10 Ideas for Classroom Video Projects

“… ten years ago, not one student in a hundred, nay, one in a thousand, could have produced videos like this. It’s a whole new skill, a vital and important skill, and one utterly necessary not simply from the perspective of creating but also of comprehending video communication today.” (Stephen Downes)

If you follow my Twitter-stream, you know that I spend a lot of time viewing, collecting & sharing videos. In this post, I share ideas on certain types of videos that I’ve gathered and how educators might use related methods or styles to engage students in constructing and deconstructing media while becoming critical consumers and producers of digital media.

1) Conversation with Future Me/You:

“A Conversation with My 12 Year Old Self: 20th Anniversary Edition” is a recently popular video by Jeremiah McDonald. In the video, McDonald has created an interview with himself through the use of 2 decade old footage that he created as a 12 year old. The video had me kicking myself for not having the forethought to have produced something like this, but I suppose there’s always interviewing my 60 year old self at some point.

While presenting with my brother George (he’s likely blogged about this somewhere) in Australia this past Summer, I remember him discussing how this activity would be an excellent beginning/end of year exercise that students of all ages could enjoy and learn from. I agree. If done well, this type of activity could provide a student with not only a rich assessment of learning/growth throughout the year, but provide individuals with a precious artefact to be collected, shared, and cherished.

Another angle for this activity could be to create a video or a dialogue with a literary, historical or popular media character. This Vader/Skywalker version of McDonald’s video may give you some ideas.

2) Genre Shifting Movie Trailers:

One of my favourite types of video projects are the genre-shifted movie trailers where creators take movie clips and retell the plot of the story in a different genre than the original. Popular examples include The Shining as a romantic comedy, Mary Poppins as a dark horror film, Home Alone as a horror/thriller, Superbad as a thriller, Ferris Bueller’s Day off as an indie “coming of age” film and Mrs. Doubtfire as a horror film.

Genre-shifting video projects are valuable in a number of ways. As video creation projects, they would not require a high-level of technical ability. In fact, I would argue that students with basic video editing capabilities could create videos like these from a purely technical perspective. However, if done well, such projects could challenge students to think deeply about the grammar of storytelling while considering essential elements of creating video (e.g., music, timing, edits/cuts, effects, pauses/silence, etc.) for various genres . As well, students would have to acquire a keen eye for the curation involved in finding & gathering elements that would support a chosen genre. But, even without offering students a hands-on component, these videos would be great for discussing questions around how film directors/producers make us feel a certain way through the thoughtful use of various edits & visual/auditory/stylistic elements.

3) Storytelling Lip-Syncs:

I’ve recently discovered BoredShortsTV, a Youtube channel where kids write & record audio stories and adults reenact the stories while lip-syncing the original audio. My favourite video so far is this “Salesman” clip, but see also “Principal’s Office”, “Dance Class” and “Basketball Class”.

I would love to see schools take on a video project such as this where elementary school students were responsible for writing, narrating and recording audio stories and then had middle school or high school students act out and lip-sync the video in creative ways. This could provide an onramp for greater collaboration amongst teachers, across grade levels, and also provide a project that would be humorous and fun for the entire school community to view.

4) Plot Synopsis in 60 Seconds:

There are a number fun plot synopses videos available on Youtube (and other video sharing services) that do well to provide summaries of Hollywood movies or novels in 60 seconds. Notable examples include “Forrest Gump in One Minute, One Take”, “60 Second Fight Club”, “Jaws in 60 Seconds”, “Kill Bill 1 & 2 in One Minute, One Take” and “Lord of the Rings in 60 Seconds”. There is also the excellent 60 Second Recaps site that is a great resource for students and educators needing comprehensive and enjoyable plot summaries.

Projects like this could help students gain skills needed to become more effective communicators with digital technologies, skills that are essential in our attention-scarce reality, while providing entry points into a wider comprehension of literature & popular media.

5) Stop Motion:

I’ve been enamoured with stop motion films since I first saw Norman McLaren’s anti-war classic ‘Neighbours’ when I was a boy. In the last several years, I’ve seen countless examples of conventional stop motion videos such as “Tony vs. Paul”, “Western Spaghetti”, “Rwandan Grand Prix”, ““Sorry I’m Late”“, ““Human Skateboard”” and “PEN Story”. I’ve also noticed a number of stop motion music videos such as “Wildlife Control”, “Dream Music 2″, “Against the Grain” and the incredible “Her Morning Elegance”.

