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Using digital video in the history classroom


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#1 Richard Jones-Nerzic

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Posted 14 July 2004 - 01:23 PM

Digital video in the history classroom: why, what and how?

As my subtitle suggests, I propose three sections to this seminar that broadly address three questions:

1. Why use digital video?
2. What can you do with digital video?
3. How do you do digital video?

The first section offers various justifications for using digital video in the history classroom. It attempts a justification beyond the undoubted motivational appeal of the medium, to something more essential to the teaching of history itself. The second section suggests some practical examples of the various ways digital video might be used in the history classroom. And in the final section I offer a five-minute crash course in how to edit digital video, open to anyone with post-98 Windows and a broadband Internet connection (or patience).

Part 1: Why use digital video in the history classroom?
Because you can and because you should.

Because you can.

Until a few years ago, unless you had a dedicated multi-thousand pound media studies lab, film making with students was pretty much impossible. Even then teachers were restricted to working with small groups of (generally) older students and the level of expertise required meant that those involved tended to be media studies specialists. Now as a result of a number of technical developments, any teacher of any subject can take their class of 30 students of any age, into a computer lab and make movies.

The four technical developments are worth highlighting because when put together, you can begin to realise how very recent the possibilities associated with digital video actually are.

Firstly, all Windows PCs since Me have had video editing software included as part of the software package. Before this you either had to have a suite of iMacs or an expensive site license for a specialist digital video-editing package. Since last year Microsoft have improved their software beyond recognition, so that with MovieMaker 2 you can do pretty much all that commercial DV software like Pinnacle can do. Even more importantly, the software is very easy to use. I use it with all my students (11-18 years old) and we also use it with much younger children in our Primary section. After a five-minute introduction to the basics, students can be left to work the rest out for themselves. (see Part Three of this seminar) Of all the software I have used with students over the last five years, MovieMaker is not only the easiest to get to grips with, but it is also the one I have learnt about most from the students themselves.

Secondly, digital video has become widely available and easy to make. A quick search on the internet for .mpeg or .ram files exactly how available they are. But more importantly, the cost of digital cameras that also shoot video has come down significantly in the last two years. Five years ago I was fortunate enough to be able to work in class with a handful of Sony Mavicas, each retailing at about £700-800.

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We considered this so novel at the time, we even made a film about it. (worth viewing if you've ever wondered what a laptop classroom looks like)

Now those same cameras are about a quarter of the price and there are much cheaper ones that can do the job just as well. You might be surprised at how many of your students own a digital (video) camera or have webcam or mobile phone that also does digital video. Even if you have an old analogue camcorder, £50 worth of video capture card can turn it all digital. See my discussion with Chris Higgins earlier this term for practical advice on this.

Thirdly, although digital video files are very big, the average PC now has the hard drive and processor necessary to cope with them. In addition portable storage devices (USB memory sticks etc.) now allow us to move big files between computers very easily. Moving DV files between students in lessons or between class and home would otherwise be very difficult.

Finally, broadband Internet connection not only allows us to download DV files with relative ease, it also allows us through our websites to share our student’s films with the wider Internet community. If you do make films with students, it helps motivate if they know that their work will be viewed beyond the classroom.

Because you should

Now that it is possible to work with digital video in the history classroom, it is also important to realise that there are also lots of good reasons why you should. The most obvious is motivational; students (including boys) enjoy working with it. The medium is relevant and ‘real world’ for students and this is reflected in the time and effort they put into the work. (see BECTa research on this) Video projects also lend themselves naturally to meaningful group work assignments and genuine cross-curricular learning. Depending on the project you might need students to become directors, editors, artists, musicians, cameramen, researchers, scriptwriters, actors, etc. Digital video therefore opens up a whole range of new learning possibilities to suit a range of different learning styles. This was in fact the first significant revelation for me when I started using a digital video camera in lessons. Before it was possible for students to use the technology themselves, I was using the camera to enhance the possibilities for non-traditional learning styles. For example, I overcame my reluctance to use ephemeral, performance based role-plays in class, as soon as digital video allowed me to overcome the fact that role-play was ephemeral. Everyone prepares more seriously for a role-play if a permanent record is to be kept and ‘broadcast’ via our website to the rest of the world.

However, the most important reason why students should work with digital video is that by doing so they are learning to become critical users of the most influential medium in the world. As history teachers we like to justify our existence by claiming to provide our students with the tools to decode and debunk both the ‘source’ traces of the past and the interpretative knowledge claims of historians. But in general, school history, with its emphasis on imparting the (producer) skills of the professional historian, (why do we do this?) neglects to equip students with all the skills they require as consumers of history. I remember reading some serious educational research, which suggested that most people’s historical consciousness is generated by television and cinema and has little to do with the ‘taught’ history of the school curriculum. In brief, the ‘document’ work and close examination of the (dominantly) written sources which characterises history lessons throughout the world, does little to prepare students to be critical users of the medium that is most likely to shape their understanding of the past.

I have long been convinced of the need to spend time critically analysing film with history students as we would with any other types of sources. Film, documentary or otherwise, is too often treated uncritically, as a stimulus source of content knowledge; often to lighten the load before teachers return to serious ‘academic’ study. By far the best way to get students to engage critically with film is to first put them behind a camera and then in front of a screen of video editing software. As a consequence of making films, students become sensitised to the various techniques employed by the filmmaker: camera angle and distance, lighting, focus, music, narrative technique, editing etc. Consequently, they begin to understand how they are manipulated; they begin to see through the magic.

Let me give one example here to illustrate the point. How students treat a camera is symptomatic of their knowledge of filmmaking. To begin with the camera is treated as a passive receiver; set-up at distance to cover the ‘scene’, students spend their time working on the script, casting, learning lines, acting, the sets and props, i.e. what the students ‘know’ about film. But as soon as they begin to work with the film at the editing stage, they begin to realise how the camera can be used in different ways to create different effects and meaning. This is why their third or fourth film shoot is so different to their first. In the first shoot, the cameraman is away from the action out on his own, by the last he is crowded out as everyone competes to see what the camera sees. Show a group of students who have been through this filmmaking process the opening scenes of Private Ryan and they will explain to you why camera use is more important than special effects, in creating the empathetic sense of involvement that Spielberg so brilliantly achieves...

