick’s presentation, I had not considered that almost never in a news story will you see transitions used. Aside from the rare dissolve transition, used to show a flashback or change in time, transitions are not part of an award-winning newscast. But, oh my, do students, especially elementary students, love to use transitions! Nick’s presentation could be just the tip students need to rethink the use of star wipes, for instance, in transitioning their viewers from one scene to the next.
UJam – I am no longer envious of Mac users’ access to Garageband (I teach in a PC district), thanks to UJam, a free, web-based program for creating music – even if you (like me) are music-challenged. UJam was one of my favorite take-aways from last summer’s Merit program.
Jamendo – A rapidly-growing community of free, legal and unlimited music published under Creative Commons licenses.
Audacity – A free, cross-platform program for creating and editing audio. Here’s a link to my favorite Audacity tutorial: Audacity Basics
Video editing – Although I’m still grieving the loss of cloud-based JayCut, such an awesome freebie that even included green screen options – and allowed editing from both Mac and PC, eliminating all kinds of school-to-home/home-to-school issues – I continue to be grateful for iMovie, Movie Maker, and PhotoStory3 (one of my favorite digital storytelling tools!). And I look forward in the New Year to exploring free smartphone apps for filmmaking.
I think one of the most important things we can do for students is to support and promote their efforts at becoming effective multimedia writers. Providing tools and tips is one way – along with providing authentic audiences. Over the next month, I’d like to gather a comprehensive list of student video competitions. If you know of any, please jump in and leave a comment.
“The great films have not been made yet. The ones who will make them are out there, though, riding a skateboard.” ~Robert Altman
In May I watched a team of Lesley McKillop’s students (see argument #6 in last year’s post) once again step onto the stage and into the limelight to accept a 2010 SEVA for their PSA entry – totally challenging both the state-assigned student labels of FBB (far below basic), BB (below basic), B (basic), P (proficient), or even A (advanced) and the school labels of Title 1 (high-poverty) and Program Improvement (PI).
And Rudy Alfonso’s students (also at a Title 1, PI site)…what can I say?! In the previous school year, I watched many of them begin to engage with technology in Teresa Cheung’s 4th grade classroom. As they moved on to Rudy Alfonso’s 5th grade, they were ready and willing to step up to the challenges and multiple roles of filmmaking and increasingly took charge of all facets of producing movie after movie.
Towards the end of the school year, I asked one of Rudy’s students what she liked best about being a filmmaker. She talked a bit about the collaborative aspects, and then added that she enjoyed having people from different parts of the world comment on her productions via the class blog. Filmmaking is bringing the world into Mr. Alfonso’s classroom – and it’s a two-way path. These students (like Lesley McKillop’s students) know their work is being viewed and enjoyed by an authentic and worldwide audience. Now that’s empowerment!
I walked away from media teacher Vernon Bisho’s Thursday night SEVA sessionUnderstand > Care > Feel > Learn with a whole new understanding of the art of creative non-fiction writing for video. Vernon provides his high school students with the scaffolding needed to produce award-winning entries. But his program could easily be adapted to elementary and middle school students.
I’m betting that if I roll out Vernon’s strategies with 4th and 5th grade filmmakers, particularly tips for interviewing, they too will gain a better understanding of this genre, and very likely improve their media literacy skills in the process.
In a nutshell, Vernon believes:
“If you don’t understand, you won’t care. If you don’t care, you can’t feel. If you can’t feel, you won’t learn.”
He embeds this philosophy in his non-fiction idea web/brainstorm worksheet, which includes the reminder: “Must capture your audience’s attention in the first 15 seconds: interesting B-roll, music, or a catch lead line is key.” And just in case we weren’t familiar with the term B-roll, Vernon shared a YouTube explanation.
So here’s how Vernon’s students move through the process of creating a non-fiction story:
Part 1 – Start with the back-story (who, what, where, when, why + how). The back-story clarifies the reason for the story. It is the first step in helping the audience to UNDERSTAND the problem. Connect Part 1 to Part 2 by explaining the goal or the motivation for the story – building the transition for your audience to CARE.
Part 2 – Introduce the specifics about the reason for story and the process (obstacles – or moral premise). Create tension and deal with feelings. Between Part 2 and Part 3, introduce the lowest point or emotional high. Your audience needs the emotional impact in order to FEEL. And the most important thing in telling a story is to make people feel.