What I like about these videos is that there is so much variation and creativity among these pieces. There is no simple recipe or formula and from a technical standpoint, the method for creating stop motion effects is done in a number of unique ways. And, if you consider a video like “Amateur” by Lasse Gjertsen, you will realize that stop motion is more than just choppy video. Rather, it’s a method of construction that allows artists to create things that could not be formed similarly through other methods. Gjertsen states at the end of his video, “I can neither play the drums nor play the piano”, yet through his video editing mastery, he is transformed into a talented musician.

6) Course Trailers:

Back in 2007, I used a course trailer to provide information and to get potential students interested in the open online course I was introducing. It was a fun experiment and I’ve since had many people interested in taking on the idea. I just noticed this Vimeo Channel from Harvard where there are a number of good examples.

The conciseness of the course trailer has similar advantages to what was expressed above about the plot synopses. However, I also think that educators taking on projects like this not only learn a lot from creating the project (e.g., technical skills, core focus), but also, it can provide a message to students that you are willing to push your own learning and have some fun while doing it.

7) Summaries of Learning:

For the past several years, I’ve been asking my students to create a “Summary of Learning” that captures and describes growth and key learnings throughout our course. Students have utilized a number of different formats of video to take on this task (e.g., stop motion, vlogging, podcasts), but the most popular format has been screencasting. Popular screencasting tools used include Screenr, Screencast-o-matic, and Camtasia (and a bunch more here). Dozens of examples of these summaries of learning can be found here but to get a sense of the different types, I’ll point you specifically to Leslie’s (stop motion), Lauren’s (video on identity), Kevin’s (traditional video cast) and Matt’s (stop motion + Photoshop).

This assignment has been very popular with mystudents and I’ve been quite pleased with the results. Our students need the opportunity to reflect on their learning, and providing them with alternatives to written summaries helps to improve their communication abilities while providing potentially rich artefacts of and for learning.

8) Kutiman-Style Mashups:

Kutiman’s 2009 Thru-You project was a great inspiration to me and many others. In the project, Kutiman curated samples of music from various amateur musicians on Youtube to create original musical pieces. Time Magazine named the project one of the best 50 inventions for 2009 as it was an unique way to both curate and combine samples. Recently, Gotye, inspired by Kutiman’s project, released a mashup encompassing samples from dozens of covers from his own song, “Somebody I Used to Know”.

There are two major things I like about these projects. First, I see this as moving beyond the ‘digital essay’, to achieve what we’ve always wanted to do in classrooms, to take and build upon the work of others and while doing so, to create something uniquely original and new. And second, this type of project allows student to play within the boundaries of fair use/dealing, not to only better understand copyright, but to execute our rights in current/emerging copyright legislation. If we do not act upon our rights, we are sure to lose them.

9) Video Re-creations:

My brother George introduced me to Ton Do-Nguyen, the sixteen year old who recently created the Snuggie version of a Beyonce music video. If you watch the side-by-side comparison, it is easy to see the incredible skill and attention to detail of this young man. And to know that he learned this on his own without any formal instruction makes this even more amazing.

I don’t have many examples of this type of thing, not that I don’t think there are any, but that I just haven’t been looking until now. But I am going to go out on a limb here and say that the process of discovering, recreating and reverse-engineering complex editing processes like seen in this video must lead to deep learning, and thus I do believe this is a worthwhile type of project to pursue.

10) Social Commentary & Critique:

9 year old blogger Martha Payne recently made headlines when her Scottish school district tried shutting down her NeverSeconds daily food blog, one that critiqued the quality of food at her school cafeteria. Ewan McIntosh outlines the series of events in his blog which eventually led to the school district backing down from the ban after increased media pressure and bad PR.

This type of social commentary and critique is greatly lacking in our schools. I would love to see more students take on social causes of interest, to speak their minds in support of change, and to learn how to do it with candour, respect and persuasion. We have the ability to look into a camera and record our words and to be heard locally or globally. Yet, is this happening in school? Let’s make sure it is – let’s be sure to educate this generation to take advantage of these new forms of empowerment. If we are not heard, if we do not engage in these participatory forms of media, I fear these freedoms will not be around for long.

Need Your Help – unKeynote/Keynode

Graham Attwell and I have been paired together as co-keynotes at the PLE Conference in Barcelona, Spain, July 8-9. The organizers have asked us to do something different than a typical keynote, so we previously asked for feedback on the format. Here are some of the ideas that emerged from that process.

