I've been using student-generated videos in class for a few years now and I just love the challenge that it gives to the them. The main draw for me is the fact that the students are engaged in real-world dialogue, that hasn't been pre-decided by myself or a textbook. As the students work together to understand how to complete the project, they have to negotiate meaning and constantly try to get their ideas across. At first it is justifiably complicated and can cause frustration. But what I do see is students slowly coming out of that comfort / fossilised state as they learn to navigate new language structures and make sense of what they are trying to do. The guide below will give you some steps you can follow for when you want to make your own video project.
All projects need a theme to get started, it could be something that is already embedded in your own curriculum, or it could be something that you can adapt. Whether the project is taken from an existing module or created separately, make sure that it is something that the students can get their teeth into. By that I mean, something with substance, that isn't too focused. Let the students take the project where they'd like it to go - with your guidance of course. I like projects that get students to solve a problem, or make sense of a situation. Some of my past projects have included: redesigning the classroom, turning an empty space into something new, deforestation, refugees and special needs. Your project theme will of course depend on the age and respective level of your students.
This is fundamentally the most important part of the project planning stage. There are a few questions to ask yourself before starting the project with your students.
1. What aims am I hoping to achieve?
2. What will the students gain by doing this project?
No one likes a project without meaningful aims, so get these planned before you start. I usually assess process and product as two separate entities. Let's look at what you could assess from each.
Process (soft-skills): teamwork, participation, collaboration, listening to my team mates, meeting deadlines etc.
Though not on many curricular, soft skills are a great way to engage the students in the learning process. These skills will have to be assessed via a self-assessment, as much of the time they are not seen by the student.
Product: Design, writing, grammar, comprehension, creativity, critical thinking etc.
The product aspect can be assessed by the teacher, or the students themselves can play a part in this process via peer-assessment.
Projects require students to take on greater social roles as they engage on a different level with other students. They have to negotiate conflict, students who don't want to participate, and the learn to skills, so it's important that they see they are getting credit for all their hard work.
My early projects never really lived up to my expectations until I realised that I hadn't provided a clear benchmark for the students to aim towards. Imagine asking your students to write a narrative story, knowing that they had never even seen or read one. In effect that's what I was doing. So, I soon as I started providing samples, the students had something to emulate. With videos the concept is the same. If I want my students to create a documentary, I of course have to provide the students with a sample documentary, so they have a reference point.
For this your students will need:
Smart Phone - any smart phone will do, as long as there is a camera. When there are students without a smartphone simply group the students with smartphones.
Headphones - hopefully your students will have the new-ish headphones with mics attached. If your students use the built in mic on the smart phone, there will be too much background noise. Plug in the headphones and put the mic near to the person who is talking. You'll be surprised how good the quality is.
Editing software - If there are PCs, Macs, or even smartphones you can find editing software, whether it's Microsoft movie maker, or iMovie. You can even use an online service like Animoto which is an easy way to edit video.
Note* The teacher does not need to know how to edit video. And, your students do not need to know how to edit video. When they ask me how to do it, I simply guide them to my assistant teacher: YouTube! All my students have gone from zero editing experience to amazing editors in a matter of hours. In fact, they are the ones who have taught me how to edit video, and that's exactly the point. As teachers we can share the learning experience with the students.
The most important step is this one. When the students feel overwhelmed by the process, which they inevitable do sometimes, you just need to be that guiding hand that let's them know that it's going to work out and everything will be ok. Those simple words can make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful project.
For some if not all this will be the first video project for the students, and it may be for you the teacher also. Have regular meetings with each group and just check on their process. Offer advice on how it could look and sound better and encourage the students to be critical of their own work. What do you think? Do you like this bit? Have you tried putting this over there? These questions help the students to reflect on what they are doing and in some cases help them to answer their own questions.
After all the hard work you need an event to showcase all the films. I usually ask the class to organise a film festival. They need to create a name, makes a schedule, send out invitations, get refreshments, and find an M.C. This is usually where the students see their hard work pay off and it is such a fun event for all involved.
A simple but fun project to start with is based on the videos '50 people 1 question' project. This project can be tired into any theme or class topic. If the students are to learn about conservation, ask them to create questions around this topic. Here are some steps to get you going.
Step 1 - Show your students one of the 50 people 1 question videos.
Step 2 - Put your students into groups and ask each group to create a question.
Step 3 - Decided how many people to ask. (I usually say 20, but it could be fewer or more).
Step 4 - Decide whether to ask students within the class or school, or people within the local community.
Step 5 - Start interviewing.
Step 6 - Show sample YouTube videos on editing with iMovie, Windows Movie Maker etc, and ask the students to use these to help them learn how to edit.
Step 7 - Hold regular meetings to give feedback on the videos (sound quality, video quality, length etc).
Step 8 - Upload the video to YouTube and use the auto subtitle feature. The students will, though, have to listen and check for mistakes. This is hard and they'll need your help. Still, it's great listening practice!
Step 9 - Set up a film festival event to screen the videos.
There are two videos below. The video on the left was created by my students, whereas the video on the right is from the actual 50 people 1 question project. For my students their project centred around tourism, so they created a question around this.
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I hope this post has been useful. If you have any video projects I'd love to hear about them!