Edited by Richard Jones-Nerzic, 11 February 2008 - 09:47 PM.

All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.
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#2 John Simkin

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Posted 16 July 2004 - 03:53 PM

However, the most important reason why students should work with digital video is that by doing so they are learning to become critical users of the most influential medium in the world. As history teachers we like to justify our existence by claiming to provide our students with the tools to decode and debunk both the ‘source’ traces of the past and the interpretative knowledge claims of historians. But in general, school history, with its emphasis on imparting the (producer) skills of the professional historian, (why do we do this?) neglects to equip students with all the skills they require as consumers of history.  I remember reading some serious educational research, which suggested that most people’s historical consciousness is generated by television and cinema and has little to do with the ‘taught’ history of the school curriculum. In brief, the ‘document’ work and close examination of the (dominantly) written sources which characterises history lessons throughout the world, does little to prepare students to be critical users of the medium that is most likely to shape their understanding of the past.

I have long been convinced of the need to spend time critically analysing film with history students as we would with any other types of sources. Film, documentary or otherwise, is too often treated uncritically, as a stimulus source of content knowledge; often to lighten the load before teachers return to serious ‘academic’ study. By far the best way to get students to engage critically with film is to first put them behind a camera and then in front of a screen of video editing software.  As a consequence of making films, students become sensitised to the various techniques employed by the filmmaker: camera angle and distance, lighting, focus, music, narrative technique, editing etc. Consequently, they begin to understand how they are manipulated; they begin to see through the magic.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I was lucky enough to attend Dale Banham’s seminar “Using Film to Explore Historical Interpretations”. (can be seen here):

http://educationforu...?showtopic=1115

I thought I was a sophisticated film viewer and was deeply shocked when it was explained to me about the different ways that Oliver Stone was manipulating the audience. Russell Hall’s explanation of the opening scene was highly enlightening. Although the viewer is aware of the role of the script in persuading people to think in certain ways (and therefore able to guard against it) they are far less able to cope with the way a director carefully arranges images in a film.

One of the strengths of the seminar was that it was led by two subject experts. Whereas Dale was able to place the film in its historical context, Russell was able to explain the techniques being employed by the director. I suspect that most history teachers would not have been able to do this as effectively as Russell did. It was a great argument for team teaching and cross curricular work.

Media studies teaching has taking a bashing from politicians over the years. Maybe there is an argument that it should not be taught as a separate subject. Maybe it needs to be integrated into other subject areas.

As that great educator John Dewey said: “We learn what we do.” Therefore I can see the arguments in getting students to make their own “propaganda” films. However, will history teachers need training to do this successfully?

Although I see difficulties with using this technology in the classroom, it seems to me that teachers are duty bound to tackle it. In the classroom history teachers spend a great deal of time helping students to interpret textual sources. However, the majority of information they receive is not in this form. Most of the information will be visual. Will they leave school with the right skills to be able to deal with this information?

#3 Andrew Field

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Posted 16 July 2004 - 04:41 PM

In terms of digital video Richard is obviously the 'industry' leader in such things. It it fantastic what he and his students have been able to achieve.

On a smaller scale similar things are possible for all of us. Many digital cameras these days have a short video facility. Even if this is limited to 2 -3 minutes (or less) you can hook the camera up to your laptop or PC and stream it directly to the hard disk. This allows your students to make simple recordings very, very easily.

Perhaps you are holding a class debate, or asking students to present ideas or research to the rest of the class. By getting students to record their work you add an additional dimension. Students can then revisit the work and you have have more effective peer assessment. It also allows teachers to show other classes each other's similar work.

So, the potential for digital video in the history classroom is immense. Filming existing material gives teachers who are not confident to change their methods 'a way in'.

Products such as History Live and others by Film Education are first class in terms of video analysis. Here you can use and interpret film sources in exactly the same way you currently interpret textual sources.

History Live!
Film Education resources
British Pathe
National Archives OnFilm


The key for effective use of digital video is to highlight ways that our teaching will benefit without destroying existing successful lessons. This will encourage doubters to give it a try. We all know how pressurised teaching time is but digital video analysis is yet another way that history can lead other curriculum subjects.


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#4 Richard Jones-Nerzic

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Posted 17 July 2004 - 02:11 PM

Part 2: What can you do with digital video in the history classroom?

As with most ICT applications, there is nothing particularly innovative about the use of digital video in the history classroom, as long as the use of the technology remains the preserve of the teacher. That said, before coming on to look at student use, I think it is worth pointing out some of the ways that my use of digital video has enhanced the sort of teaching I already did. As Andrew has suggested:

'The key for effective use of digital video is to highlight ways that our teaching will benefit without destroying existing successful lessons. This will encourage doubters to give it a try'.

Digital video: teacher

As I suggested in Part 1 of this seminar, digital video allows a teacher to record and celebrate evidence of learning that would otherwise exist only in the memory of the classroom participants. As I put it in my first seminar for the SchoolHistory forum, digital video allows the teacher to capture and the students to create multi-media ‘multiple-intelligence portfolios’:

'With a digital video camera everything changes. Not only is the evidence easy to record, more importantly, it is easy to copy and transfer. This transferability enables both the student and teacher to build up 'learning portfolios' which can be a much more authentic record of the 'multiple intelligences' of learning. Students who are good linguistic learners are not necessarily good performers in front of a live audience and vice versa. Traditional paper and pencil assessment cannot always accredit the student whose strengths are kinaesthetic or spatial. Multimedia learning portfolios can.' (Teaching History in a Laptop Classroom)

The following therefore are examples of how digital video has enhanced what I probably would have done anyway and to encourage the 'doubters to give it a try'.

Kinaesthetic learning
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Two quick examples. In making a history board game, success is measured by how well it plays. This video and webpage capture a lesson of serious game ‘evaluation’ well underway.
In making a model medieval siege engine, success is measured by how far it fires!

In the one example, the winning board game is the student’s only ‘top of the class’ achievement last year and in the other example the student is an English (third language) learner in his first months in an Anglophone school.

