“Quiet on set…and ROLLING!”

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Creating video projects with students is always rewarding. There is so much learning going on from the students and the teachers! Hitches and problems are overcome and students get the opportunity to show some creativity. Throw in a green screen, some props and a brilliant, meaningful writing prompt and you are onto a winner as I found out this week working with grade 3 on their Unit of Inquiry, How We Organise Ourselves.

There is a distinction to be made between filming a project and filmmaking.

My interest in filmmaking with students was first sparked when attending the 21st Century Learning Conference in Hong Kong in December 2014. I was fortunate enough to attend a couple of times when I was teaching in China, I learnt so much and met some inspirational educators both times. I attended a workshop run by Jørgen Mortensen (@TraktorTattoo a Technology Integration Coach at Renaissance College Hong Kong), “From Timeline to Primetime”. In it, he showed us a variety of techniques to engage learners in the filmmaking process including considering shots, continuity and to think about sound as much as images. It was absolutely inspirational and completely changed my view on how we should use video as a storytelling medium in the classroom.

Students shouldn’t view filmmaking as simply pointing and shooting. They need to plan their shots, compare their plans with professional examples, ask themselves, “How can we refine our output?” They should be made familiar with the idea of filming in chunks, explore how the editing process can help create a cohesive film.

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For their UoI, students were looking at how communities and individuals prepare themselves and respond to natural disasters.  As part of their language learning, students wrote fantastic newspaper reports detailing a fictional natural disaster in a location of their choice. The reports were of a high quality so it was decided that turning these reports into a emergency news broadcast would be a great way to assess their learning and their understanding of the central idea.

After sharing the success criteria with students (which the teachers aligned to SOLO Taxonomy for self and teacher assessment) groups set about selecting an appropriate newspaper article from their group to turn into a script. After some input about different types of shots which would be suitable for use in a news report, setting up a makeshift green screen (by blu-tacking A2 green card to the library wall!) groups set about filming. We used the students iPads for this, as with iPad Air 2s, we’ve found the quality of recording is of sufficient quality for a high quality product. Students were introduced to Pixabay and Videvo in order to source open source and high quality backdrops for their news reports.

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After filming, green screen segments were shared with the class teachers via AirDrop. This meant that backgrounds could be Chroma Keyed in without the need to purchase Green Screen by DoInk (which is a great iPad app which we have yet to purchase in our school…hopefully next year!) as we could do it on our MacBook Airs with the built in iMovie. For a step by step guide of how to do this, click here! These clips were then shared back to the students to mix together and tinker with.

The result of these news broadcasts blew me away. The students were so motivated to deliver their lines with professionalism and expression. Many students found teleprompter apps in order to help deliver their lines fluently. Two groups really showed their ingenuity by using a powerful fan, to recreate “High winds which may be interfering with our broadcast!” It was a delight to see students responding to the prompt with such enthusiasm and you could see it written all over their faces. Groups worked collaboratively in the editing process and you could observe continual peer assessment, constructive criticism and troubleshooting going on, without teacher prompting. This kind of project allows students to show a little spark, allows those who sometimes shy away to stand up and get noticed for their input. In short, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough!

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Icon Credit: Greenscreen by Dan Hetteix from the Noun Project

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