Part 3 – Make visible the lesson learned/payoff. Where do we go from here? As your audience makes connections between the story and their lives, they LEARN.
Elementary teachers and secondary content area teachers often struggle with how to include media literacy within their programs. Why not start the day/period with a recent TV news interview, local or national, which most likely will run no more than 3 -5 minutes (about the time needed to take attendance, etc.), and ask students to identify how the producers provide the audience with the opportunity to understand, care, feel, and learn? Such a simple way to help students make those inter-textual connections that lead to higher literacy levels!
Vernon has posted a number of his handouts to our newly formed Digital Media Communit (which you are warmly invited to join):
The single most important part of telling a good story is asking throughout the entire process: ‘What is the story all about?’” Bryan Shadden, KVIE
I look forward to our regional (Sacramento) SEVA Trainings for Teachers series. Saturday’s event was an opportunity to learn about Tips for Building a Documentary, a session lead by KVIE producer Bryan Shadden. Bryan’s handout will walk you and your students through his steps to creating a video narrative (documentary) – starting with Research & Story Focus. I love that the basis of building a documentary mirrors teaching the writing process: “After a producer (writer) has researched the subject matter, she should be able to say exactly what the story will be about in one sentence. The more focused the sentence, the more focused the story.”
I also learned a new term: B-roll, which is “TV jargon for the cover shots you need to correspond with the sound bites from your interviews and the words you write.” Huge “ah ha” moment for me…From now on, I’ll encourage students to make sure their production team includes a designated B-roll person. From 4th grade – 12th grade, I’ve too often seen student filmmakers scrambling after the fact to come up with cover shots when they realize that the audience will quickly lose interest if too much of the interview is just footage of the interviewee.
And some tips from the audience:
fastest way for students to create their storyboards: use online comic book generators such as Comic Life. Love this idea!
great collection of student-made documentaries: AFI.com, with teen entries such as The Bus Stop (a great team effort!)
Center for Sacramento History – a growing bank of photos for classroom use. I looked at this site several years ago and can see that their vision for becoming a rich archive of oral histories is starting to take shape.
PBS Guide to Ken Burn’s The War – a collaboration between the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, Florentine Films and WETA public television station in Washington, DC — contains hands-on production tips and interview techniques from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick as well as information on how to send completed interviews to the Veterans History Project.
And Bryan’s last question to an interviewee: “Is there anything I haven’t asked you that I should have asked?” I’ve used this question before for my Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project. This final question can take an interview in a whole new direction!
I don’t know who the speakers for the next SEVA event will be, but without a doubt there will be blog-worthy presenters ready to take teachers to the next level in their filmmaking skills and vision:-)
The great films have not been made yet. The ones who will make them are out there, though, riding a skateboard.” – Robert Altman
Why would a classroom teacher at any grade level or in any subject area consider adding one more activity into an already jam-packed curriculum? This is a question I ask myself repeatedly when teaching the filmmaking workshops I offer through the Area 3 Writing Project and through my school district.
Last October the Sacramento Educational Cable Consortium (SECC) invited me, as part of their SEVA teacher training series, to give a workshop that would provide teachers with the justification to bring video production into the K12 curriculum. Having a workshop deadline to meet was just the motivation I needed to sit down and articulate why I believe all students should have access to filmmaking (aka digital storytelling, video production, etc.) as part of their instructional day.
I had three arguments in mind before even turning on the computer. Within an hour, I had my presentation ready to go. Three arguments expanded to six – and I was on a roll, having discovered in the process how strongly I felt about the topic.
The following week, a group of teachers willing to rise early on a Saturday filed into my SEVA workshop. I lucked out. Not only was this a very awake and participatory group, they also wanted to return to their own sites and present the case for filmmaking. Based the number of requests for my PowerPoint, SEVA organizer Doug Niva suggested uploading my slideshow to their website site.
As much as I appreciate the number of slideshows educators around the world have generously uploaded to such venues as YouTube, or SlideShare, or their blogs, I wish more content producers would also provide a written piece to document how they moved from an initial burning question or challenge to a final product or solution. What follows is my attempt to share my personal learning journey, an experience that has been shaped by first-hand interactions and observations in classrooms (mainly grades 4-12) and the research and advise of others, beginning with filmmaker Nikos Theodosakis and continuing with filmmaker and literacy coach (Los Angeles USD) Mathew Needleman and many colleagues from the National Writing Project (NWP).