Andrew

‘Perhaps you are holding a class debate, or asking students to present ideas or research to the rest of the class. By getting students to record their work you add an additional dimension. Students can then revisit the work and you have more effective peer assessment. It also allows teachers to show other classes each other's similar work.’

The next three sets of examples are chosen to illustrate Andrew’s points.

Role-Play
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I think teachers are often reluctant to invest time and nervous energy into role-play activity, because you have nothing tangible to hold on to (and hold up as evidence) at the end of the process. A comment of 'you had to be there' is a less convincing justification for the 'A' grade in the mark book, than the annotated photocopied essay, proudly displayed on your classroom wall and later filed away. But digital video can also be filed away. It can also be emailed or hosted on your website, so that anyone who knows the web address can watch it. Include that web address in the student's report and you open up your classroom to a wider learning community of what I called elsewhere
'significant others'. I had an email this week from a student's relative in Australia who thanked me for doing just that.

In addition, I was never quite sure if students would take role-play seriously. However, when they know they are going to be filmed and they know it'll be back to haunt them, they do. This example
from the first year of what became our annual re-enactment of the Treaty of Versailles is a wonderful illustration of how suits, ties and a camera can enable (stroppy) students to lose themselves in the empathy of the situation. Also, as in this case, good role-play can sometimes be helped if the teacher participates, but how can I assess the student, if I myself am involved? Film it and you can, over and over again.

Other examples:

Reichstag Fire Y10 (JDC's activity)
Shakespeare’s London Y8
Guy Fawkes on Trial Y8
Child Labour (John Simkin’s activity) Y9
Cabinet Crisis 1935 - Abyssinia Y11
Appeasement Y11
(It is worth pointing out, that most of the films in this list were made by the students in the class concerned).

Presentations
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On my PGCE course I remember Rob Phillips filming us students as we taught our first dry-run lessons and self-consciously squirming at the sight of myself on screen. But I learnt a lot from it. And so do students who have an opportunity to review their ‘performances’ over again. This first video of Year 8 PowerPoint presentations was made by one of the class members a week after the original lesson. I put the raw footage of all the presentations on the school server and each individual student edited out their own presentation. The class evaluated each other’s presentations and selected the best for inclusion in this set of highlights. As well as the video the PowerPoints are also available on the website here,

At IB level presentation skills actually count for the student’s final examination grade, so it is important that they get plenty of experience. Within the first three weeks of the course I expect every student to have made a presentation to camera. At this level, assessment is much more systematic, with students working through a detailed marksheet that also demands comments about how they look on screen: body language, pitch and tone of voice, eye contact, etc. This video from last September’s induction programme is designed to show next year’s students what to expect: what makes a successful presentation? and what is to be avoided? Again it was made by one of the students in the class and is designed to be viewed alongside the original student PowerPoints and websites
here.

Debates
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Andrew mentioned class debates, so I thought I’d include a couple of examples from my IGCSE class.

Was the Weimar Republic doomed from the start?
Who was to blame for the start of the Cold War?

With debates I tend to get each individual student to edit their own version of the original film. There are good reasons for this. If a student is participating, they are likely to miss a lot of what is said and tend to be necessarily concerned about how and what they are going to contribute. To edit a film, a student has to watch and listen to what was said by everyone, over and over again, until they almost know it by heart. This can be very useful exam preparation if, as in the two examples above, the debate topic is an expected essay question on the final examination paper.

Field Trips
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Making a digital film of a history trip is an ideal means of preparing and later consolidating student learning of the visit. Having established regular field visits over the last few years, I have made a short film of each of the sites we visit. In this recent example of St Sernin Church in Toulouse,
my editing of the video, concentrates on those aspects of the visit that are the focus of our particular study of medieval pilgrimage. Students can view these films individually, (before and/or after the visit) considering a series of key questions, pausing the film at exact points as requested and reviewing as often as is necessary. The digital film can also constitute the raw material for films that the students produce for themselves, with their own edited soundtrack added later. In addition, I also try to make a video of the trip that is specific to the students taking part that year. This example from Albi last March
is typical, in that all of the students in the class feature. My school has a very transient international student population, with these videos, leavers can take away with them a vivid record of their time in France. Such is the expectation that these films will be made every time that I am fortunate that willing students now make the films for me.

More about the student use of digital video later…

Edited by Richard Jones-Nerzic, 08 April 2008 - 02:34 PM.

All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.
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#5 Ben Walsh

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 06:28 PM

I have very little I can add to Richard's excellent seminar paper except to really strongly agree with particular points he has made. The one about media literacy is, for me, the most important reason for using digital video. It is absolutely vital for students (and indeed adults) to understand that moving image is an authored medium. If we ever need to consider the power of the media just remember the hysterical reaction to Orson Welles' War of the Worlds broadcasts in the US in 1938, or the Panorama programme on spaghetti trees. Modern research suggests that young people tend to view new media, especially film with a supporting web site, as an accurate historical record. This is deeply worrying given the licence which is taken by film makers. The remedy lies not with the film makers, however. I passionately believe we must work at getting students to be as adept with moving image source as they are with text and still images.

Another of the many points made by Richard concerns the quality of work which students put into making film, presumably as a by-product of the motivation factor associated with the exercise. I have run quite a few newsroom simulations in which students are faced with a number of clips and have to put together a new report or a documentary which is balanced (usually challenging received wisdom on a particular issue). This has worked extremely well with topic areas from Victorian social conditions to the Great War and the Berlin Wall. News moving image is an authored product, perhaps not as constructed as feature film but authored nonetheless. Witness the fact that many reports from the recent Gulf War featured Arab TV footage but with different voice overs from the commentaries the footage was originally broadcast with. For me the major value of using digital video to create films is getting the students to think through their storyboards and recognise how comparatively easy it is to create new and alternative versions of events. This achieves the ultimate goal of getting the to look critically at a medium whose producers generally rely on an assumption that we will not.

#6 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 20 July 2004 - 11:09 PM

The batlte of the Somme software that ben worked on for Film Education i s a great way of getting students to think critically about video. For those who dn't know it, a brief summary:

Students need to select a range of clips, captions and stills from a fairly extensive range and piece them together in their own digital presentation.

