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I’m Ready For My Close-up, Mr De Mille!

05 Aug

With apologies to Gloria Swanson, I’d like to look at some of the nitty-gritty involved in making an educational vodcast, and suggest some ways of integrating them into the classroom. My first suggestion is that, wherever possible you should get students to create the videos themselves. There are things which only the teacher can present, but, honestly, it seems to me of far more value to give students an opportunity to create a video explaining some aspect of the syllabus. These videos should then be stored and made accessible to the class.

This is especially true of topics which benefit from research. For example, this year I got my grade 8s to create vodcasts around different aspects of eSafety. These videos now form an excellent resource for future years. Because they are made by other students, I think they are more engaging and of greater worth than if I had simply made a vodcast on the topic.

Students researched the topic and then prepared short (one minute scripts) on a single aspect. They then filmed their video using a video camera or cell-phone. The footage was then edited using Windows Movie Maker. Some students used iMovie. I did not let myself off the hook. I produced a SCORM (using PowerPoint with an iSpring plug-in which converts the slide show to flash format), which helped the students through some of the technical issues involved. A big problem with Movie Maker software is that it does not work over a network, and so students have to work off a flash drive or the local drive. This is not what they are used to, and bedevilled many a project. Another huge issue was the need to convert footage to a format (usually wmv or avi) which Movie Maker could read. I used FLV to AVI for this purpose, but in some instances we were forced to recommend that students use the Apple machines instead (we have fewer of these). All in all, though, students were able to cope very well. I think some members of the IT Department nearly had a nervous breakdown, but by and large all groups were able to put their projects together within the three hours we had available.

Many teachers are using vodcasting to “flip the classroom”, but I believe that we can “flip the curriculum” by setting students the challenge of creating the vodcasts which can then be used for teaching purposes in whatever way seems fit. I would suggest that these videos be stored on a server, and that students can access them via hyperlinks on the school Moodle platform. This can be problematic, though, if you wish students to be able to access the vodcasts from home and the server does not have net access. Setting up a school Youtube Channel might be a good idea, but you need to think about eSafety issues.

I also suggest that students be set a very strict time-limit. If you can’t say it in under a minute or two, you really should be breaking it into two separate vodacsts. Given time, students will produce films of Spielbergian proportions, and while this is very diverting, you really want short, punchy videos which get straight to the point!

I would also suggest that students use video cameras rather than cell-phones. Cell-phones tend to produce more issues around sound quality and problems with missing drivers. They also tend to create problems over the need to convert the footage to a different format. Cell-phones were easier to use, though, in terms of allowing greater flexibility for the students. We have ten video cameras, and sometimes students  could not book them when they needed them because of other projects going on. Cell-phones work very well in providing a back-up plan!

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