So let’s return to my Case for Filmmaking in the Classroom presentation, starting with slide/argument #1:
#1: Addressing ethical use of the Internet – Picture the following scenario: an elementary teacher (yes, in my district), Googles herself. To her dismay she finds that on a day she was out, one of her students used a cell phone to film a lovely little scene of classroom chaos, to which his middle school brother later helped him flavor with some racist, homophobic words, and then upload to YouTube. As school counselors in my district scramble to deal with an explosion of cyberbullying issues, I argue that teaching the ethical use of video and the Internet must be woven into the elementary curriculum, before the onslaught of adolescent (mis)behavior.
In the case of the above siblings, the parents were clueless as to how their children were choosing to use both their cell phones and the computer in the kids’ bedroom. To illustrate the fact that too many students lack an ethical grounding in the appropriate use of the Internet, I downloaded a YouTube video of a student getting his head bashed against a locker and linked it to Slide #1.
Try doing an Internet search on “locker room fight” and you’ll get back literally hundreds of links, such as the Norwood Middle School’s claim to fame. Granted, middle school is all about making wrong decisions, but what if districts wove media education into the elementary curriculum? It is my hope that such a program could play a pivotal role in keeping students safe from each other (i.e., cyberbullying) and from themselves (i.e, sexting) and in reversing what has become an alarming trend, too often ending tragically.
#2: Promoting critical media consumption – Thanks to support from the National Writing Project, I had the opportunity to attend last summer’s NCTE Institute on 21st Century Literacies. The seed for this post was planted when Ernest Morrell took to the podium to deliver his Critical Literacy and Urban Youth: Pedagogies of Access, Dissent, and Liberation keynote address. Ernest opened with four questions that begged for discussion:
What will be demanded of students in terms of literacy in the 21st century?
In what ways is the nature of literacy changing?
How should the discipline of English change in response to the changes in literacy?
What are the ways that your students practice literacy when they are not in class?
No surprise that he answered question #4 with:
virtual worlds – adopting different identities
Slide #2 is similar to one Ernest used, maybe not the same Seventeen Magazine cover, but definitely the same image from 50 Cents, complete with its phallic symbols and suggestions of violence. I don’t know that the images from the covers of Seventeen, with the pitch, for instance, on how to Get amazing abs!, actually promote any safer or healthier life style than 50 Cents‘ collection. Given that the age range of Seventeen readers spans from 12-17, I argue that there is a critical need to provide upper elementary and middle school students with first-hand opportunities to explore and manipulate media so that they might become as skilled in reading and interpreting images as they are with decoding traditional text.
#3: Providing students with multiple ways to access core content – No matter how many times I visit CogDogRoo’s (Alan Levine) 50+ Ways to Tell a Story, each time I find new Web 2.0 resources and tools for incorporating digital storytelling across the curriculum. Whereas filmmaking was once a medium that required expensive equipment and major technical expertise, “we are at the point now where we can do some very compelling content creation with nothing more complex than a web browser.” Why would we not offer students filmmaking opportunities and options? To answer that question, I’ll call on an elementary school SEVA film producer and a middle school SEVA film producer to share their perspectives on how the process of filmmaking translates into learning venues.
A year ago, I drafted the RFP for my district’s application for Round 7 of the EETT Grant. My goal was to integrate Web 2.0 tools into the 4th grade (Year One) and 5th grade (Year Two) English/Language Arts program. In thinking back to the one-page summary that must precede the grant narrative, I remember pondering over this sentence: “Target teachers will participate in 42 hours of professional development on 21 century technologies followed by hands-on explorations with specific Web 2.0 tools (blogs, wikis, podcasts, and multimedia applications) that will ‘power up’ Open Court lessons and engage students in the learning process.” Given that every administrator will say “Yes!” when asked if he/she would like to be involved in a technology grant, often without understanding the professional development required to support teachers in adopting new tools, I hesitated to be too specific about exactly which ‘multimedia applications’ would be included, knowing that over a two-year period, new tools would emerge, adding to an already robust menu (i.e., Movie Maker2/iMovie, PhotoStory 3, VoiceThread, Animoto). But I definitely did not want the grant to be all about learning PowerPoint!