The power of the movies is exceptional. Kids will sit glued to the programme and are more than happy to state why one clip is more appropriate than another for any given purpose. Miles more effective with my groups than giving them a pile of source material and asking them to interpret things this way, that way or the other....

One question for the more experienced in this area. How do ou burn a clip from a video without the sound? I prefer getting my students to select silent clips and have them storyboarding and writing commentary to go over it. I've never really got my head around the finer points of the pinnacle TV card I have and haven't yet sussed out how to turn it into a silent movie.... (and yes, I have tried turning the speakers off when recording).

#7 Craig

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Posted 21 July 2004 - 12:05 AM

One question for the more experienced in this area. How do ou burn a clip from a video without the sound? I prefer getting my students to select silent clips and have them storyboarding and writing commentary to go over it. I've never really got my head around the finer points of the pinnacle TV card I have and haven't yet sussed out how to turn it into a silent movie.... (and yes, I have tried turning the speakers off when recording).


Video or video file? you said burn so I'm guessing that you mean from your computer. Anyway if you are using windows movie maker to edit your clips in the first place, then just select your clip and drag it onto the time line at the bottom of the screen. At the left of the timeline there is a button next to the word 'video' which you press and then expands to show you a seperate audio track, which you can then right click on which then pops up with an option of 'mute'.

i hope this is useful and isn't getting in the way of the seminar too much,
thanks

_____________________________
Edited to make Dan's words a 'quote'

Edited by Carole Faithorn, 21 July 2004 - 01:48 AM.

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#8 Richard Jones-Nerzic

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Posted 21 July 2004 - 11:15 AM

Part 2: What can you do with digital video in the history classroom? (Continued)

Digital video: student

John Simkin

‘Although the viewer is aware of the role of the script in persuading people to think in certain ways (and therefore able to guard against it) they are far less able to cope with the way a director carefully arranges images in a film…’

John is certainly more of a film buff than I am and apart from an undergraduate fascination with the ‘Bad News’ work of the Glasgow Media Unit, I am not in any way trained to teach media studies. But what I have got now, is two or three year’s practical experience of making films, which has sensitised me to basic film making techniques. My teaching has always drawn on my personal experience as a learner and digital video is no exception. Because I can, I want to share that experience with my students because as I argued above, I fervently believe that visual media literacy is something they need.

Where to begin? : A quick ‘Iron Curtain’ example.

In Part Three of this seminar I will be showing you the basics of how to make digital video. In the first lesson with your students in an ICT lab, unless your ICT department (or another department?) have already covered the skills, this is where you will need to begin.

As a first activity, I recommend trying an interpretation activity that is relatively straightforward, something that, as Ben puts it: gets ‘the students to think through their storyboards and recognise how comparatively easy it is to create new and alternative versions of events.’

I would recommend downloading some archive video for the students to manipulate from one of sites recommended by Andrew above or from Russel’s site Active History Take Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech for example, and to go with it, get some still images and contemporary documents from the National Archive site.

Students will learn very quickly how to import and edit the files, so as to be able to select the files, cut and re-order the video. Perhaps divide your students into pairs or small groups and give them different tasks to complete a film based on exactly the same limited number of visual sources. Focussing on narrative to begin with, students can write and perform a voice-over that attacks or praises the speech, from a contemporary view or from hindsight, cinema newsreel style or historical documentary, etc. Restrict them to a one-minute film and they’ll have to edit the original archive video significantly and choose their words very carefully. Later, if you wish, they can add text and lastly appropriate music. The importance of music is sometimes difficult to illustrate, I have used the opening of this video of Goebbels of late to get the idea across.

The end of the project should involve some sort of viewing session. If you’re lucky enough to have a video projector and a sound system, this might be a whole class activity. If not, the individual video files can be shared through the network and viewed at the PCs. This sort of activity works particularly well with a peer evaluation and report back session. If you have the facility, perhaps the best of work could be hosted on the school website.

<span style='color:green'>Film Making</span>

‘Having shown them the tricks of the film-makers trade, to deny these pupils the opportunity to put their new found knowledge into action would have been much like showing a child a sweet shop and then closing the door.’

Dale Banham and Russell Hall, ‘Using film to explore historical interpretations’
http://educationforu...showtopic=1115

The logical conclusion of the digital video process is to have the students shoot and edit films of their own. It is one thing to manipulate the meaning of someone else’s images but quite another thing altogether to control the raw material ‘reality’ of what and how things will be seen.

Nazi Propaganda Movies
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'We are convinced that films constitute one of the most modern and scientific means of influencing the mass. Therefore a government must not neglect them’ Josef Goebbels

As people who have read my posts on this forum before will know, I have been doing a Nazi propaganda film activity in one shape or another for about 10 years. I was interested to read Ben’s comment that students view ‘film with supporting website as an accurate historical record’, because this is exactly what I get my IGCSE students to create. The activity began in the early 90s as merely a storyboarding and synopsis writing activity, continued through the occasional camcorder film in the late 90s, to the current situation of sophisticated promotional websites and films created for a DVD viewing public.

The students are divided into groups of four or five, based on ability, interests and strengths. All groups will require good artists, actors, writers etc. so it is important that some thought goes into this. For example, this year I am hoping that the students will have written and performed their own musical score; therefore a familiarity with the music software Cuebase became useful.