Today, Graham and I met, went through all of the responses, and decided to go with format outlined below. However, to make this work, we would really love your responses. Please help!

How (We Think) the Session is Going to Work:

We have put together a a list of questions (see below) and are inviting your responses. We will put together a joint presentation based on your slides.

We will present the ‘keynote’ together but will be encouraging participants – both face to face and remotely – to contribute to the keynote as it develops.

Where We Need Help:

  1. We’d like you to respond to one or more of these ‘key questions’ found below. We suggest responding through the creation of a (PowerPoint) slide, or creating a very short video (less than 1 minute?). Or, if you can think of another way of representing your ideas, please be creative.
  2. We’d like you to provide questions for us. What did we miss? What are some of the important questions for consideration when exploring PLEs/PLNs in teaching & learning.
  3. Please send your responses to graham10@mac.com (and cc: couros@gmail.com) by July 6/10.]

Key Questions:

  1. With all of the available Web 2.0 tools, is there a need for “educational technology”?
  2. What are the implications of PLEs/PLNs on traditional modes/structures of education?
  3. What are the key attributes of a healthy PLE/PLN?
  4. What pedagogies are inspired by PLEs (e.g., networked learning, connected learning)? Give examples of where PLEs/PLNs have transformed practice.
  5. What are the implications of PLEs/PLNs beyond bringing educational technology into the classroom, and specifically toward workplace/professional learning?
  6. If PLEs/PLNs are becoming the norm, what does it mean for teachers/trainers (or the extension: what does it mean for training teachers & trainers)?
  7. As our networks continue to grow, what strategies should we have in managing our contacts, our connections, and our attention? Or, extension, how scalable are PLEs/PLNs?
  8. Can we start thinking beyond PLEs/PLNs as models? Are we simply at a transitional stage? What will be the next, new model for learning in society? (e.g., where are we headed?)

We’d love to get as many responses as possible to make this work well. It doesn’t have to be much, or anything comprehensive. Just pick up on one of the pieces and let us know what you think on the matter. Again, we need these by July 6/10.

Thanks!!!

Power of the Positive

I am fascinated by PSAs. I am especially interested in what I believe to be a false assumption that the more graphic the ad, the more effective it will be in delivering its intended message to viewers. I can think of recent ads from the UK regarding txting while driving, and ads from Ontario on workplace safety that received much attention due to virality and mainstream media coverage. However, I wonder what effect such videos actually have in the end. Can anyone point to a decent study on the possible correlations?

Aside: The PSA I remember most from the 90′s was about Methamphetamine. And it was not because it was graphic, but because I found the song in the advertisement to be really, really catchy. Not a good thing.

OK, so back to my train of thought. Today I came across a brilliant PSA about seatbelt safety from Sussex Safer Roads in the UK. Wow. A beautifully constructed video with a solid, touching message that hits home. Wonderful!

So I thought, why aren’t there more examples like this? I though of the recent, bizarre political ads from New Orleans and the misdirected, personal attack ads from two of our Canadian political parties. Am I naïve to believe that positive messages can bring us forward as a society, and that all of this negativity is truly a drain on our collective spirits? Maybe this ‘relatively new parenting thing’ is just rubbing off on me, giving me crazy ideas about hope and positivity.

Or maybe we just need to turn the corner.

An Open Access Journal is Born

We have just launched a new, open access journal titled in education. While the journal is set to cover various topics in the field, the first issue is a special volume focused on technology & social media. I was the guest editor of this issue, and you may want to read the editorial that gives an overview of the entire process, and outlines the contents of the issue.

I’d also like to use this opportunity to announce a second call for papers. The theme of the issue was quite popular, so we will be offering a second issue of the same theme to be published in Spring 2010. See the call for papers.

Please feel free to pass on the information. And, if you are interested in submitting a paper, please let me know. Thanks for reading.

Pursuing the Elusive Metaphor of Community – Schwier

Dr. Richard Schwier was our guest in my open course, EC&I 831, on September 22, 2009. Rick’s presentation, similar to the talk that he gave at Ed-Media in Honolulu this past June, raised some incredibly important questions regarding the role of informal learning as it pertains to those teaching (and learning) in K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. And if you’ve never seen Rick present, you certainly owe it to yourself to do so. He has been a great teacher, mentor, and friend to me, and I learn something new with him every time we connect.