At the October EETT kickoff meeting, I noted a look of shear panic by at least four or five teachers as we started the day by connecting for an interactive videoconference with Mathew Needleman and ended the day by passing out a complete camera set (bag, tripod, microphone, two cameras) for each site. I wondered if I was being overly ambitious in my vision for taking student voices beyond the classroom via video production. But eight months later, as we approached the end of the school year and with movie making projects happening at all three EETT sites, I had the opportunity to observe students firsthand as they moved though various stages of multimedia writing. EETT teacher Tara McCartney’s commitment to providing her students with multiple modes of writing is clearly making language arts standards more attainable for her 4th graders:
#4 Supporting a collaborative learning environment – In his book The Director in the classroom: How filmmaking Inspires Learning, Nikios Theodosakis points out that “Filmmaking is a collaborative art, requiring dozens of passionate craftspeople to bring about a focused vision onto the screen. Each brings with them their own experiences and insights and makes the final film richer and truer than the director originally imagined” (p 7). Yet not all students have access to such 21st century skills as collaborating, connecting, and creating . The more high-poverty + low-performing a school site is, the greater the pressure is on administrators and teachers to deliver instruction per the ‘sit ‘n get’ model. I stand in awe of those educators who seek innovative ways to make learning engaging and memorable – despite top-down mandates that can lead to what teacher/writer Kelly Gallagher refers as “apartheid programs,” effectively denying students access to the “participatory culture” described in Henry Jenkin’s white paper.
Florin High School English teacher Bob LeVin is one of the innovators. I met Bob five years ago when I sent out an email to my district’s Technology Advisory Committee asking if anyone knew an English teacher who might be interested connecting with other classrooms in the Youth Voices online project. Bob’s enthusiastic response was the start of a yearly connection in which we meet at the start of each new school year to talk about tools and possibilities for taking his students’ voices beyond the confines of their school site and and increasingly impoverished community. What began in the first two years with a productive exploration of blogging has evolved into an annual integration of filmmaking into Bob’s program. Former student Michael Fuentes explains well the benefits of making a movie:
On the ‘same side of the tracks’ as Florin High School, Prairie Elementary School students in Lesley Mckillop’s 4th grade classroom have started the long journey to the red carpet, SEVA (Student Educational Video Awards) style. As Lesley’s young filmmakers made their way onto the stage to receive an Honorable Mention Award for Blog Safely!, I wondered if the crowd filling Sacramento’s historic Crest Theater to capacity understood what it meant to have students thanking their principal for driving them to the awards ceremony. Lesley, an innovator and an EETT teacher, came to me following the October kickoff and shared that she knew nothing about technology. Her initial reaction to bringing filmmaking to her 4th graders was the feeling of being completely overwhelmed while at the same time wanting to get on board and, more importantly, bring her class on board. By the time the school year drew to a close, all of her students had participated in the making of one or more movie productions, and for a handful, including the young man who is the last to step up to the microphone in the clip I’ve inserted at the end of this post, filmmaking has rocked their worlds.
In April, I traveled down the road to Berkeley for a NWP Digital Is meeting, where I had the good fortune to meet Liz Stephens. As an opening activity, the meeting coordinators asked our cozy group of 12 to think about and share a “whack on the head” about the intersection between writing and technology. Liz’s statement that writing in a digital age is “more about ‘frames’ than ‘stages’ was an instant jolt for me and brought to mind recent conversations with teachers and students, such as Xavier Carillo (former student of Bob LeVin), who shares a “no duh”:
In a test-driven climate, it’s easy for teachers and administrators to view filmmaking as a ‘when-testing-is-over’ activity. I think if they could sit in on a session or two with students from my EETT classrooms, they would see that, unlike worksheets, as students delve into their filmmaking projects, a major shift happens. They typically begin a project with the idea of “completing an assignment.” And then the shift happens: they see themselves as producers of content that others will see and benefit from. They have – with much enthusiasm and pride – ascended to the top level of Bloom’s Taxonomy (as revised in 2001 by Anderson and Krothwahl).