The basic task is the same as it was 10 years ago, to design a Nazi propaganda film that Josef Goebbels will approve and finance. This year there are five stages to the process:

Step 1 - Group planning session. Brainstorm ideas for the synopsis and ideological purpose of the film. Allocation of areas of responsibility: director/editor, actors, screenwriters, artists, cameraman/photographer, music etc.
Step 2 - Individual assignments (posters, storyboard etc.) under the direction of film producer. Homework activity.
Step 3 - Film shoot in school (some lesson time available but cameras also available for booking break/lunchtime or after school). All props and costumes the responsibility of the production teams.
Step 4 - Digital video editing with voice-over and music if appropriate. Compression of video for web-streaming.
Step 5 - Final website design and placement on school server. (Deadline tba September 2004.)
http://www.internati...uasion/film.htm

Both in this activity and the historical documentary activity below, I begin the process by a close examination of the genre concerned. For Nazi propaganda this means work on Leni Riefensthal and Hitlerjunger Quex. This is the most traditional and teacher-led part of the process. To help with this, I have created a webpage of various extracts from the films, documentaries and other useful resources. I also make extensive use of the filmeducation website especially on writing storyboard and screenplay Time management is critically important to the success of the project and Step 1 (Group Planning) needs to be watched closely. Until they start filming, students’ ideas tend to be vague or unrealistic, so once they have produced an approved synopsis, get them filming as quickly as possible. As I suggested earlier, how they shoot film will change after they begin to edit it. If possible therefore, try to arrange two separate lessons for shooting with a session in between for editing. How you film and where you film will depend upon school policies. If you have to film everything in the classroom this will restrict, but not prevent you making films. However, in dividing your groups up at the beginning, you may wish to consider ownership of/access to a video camera as an important factor. As I am writing this, I received an email from one of my groups saying that they are currently filming at one of the student’s houses. If this can be done, it helps.

The final work

Although the groups end up producing much more, they all have to produce two short films: one short scene, which is fully developed with script and storyboard and one ‘trailer’ summary of the film.

This is a (resized) extract from my favourite storyboard last year
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(complete version)
And this is the completed video of storyboarded scene. (notice the importance of the music)

Another beautifully drawn storyboard for this video scene

John’s earlier point about cross-curricularity is interesting in this context. The students responsible for the storyboarding were able to enter the work as part of their IGCSE coursework. Similarly, some of the screenplays in the past have made it into their English portfolios. Ironically, none of this work was able to count towards their IGCSE history grade.

And finally two good examples of the trailers from 2003: Faith in the Fuhrer and Ein Volk

Trailers are a particularly useful video activity because of the intensity of the techniques used, given the brevity of the medium. As a consequence, the students are focussed on the pop-video, commercial advert approach, associated with media that sells. This is as close as I get to teaching media studies.

Oh and one extra final thing. Like everyone else, students make mistakes in front of camera. Expect plenty of films like this one made by their unsympathetic friends, (if nothing, else a good illustration of what MovieMaker can do).


Historical Documentaries
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In the last six months I have begun working making historical documentaries with students. I think the inspiration for this came from seeing a bad History Channel documentary on Lenin and the Russian Revolution a few years ago, which gave a particularly dismissive account of Lenin as a political theorist. What impressed me about the documentary technique was how the impression of balance and objectivity was achieved by careful editing of different historians saying similar things (in front of bookcases of course) in quick succession. Watching the documentary, I could think of a number of other historians who would disagree with the central thesis of the programme but they didn’t appear. Documentary, like great narrative history, has to tell a story that is more or less a contrivance of the author/director. With the Schama’s Citizens you know you are getting (only) one historian’s take on the French Revolution and as readers (often fellow historians) we have been trained to analyse the historical and literary techniques Schama employs and to expect that his (usually very highly qualified assertions) are scrupulously annotated. But with Schama’s History of Britain, his purpose, our expectations and the documentary outcomes are very different. The audience of ‘our expectations’ is no longer the ‘producer’ audience of professional/amateur historians but the ‘consumer’ audience of a public that expects to be entertained and that will change channels if they are not. Of course, this has significant implications for the content of the ‘history’ presented and clearly, as in the case of the Lenin documentary, dissenting voices would only complicate and distract from the director’s narrative flow.

My first foray into documentary filmmaking with students was a special project on the Spanish Civil War with a small group of committed (volunteer) IB historians earlier this year. Project webpage Designed as a display for the school’s International Culture Week (theme ‘Spain’) the documentary uses 68 carefully selected photos and short archive video clips, one image for each year since the war began in 1936. Displayed on four screens simultaneously, asynchronously and continuously, ‘the six-minute film is a chronicle of the war that attempts to tell a human story without the limitation of words’.

Posted Image Spanish Civil War Documentary Video

For the students, the challenge was to research the archive image/video and then to assemble the images in such a way that a story could be told. Because the film was to be shown in a trilingual evening and whilst musical events and presentations were going on, we decided to leave sound and text out of it. Instead the students wrote a brief note in three languages to explain the project: ‘The film opens with scenes of hope in Madrid's Puerta del Sol in 1936 and then progresses chronologically though to a conclusion of refugees fleeing across the French border. Along the way, major events (the battle for Madrid, the bombing of Guernica) are interlaced with scenes of everyday life that tell the social history of the war. In this story, the famous names (Orwell, Hemingway et al) are almost indistinguishable from the peasants and workers they fight alongside. Entitled 'War Without End', the film loops continually in recognition of the legacy of a war which in Toulouse, as much as anywhere, remains as important today as ever. The film's only colour image is a photograph taken in summer of 2003 at the cemetery and memorial to the International Brigaders who died at Le Vernet 'internment' camp, a short drive south from Toulouse.’ In class the next day, I interviewed the students about the experience:

Posted Image Video interview

My current project in documentary filmmaking involves Year 9 and Y12 students in more ambitious activities. Year 9 have been making documentaries about the causes of the French Revolution and Year 12 have built on the ‘Iron Curtain’ activity, by making films about the responsibility for the start of the Cold War. Both topics had already been covered in routine lessons. With both groups, I began by showing a careful selection of different documentaries, with the purpose of identifying different documentary techniques: voice-over, talking head, interview with historian (in front of bookcase), dramatic reconstruction, comedy, archive footage, animated graphics, music, etc. With Year 9, as it was an end of year activity, I pretty much let them get on with it. To be honest, I was amazed that each of the four class groups finished their films. Not only that, but students were staying in after school, everyday of the last week of term to make sure they were finished. The end results are a bit mixed (Y9 project documentary webpage) but importantly, I have learnt a lot about how to improve the process next year. This Y9 documentary video was probably the best of the films, and uses a range of techniques, including bilingual subtitles in French and English.

The Year 12 work on the Cold War is being completed as I write. They have been given very strict time limits and a requirement that archive video and contemporary documents be included. One group has a thesis that the USA was responsible for the start of the Cold War, the other group that the USSR is to be blamed. Importantly, unlike the Nazi propaganda work this class completed two years ago, this production must appear to be a serious documentary i.e. interesting, informative and accurate documentary but bad history.