Greater detail of the presentation within the context of the course can be found at the EC&I 831 wiki. The presentation was facilitated via Elluminate and the recording of that session, including the chat, can be found at this location. Slidedeck, video, and MP3 versions are also available below. Enjoy!

Know Your Meme: David After Dentist Revisited

Last February, I blogged about the Internet meme “David After the Dentist” and tried to frame the video in the context of media literacy and digital identity. Almost 6 months and 30 millions views later, Rocketboom has put together a short but detailed history of the meme that includes a description of its origin through “user error”, an overview of remixes and parodies, ties to the culture of childhood fame/ridicule, monetization of the meme, and David’s personal story. The short video is worth watching, and I do believe it is important that we better understand how and why media spread, and the resulting effects of Internet fame, especially upon our youth.

Using Twitter Well (With Tweetdeck)

Jesse Newhart has put together a good, 8 minute overview of how he effectively follows a high number (15,000+) of people on Twitter using Tweetdeck. I use many of the same strategies for following a lesser number on Twitter (2000+), and if you do follow a significant number of people, these ‘tricks’ are useful if not essential.

And while I am writing this, I just noticed that Brian Crosby has asked “why would you want to follow 15,000 people?”. I think the video may itself help to answer this important question as Newhart does explain each strategy in context (e.g., looking for links, helping to answer people’s questions, noticing popular trends among followers). While I do not follow that many, I know that I do benefit from following more people than I can regularly engage.

Open Access Course: Social Media & Open Education (Fall 2009)

I will be facilitating an open access graduate course this Fall titled EC&I 831: Social Media & Open Education. I expect about 15-20 registered (for credit) students, but I am opening up the experience to all other interested not-for-credit participants. This will be the third time I have run the course, and it has been quite successful in the past. I have rethought a few pieces, and I am hoping that this offering will be the best yet.

The course wiki is available here: http://eci831.wikispaces.com. The “synchronous sessions” page is slowly being filled out as I work to schedule presenters and appropriate weekly topics. Additionally, I have set up a Google Form to gather information about those who would like to participate as not-for-credit students. Quite a few people have already signed up, and we’d love to have you participate as well!

Participation is quite flexible. This can mean simply joining in on the weekly synchronous sessions (these run every Tuesday from Sept 15/09 to December 08/09, 7 p.m. Saskatchewan time). You could also help inform our reading list by tagging relevant articles & media as ‘eci831readings‘. You could respond to the weekly lectures through your blog, or whatever media/site you choose, and tag these as ‘eci831responses‘. Or, you could comment on student blog posts (feed/links will be available after Sept 8) and expect other participants to engage you in your writing spaces. And, I am sure there are many other ways to participate, create, and collaborate that we have yet to discover.

If you have any questions about the course, feel free to contact me. And if you are interested, we would love you to join us in this upcoming, collaborative learning experience.

Seminar: Social Media and Open/Networked Learning

I am very fortunate to have been asked to teach a seminar this summer with UBC: Okanagan in Kelowna, BC, as part of their Summer Institute in Education. The seminar runs from July 27 – July 31, and I will have 15 hours in total. I am looking forward to meeting my new students, learning with them, and pushing the possibilities for immersion given such a short time-frame. My goal is to provide much more than a ‘taster’ for social media & open learning, but to help nurture a passion within these learners: to foster genuine interest and active participation through social learning, to nurture critical producers & consumers, and to convey the benefits of media sharing in education & society. I believe that the success of a workshop/seminar/course can only be measured in its effects on learners well after the official experiences are complete. I hope to someday know that this summer experience made a difference for all of those involved.

I am currently working on the course wiki (btw: quite enjoying the use of Wetpaint) and I would be happy to receive input from critical readers. Also, if anyone would like to suggest readings or media that could be shared with this group, I invite you use the tag edst499k in your Delicious links. That will automatically add your suggestions to the Readings & Resources page of the wiki.

Thanks for connecting.

Sour ‘Hibi no neiro’

You do not have to understand Japanese to appreciate this video by Sour.

This music video was shot for Sour’s ‘Hibi no Neiro’ (Tone of everyday) from their first mini album ‘Water Flavor EP’. The cast were selected from the actual Sour fan base, from many countries around the world. Each person and scene was filmed purely via webcam.

Repeat with me: “Each technology creates a new environment. The old environment becomes content for the new environment. The effects of media come from their form not their content.” (Everyman’s Mcluhan)