#6 Engaging students -Well this one is pretty much a no brainer. No matter what their access is during or beyond the school day, students like technology. From brainstorming, to storyboarding, to filming, to narrating, to editing – many students find a niche in the filmmaking process that pushes them as learners, as contributors, as team players. As they shift from consumers to content producers, there is also a shift in ownership of the learning. Step into their classrooms, and you will see the collaborative efforts start to happen, you will feel the synergy, and you will witness new levels of student engagement.
It’s been my privilege over the past few years to watch colleague (same district, same Writing Project) Jim Faires weave filmmaking into his 6th grade curriculum at Butler Elementary School. Through filmmaking, Jim is often on the receiving end of inspiration.
But how does a teacher justify integrating filmmaking in a textbook and test-prep driven school day? In my state, California Standards for the Teaching Profession provide a ready-made argument. Checkout the first standard: ENGAGING AND SUPPORTING ALL STUDENTS IN LEARNING:
Teachers build on students’ prior knowledge, life experience, and interests to achieve learning goals for all students. Teachers use a variety of instructional strategies and resources that respond to students’ diverse needs. Teachers facilitate challenging learning experiences for all students in environments that promote autonomy, interaction and choice. Teachers actively engage all students in problem solving and critical thinking within and across subject matter areas. Concepts and skills are taught in ways that encourage students to apply them in real-life contexts that make subject matter meaningful. Teachers assist all students to become self-directed learners who are able to demonstrate, articulate, and evaluate what they learn.“
Back to my initial question: How does a teacher find the time to integrate one more activity into the school day? Take three minutes to watch Lesley McKillop’s students as they ‘walk the red carpet.’ At the end of the this on-the-spot video, shot collectively (without a tripod) by her students, Lesley provides an answer to that important and often-asked question.
I actually started this post several months ago but didn’t publish it, thinking there were probably more points and definitely more resources that I could add. I’ve recently rediscovered, for instance, Edutopia’s What Works in Public Education site. A search on ‘filmmaking the classroom’ brought up a list of great articles – more than enough to justify my hitting the Publish button. If you have ideas and/or resources to add, I invite you to join me in this conversation and post a comment. I’m pretty sure my six arguments could easily be expanded to a dozen or more!
Last night I joined students, parents, and teachers as we filled the Crest Theater in downtown Sacramento for the 2009 SEVAs (Student Educational Video Awards). For the third year in a row, I sat back in complete awe of the video projects K-12 students have produced under the four categories of PSAs, documentaries, instructional, and school news.
It has been my privilege this year to support a number of teachers through my EETT grant in their efforts to bring filmmaking into the 4th grade curriculum. In a test-driven climate, many teachers and administrators view filmmaking as an after-school activity or when-testing-is-over activity. I think if they could sit in on a session or two, they would see that, unlike the daily worksheets, as students delve into their projects, a major shift happens. They typically begin a project with the idea of “completing an assignment.” And then the shift happens: they see themselves as producers of content that others could benefit from. They have – with much enthusiasm and pride – ascended to the top level of Bloom’s Taxonomy (as revised in 2001 by Anderson and Krothwahl).
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be gathering interview clips from the EETT SEVA teachers and their students to document their journeys into filmmaking. My goal is to write an article, modeled after my NWP colleague and mentor Peter Kittle’s multimedia style, that teachers can use as a resource and/or argument for justifying “time spent away from test prep.”
But back to last night’s event. In a word – magical. What about the digital divide? Were Title 1 schools able to compete with their more affluent counterparts? Yes!! Some differences were visible, though. The Title 1 projects, for instance, were filmed on site, not at home using personally owned video equipment. And unlike their more affluent counterparts, many whom arrived in shorts, jeans, tee-shirts, flip-flops and other casual attire, the Title 1 students were dressed to the nines.
The six young filmmakers who sat with me (driven to the theater by their amazing principal) were without words for much of the evening, starting with their walk down the red carpet. Only one had the courage to speak into the microphone as various “paparazzi” attempted to interview them. They filed into their seats, where they sat mesmerized by the work and acceptance speeches of other students. But when the PSA finalists for grades 4-6 were announced, and they saw footage from their Blog Safely video, and were then asked to come on stage to accept an Honorable Mention Award, each one stepped up to the mic and into the blinding light to give thanks for those that had helped them on their journey to walk the red carpet.
A Case for Filmmaking in the Classroom …who could argue against it?!?
Note: Bloom’s image copies from http://www.techlearning.com/article/8670