Sunday, November 9, 2008

Film School in Session

Last Friday, I spent the best sixteen minutes of my K12 Online Conference with Film School for Video Podcasters by Matthew Needleman. Not only did I benefit, but so did my eighth grade students.

Attention Grabbing
Matthew modeled great video podcasting. He opened with an intriguing story in images. Shot like a 1940's movie, I was drawn into his subject. As the presentation progressed, I was struck by the high quality of the video. Watching Matthew discuss his tips, I felt like I was watching a TCM interview with a director. He talks about storyboards, choosing shots, and the rule of thirds. There are many other hints along the way.

Why Show Students
My eighth grade students are working on a project tied into the annual DAR writing competition. This year's essay is based on the Gettysburg Address. After reviewing the first draft, the social studies teacher was concerned with the writing of some of the students. I suggested that the eighth grade could produce a series of short films for the sixth and seventh grade students.

The Video's Premise
I outlined the following for the students: In groups of three students, write a short newscast from 1863. You can either pretend: a) that you use time travel to go back to 1863 or b) that video interviews could be given in 1863. You will have one group member be the reporter. The other two will be people who were eyewitnesses to the event. We will be able to show the videos to the younger students. Hopefully, they will gain some additional insight into the speech from the perspective of farmers, soldiers, nurses, doctors, and wives of the men of the time. In order to prepare for the presentation, we looked at a sample of a newscast from Discovery streaming. It was a 1958 clip about President Eisenhower's wedding anniversary. Additionally, I wanted the students to see what could be done with images and sound. I followed the Eisenhower clip with a reading of the Gettysburg Address.

Eye on the Story
The students had worked on their story in Word for one class. When I saw the Film School for Video Podcasters session, I knew that my students would benefit. I chose the section on storyboards and the section on the rule of thirds. I could tell that they were drawn into the video. They were very attentive to what Matthew was saying. There was one boy who was literally sitting on the edge of his seat, leaning into the presentation. At the end of the rule of thirds section, he said "Wow, that's so interesting, I never heard that before".

Reality of the Storyboard
The students are still struggling with the idea of needing to storyboard their work. One of the students asked if they still needed to create the storyboard if they knew what they were going to do. I asked him if he knew what he wanted to do and he said yes. I asked him if the other two students in his group knew what he wanted to do, and he still thought the answer was yes. I told them that I still expected a storyboard, even if they didn't use it entirely in the recording of the video.

My Video Podcasting Past
Each time I create a video podcast, I learn something new. My videos have really been more like screencasts so far. The only full video I have created with students is a Population Density video from the sixth grade math class I taught last year. You can see how the rule of thirds was not even a thought in our mind. The students are centered in most shots and it is visually very boring.

Gettysburg In-House
The movies are going to remain in-house productions. I am not going to have the time to have the students find all copyright friendly images. If any videos can be put online, I'll explain it in a future post.

In the Meanwhile
If you have any interest in creating video podcasts, currently make movies with students, or create video podcasts with them - this presentation is for you. Spend a fantastic 16:31 minutes with Matthew and your videos will be on the road to being more interesting and take your student's work to the next level. Get ready to kick it up a notch.

Image Citation:
Needleman, Matthew. Film School for Video Podcasters K12 Online Presentation. 2008 October 31.

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  1. Thanks for watching and for your kind words. It's good to know that the movie is a hit with students although they weren't my intended audience.

    In regards to storyboarding, you might show them the extras on a commercial DVD that have storyboard to film comparisons like Monsters Inc. as a way of hammering home the importance. I think you were right to emphasize that storyboards are for communicating with your crew as well as with for yourself.

  2. I knew students weren't the intended audience, but I liked the way you opened the video. I didn't show them the whole presentation, although there wouldn't be a reason they couldn't see the whole thing. I just selected the bit on storyboards and the rule of thirds.

    I'll have to take a look at the DVDs I have. I like to show them a little five minute clip as a discussion point before they continue their work.

    Next, I'll have to take more time poking around your website. I'm so glad to have another resource as I look to build my own knowledgebase, too. I took some radio, TV, and photography courses in college, but need a lot of refreshers.

  3. I'm very interested in how you are using Web 2.0 tools. In Indiana we're pursing 1 to 1 computing in high school English classrooms, using open source software. I'm always looking for new resources to pass on to 1 to 1 classroom teachers. If you have any suggestions, I would be interested in knowing what you've found to be useful.

  4. Gary:
    I've been learning how to use various Web 2.0 tools since March 2007. I started my blog September 2007. Many things that I have tried to do with the students are here on the blog and on the wiki I created to hold our projects.

    We are not a 1:1 school. We did win 20 tablet PCs and are just in the process of using them. I spent most of last month teaching the students how to start, run, and close the various pieces of open source software that I loaded on the machines. These tablets are Windows XP machines. We are, otherwise, an Apple school.

    I've been teaching a heavy workload for the past four years (K-8 computers and two math classes). This year, I am back to teaching computer class only. I have a plan to help the teachers learn more Web 2.0 tools. We will be working on Voicethread this week. I provided the teachers an intro to these types of tools class back in June.