Edited by Richard Jones-Nerzic, 08 April 2008 - 03:15 PM.

All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.
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#9 Richard Jones-Nerzic

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Posted 26 July 2004 - 05:48 PM

Part 3: How do you make films with digital video?

This is the last (planned) section of this seminar and hopefully, by far the shortest. From my experience, most people don't know they have digital video editing software. For some reason, Microsoft decided to hide Moviemaker in the ‘Accessories’ folder of the Windows startup: Start > Programs > Accessories > Moviemaker. If you have a recent version of XP, you may find it in the more obvious location of ‘Programs’.

Once you’ve opened MovieMaker, you immediately see why it is such an easy programme to use. Everything is controlled through one logically divided screen.

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On the left of the screen under the title ‘Movie Tasks’ (the Task Pane) are what I have called the three stages of film creation:

1. Capturing (getting your video, images and sound into the MovieMaker programme)
2. Editing (cutting, trimming, adding effects, transitions and text)
3. Making (choosing how you want the video to play back e.g. on a CDRom or streamed on the web)

<span style='color:green'>Capturing</span>

Let’s assume you’ve got your raw video somewhere on your computer like the video of Churchill’s ‘Iron Curtain’ speech.

Click on ‘import video’ and choose the location where your video is saved. MovieMaker will give you the option of dividing the original video up into ‘clips’ based on where the computer identifies breaks in the original film (e.g. where different cameras were used). MovieMaker will then import the video clip(s) and put thumbnails of the video(s) in centre pane of your screen (e.g. Farm 057 in the example above).

MovieMaker tells you what to do next at the bottom of your screen: ‘Drag media to the storyboard to begin making a movie’. Select and drag your film clips into the timeline or storyboard (two ways of viewing the same thing) in the order you wish them to play. In my example above, I have chosen to show the timeline view. Once your clips have been dropped onto the timeline/storyboard you can play your clips through the preview screen. This is controlled through the DVD type icons below it.

<span style='color:green'>Editing</span>

My example screen above highlights the five layers of film editing. A video that has been dropped onto the timeline is automatically split between two layers: the video images on Level 1 (Video) and the accompanying audio in Level 3 (Audio). If you wished to ‘mute’ the original video soundtrack (as in Dan’s question), right click on the relevant audio section and select ‘mute’ from the menu. At this point it is worth experimenting with the ‘trimming’ function to shorten your imported clips. Move your cursor to the end or beginning of a clip and red arrows appear; MovieMaker will tell you to ‘click and drag to trim the clip’.

After making any changes, save your work. You have not made a movie yet, only a ‘Windows MovieMaker Project’ (.MSWMM file), the work in progress. The most common error made by students is when saving at this point, they think have made their movie. At the beginning of the lesson emphasise that there are three stages to making a movie; write the details of the stages on the board and keep referring to them during the lesson.

Next it is worth experimenting with effects. These can be found by clicking on ‘video effects’ on the task pane. Here you can lighten or darken your video, speed it up, slow it down, perhaps 'age' it by adding sepia tones or 1930s newsreel effects etc. The next task option is ‘video transitions’. This allows you to control how one clip will ‘cut’ into the next (fade, dissolve, roll etc.). If you add a transition, it will appear on Level 2 (Transition) of the timeline view and from there it can be lengthened or shortened. If you decide to import any music, this will appear on Level 4 (Audio/Music) of the timeline, as will narration, which can be added by clicking on the microphone icon (or Tools > Narrate Timeline). Level 5 (Title Overlay) is the last editing layer and will show any text that has been added to the movie. In my example above, I have added the words ‘Un oeuf’ for the exciting moment in my Primary school trip farm movie where a hen delivered on cue for the camera. To add text, (titles, subtitles, credits, translations etc) click on ‘make titles and credits’ in the task pane and follow the instructions on screen.

<span style='color:green'>Making</span>

This is the third stage that many students forget about. Once you are happy with the editing, it is time to make the movie. On the Task Pane under ‘Finish Movie’, click ‘save to my computer’ and as well as choice of location of where to save your movie, MovieMaker will also give you a choice of quality for the finished film. Select ‘other settings’ and choose a size that suits your purpose. At the IST, we use 340kbs because our videos are intended for an Internet audience, but it is also worth saving a higher quality file for playing on your own computer.

And that’s (about) it.

Edited by Richard Jones-Nerzic, 08 April 2008 - 03:17 PM.

All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.
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#10 mikel

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Posted 01 September 2004 - 05:05 AM

I can't tell you how impressed I am with what you managed to help your kids produce. I'm encouraged to plunge in at the deep end and try something similar this year, but I have a couple of questions:

1. Do you have problems with groups being able to meet outside of school hours? Ours are spread out all over the city and group work sometimes gets a bit problematical if there's a lot of it after 5:15...

2. How on Earth do you manage to produce such great work AND get through the IB syllabus?!? What with the IA and the Extended Essay, it's all I can do to get through... I don't know about the demands of IGCSE because I've never taught it, but I assume that also must make projects like yours difficult to fit in. Or am I exaggerating how much time it takes to get something like this done? How many "class hours" did something like the Spanish Civil War documentary take? Or the French Revolution video?
I have three 50-minute classes and one 40-minute class per week. This is more than enough for the non-examination classes, but for the IB and Spanish Bachillerato (like the French Bacc) classes, things get very hectic by Easter!

3. I'm a bit "IT-challenged". How difficult is it to teach yourself how to use this software? How widely-used is it? Am I likely to find a "student expert" in any of my classes who could patronize me and hold me back when I decide to take a pick-axe to the computer, but could at least also lead me through my stumbling first steps?
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#11 Richard Jones-Nerzic

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Posted 03 September 2004 - 11:45 AM

1. Do you have problems with groups being able to meet outside of school hours? Ours are spread out all over the city and group work sometimes gets a bit problematical if there's a lot of it after 5:15...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Yes, I think this is probably a common problem with International Schools, some of our students live up to a couple of hours away. You can get quite a lot done with lunch hours and after school, but I am able to trust students with the camera. We are a relatively small, secure campus and this helps. I have found that the students do manage to get together outside of school if they really want to.

2. How on Earth do you manage to produce such great work AND get through the IB syllabus?!? What with the IA and the Extended Essay, it's all I can do to get through... I don't know about the demands of IGCSE because I've never taught it, but I assume that also must make projects like yours difficult to fit in. Or am I exaggerating how much time it takes to get something like this done? How many "class hours" did something like the Spanish Civil War documentary take? Or the French Revolution video?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

The IB is hectic and it is difficult to find the time but at least it’s not modular like the modern A Level. The Spanish Civil War project was done with volunteers in their free time. We were working on it for about three weeks. They were given CAS time (a community service part of the IB programme) for their attendance and work behind the scenes at the public presentation evening but that’s all. The current project on the Cold War (I had preview versions handed in today) has been created over the summer holiday with maybe 5 lessons given over to it after the summer exams.

As I suggested in my original posting, one of the biggest problems with using digital video (or most other ICT applications for that matter) is that students rarely get credit for their effort with the external exam boards. In my first couple of years of teaching IB, the Internal Assessment could be produced in any format at all, including video. I had my students produce multimedia websites that included video of oral history interviews, close analysis of scenes from Hollywood ‘history’, archive footage from WW1 etc. http://www.intst.net...work/index.htm I understand that work with new technologies can be hard for an exam board to mark and even harder to moderate, but it seems a shame that this should be allowed to stifle innovation.

At IGCSE we deliberately offer less subjects than in the UK in order to increase our individual curriculum time. Our students are able to sit French and IT exams early so the can still achieve the 9-10 passes they might get in the UK, but I get to see my IGCSE classes for nearly 3hrs every week. This extra time is essential if I am to get the most out of the technology.

In middle-school (Year 7-9) I have complete curricula freedom. That said the French Revolution work was done in a slightly unusual way. I completed the traditional curriculum work and moved on to my introduction to philosophy work. The films were a consolidation exercise that students fitted in around their philosophy. They borrowed the camera as a group when required but carried on individually with their other work in lessons. The fact that I used a forum to help with the philosophy did make life a little more manageable.

3. I'm a bit "IT-challenged". How difficult is it to teach yourself how to use this software? How widely-used is it? Am I likely to find a "student expert" in any of my classes who could patronize me and hold me back when I decide to take a pick-axe to the computer, but could at least also lead me through my stumbling first steps?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I have taught in a laptop school for five years and I still assume that ‘some of the students know how to do what I want them to do better than I know how to do it’… most of the time. Digital video editing really is easy. Try it.

Edited by Richard Jones-Nerzic, 30 January 2006 - 08:48 PM.

All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.
Edmund Burke


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#12 Richard Jones-Nerzic

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Posted 31 October 2004 - 02:07 PM

Year 12 have built on the ‘Iron Curtain’ activity, by making films about the responsibility for the start of the Cold War... I began by showing a careful selection of different documentaries, with the purpose of identifying different documentary techniques: voice-over, talking head, interview with historian (in front of bookcase), dramatic reconstruction, comedy, archive footage, animated graphics, music, etc... They have been given very strict time limits and a requirement that archive video and contemporary documents be included.  One group has a thesis that the USA was responsible for the start of the Cold War, the other group that the USSR is to be blamed. Importantly, unlike the Nazi propaganda work this class completed two years ago, this production must appear to be a serious documentary i.e. interesting, informative and accurate documentary but bad history.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Finally published the first of these two videos today.
http://www.intst.net...aries/index.htm
About 15 minutes in total and divided into four chapters, the students have managed to fulfil most of the requirements of the assignments. Technical quality is occasionally dodgy and Chapter 1 has one of two glaring visual anachronisms, but otherwise I'm very pleased with it. Chapter 2 in particular has some imaginative use of documentary film making techniques. http://www.intst.net...sr/chapter2.wmv
All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.
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#13 Ed Podesta

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Posted 14 March 2005 - 05:41 PM

Richard, having read your seminar and found loads of interesting and exciting stuff I thought I would add something that I've been working on. This activity involves using DV to get pupils to make a documentary about the Roman Army, with the aim that they read sources and structure their thinking themselves.

Write an essay on the Roman Army, using information from the sources

It was rainy November, again. I was gearing up to teach a section of our Romans scheme of work with the title “why was the Roman army so successful”? This part of the course built up to an essay style assessment, based on 8 sources, which the students were supposed to study in lessons before the assessment lessons. They were then to use the knowledge to write an essay that answered the question with the same question as this title. Our department designed this essay to test the ability of the students to select information from an A3 source sheet, and to organise their work into paragraphs.

Previously when getting to grips with these assessments I and my colleagues had used a source table, with headings like “source number”, “what does it tell us about the Romans” and, enigmatically, “quote”. I suppose that in my mind I used these sheets because wanted to help the students to collect knowledge about the sources and what they told us about the army, so that they had a kind of crib sheet that could be used during their assessment.

What does the source tell us, sir?

In practice I was coming to the conclusion that such crib sheets have an impact only when dealing with very short numbers of sources. Especially in year 7 the students were keen to get the “right” answer in their crib sheet, and therefore unwilling to work on them on their own or in groups. Consequently I ended up doing a lot of the work for them and the process was long and laborious for all concerned. In addition, by the time we got to source number 6, the notes made about number 1 in the lesson (or even week) before, no longer had any meaning for any of the students. When the students got to the assessment they therefore approached the A3 source sheet almost afresh, fortified only with slight feelings of boredom and possibly frustration.

Where’s the Camera sir?

During my PGCE I was faced with a similar task when getting a mixed ability year 8 class to explore the events Gallipoli using sources. I came up with the idea of asking them to plan a documentary simply about the events of the campaign, using the sources as their information. To be honest I was searching for a way to scaffold their approach to the sources, and had no intention of every actually videoing their results.

The students took to the task really well. Working in groups each planned, on large sugar paper, five different scenes. The plan for each scene set out in detail what information they wanted to get across, where they got their information from and even how they would present the information to their audience. I finished the two lessons with a smug feeling of having them really engage with the sources. I rolled up their scenes, with the idea of adding one or two of the best ones to my PGCE portfolio and with the intention that we’d move on to the next item on the scheme of work next lesson.

I arrived at the next lesson fairly well prepared, imagining that the students would still be filled with enthusiasm from their recent fruitful engagement with sources.

“Where’s the camera” I was asked by several on my entry.

“The what?”, I replied.

“You said we were going to make a documentary” several different students then claimed. In the silence that followed I muttered meanly,
“no, I said you were going to plan a documentary, which is what you did, and did very well”. This didn’t wash. After several lessons in which it was made clear that I had played a trick on them I relented and the film was made.

On reflection I realised that the students found it easier to read the sources for the purpose of making a film because they understood that purpose much more than that of making an essay. However, this wasn’t the only reason that they worked so hard on the task. They were looking forward to making the film. They saw the knowledge as being useful because they were going to use it.

Learn about the Roman Army and how to communicate what you find.

Anyway, back to the Roman army. I realised that a similar approach might work with my year 7 class in preparing for their assessment. This time though I had to work towards the twin aims of engaging with the sources and learning how to plan and write an essay.

I remembered reading http://www.becta.org...trs_bibs_DV.pdf which mentions research by D Parker. This research suggests that working with DV in helping students to construct narratives could have a positive impact with print literacy. http://www.becta.org...igitalvideo.pdf contains reference to a study by Reid et al (2002) that claims that in order to gain maximum benefit pupils work with DV had to be very well structured with clear aims and planning.

The school literacy co-ordinators had been pushing the idea of ‘PEE’ paragraphs, i.e. paragraphs that contain a point (and only one point), some evidence to back up that point, and some explanation as to how that point is relevant to the question that the piece of writing is trying to answer. I used this model as a way of structuring the thinking and planning that I wanted the students to carry out in preparing to make a film to answer the question “why was the Roman army so successful?”. Having finished my reading and planning we set to work.

Making a film about the Roman Army.

Lesson One. In order to help them complete the assessment essay, the students would be given an essay plan. I decided to take the structure of this essay plan and use it as the basis for the structure of the documentary that the pupils would produce themselves. The pupils would be asked to plan, in groups, an outline of the whole documentary, using the information pack and planning sheets that I had produced.

The information pack contained a list of techniques which documentary makers often use to make films, a list of scenes that the producers of the film required, a copy of the source sheet from the assessment essay, and a worked example of a planning sheet.

The planning sheets firstly required the students to number the scenes and give each scene a snappy title. The layout of the sheet encouraged the groups to plan their scenes in terms of (1) the information they would be communicating, (2) the sources they used to obtain this information, (3) the way in which the students would get this information across to the audience, and finally, (4) how this information would help to answer the question that the documentary makers had been set.

After setting out some basic rules for group work we were off. The groups were given the majority of one lesson to complete this task. At the end of the lesson I took in their results and overnight chose the scene that was most coherently planned from each group. Each group was to be told in the second lesson that they were to make a more detailed plan of their best scene, which would become part of the finished documentary. The group that had made the best plan overall was asked to make a totally new plan for a conclusion.

Lesson Two and Three. Each group was then given two full lessons to plan, script and make resources for their scene in the video. I stressed that I was looking to see how well they worked in their groups, that they had been given a big responsibility in being made in charge of their lessons, and that I was looking forward to seeing some excellent scenes in the finished documentary. Generally they reacted very positively to this trust, but this was a very enthusiastic year 7 class. With others I foresee that it would be necessary to structure or perhaps to impose a much tighter deadline on this stage of the lessons. For two lessons they got on with it, I was called on only to advise, quell disruption and encourage the flagging.

The fourth lesson was the shooting lesson. There was only one camera in school at that point, and only a few computers capable of editing video. Furthermore http://www.bfi.org.u...chlearn/digied/ suggests that for students group editing isn’t as fruitful as editing alone. For mainly practical reasons I therefore took charge of the filming and editing.

Lesson 5. The results of the filming were mixed. Some groups came up with excellent scenes, which were on point, and brilliantly illustrated, using drawings, explanations or re-enactments. The worst scene was the one given to the group who had to plan the conclusion, because of the enthusiasm one of the boys for military conquest who insisted on running through Rome’s expansion province by province (taking 4 minutes to do so).

The results of assessing the film were much more positive. We watched each scene in turn and gave it a mark out of ten for fulfilling the criteria of good paragraphs that we set out earlier in the lesson. We gave credit where it was due and congratulated those groups that had made concise scenes that were relevant, well supported and to the point. Poor old Ben, who’d banged on for 4 minutes about the dates and order in which different provinces were conquered, was given some gentle ribbing and it was agreed that the conclusion didn’t really do the job it was supposed to. The lesson ended with a brainstorm on the topic of how we might improve our film.

Lesson 6. In the last lesson in my mini scheme of work the students wrote an essay in answer to our question. The PEE paragraph guide was on the board, my students had the usual writing frame and an intimate knowledge of the sources, and what made the Roman army successful. I was really pleased with the results, and more importantly the students were much more comfortable with assessing their own work against a student mark scheme than I would have expected, because they understood also what makes a good essay.

This scheme of work is a project in the making. I would like to take it further next year. My school has just started offering an A level in media studies and has purchased a suite of iMacs and six video cameras. Next year I hope that each group will film and edit their own scene using these computers. If my present year 7 group continue to react well to video, and if I teach some of them next year, perhaps I could build on their experience and offer much more open ended tasks in terms of planning and making history documentary films. Perhaps we could even go further and use the documentary as their assessment next time.

Well, I hope this was helpful.

Ed.

"In the past, philosophers have sought only to understand the world. The point is also to change it." - K. Marx
"Classification is exceedingly tedious" - I. Berlin

 

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#14 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 27 January 2006 - 09:16 PM

Richard has posted some additional thoughts and examples of his DV usage in this excellent E-Help seminar on the education forum. Well worth reading, its brilliant!

#15 Russel Tarr

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Posted 30 January 2006 - 03:34 PM

...and an article in the TES based around the seminar should be appearing in print within a few weeks!

"There's an old saying about those who forget history. I don't remember it, but it's good" - Stephen Colbert




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