Sweeder, J. (2007). Digital video in the classroom: Integrating theory and practice Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education [Online serial], 7(2). Available: http://www.citejournal.org/vol7/iss2/currentpractice/article1.cfm
Digital Video in the Classroom: Integrating Theory and Practice
La Salle University
This article is intended to help teacher educators, classroom teachers,
and administrators interested in educational technology acquire a firm theoretical
as well as practical foundation upon which to introduce nonlinear digital
video into their undergraduate or graduate instruction; discover a time-tested,
step-by-step process for introducing creative hands-on videography projects
into their respective teacher preparation programs or classrooms; and recognize
why it is critically important for preservice and in-service teachers to
establish a personal underlying pedagogical philosophy for infusing video
technology into classroom instruction.
With the rise in the number of multimedia-enabled computers in schools, higher
bandwidth capability, and lower costs for video editing equipment and software,
more and more teachers are embracing video as an instructional tool. (Branigan,
As the 15 or so graduate students enter their dimly lit classroom, they are
offered popcorn and candy and asked to take their seats. This is the night they
finally view their self-produced videos, ones they have been working on for
the past 5 weeks. These videos have titles and purposes as diverse as The
Purse, an open-ended comedy that concludes by posing for its audience an
unresolved moral dilemma (see excerpt from Video 1);
A Day in the Parking Lot, a how-to video, demonstrating the tricky
mechanics of parallel parking (see Video 2); Under
Pressure, a satirical send-up of how adult students prepare for and take
a professor’s final examination; and Share Your Snack, Not Your Germs,
a light-hearted instructional video intended to show early-elementary school
students how not to transmit their colds to one another.
To enhance their communal viewing and listening experience, the graduate students
watch their “movie stories” (Sherman, 1991) as they are projected
onto a large screen, accompanied by a set of high-quality speakers. Awards are
distributed for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Original Screenplay, Best
Pictorial Continuity, Best Cinematography, Best Graphic Design, and so on (see
Figure 1). All are recognized for their achievements; all have some fun as well.
Producing a “literate” video that communicates its message clearly
for a specific audience is challenging, but rewarding, work. Teacher educators,
classroom teachers, and administrators planning to systematically and creatively
infuse video technology into their programs or classroom instruction will find
the following unit of great utility.
|Figure 1. Sample award certificate.
The preservice and in-service teachers enrolled in this graduate course, entitled
Educational Technology, meet for 3 hours per evening, once a week for 15 weeks.
This three-credit course is one of the 15 graduate-level classes in which the
students enroll to work toward earning both a masters of education degree and
state-teacher certification/licensure. Typically, students in this graduate
program are change-of-career adult learners seeking to become certified teachers
either at the elementary/special-education or the secondary-education level
in subject-matter content areas such as English, mathematics, biology, and social
studies. Some of the graduate students have little to no classroom teaching
experience; others, have anywhere from 1 to 5 years of experience. One or two
students may be certified in-service teachers who are seeking a masters degree
in education solely for professional development purposes.
The overarching goals of this course are designed to encourage students to
develop a growing confidence in their ability to choose, adapt, create, and
use various product technologies (hardware and software) for classroom use;
demonstrate a willingness to experiment and use, in creative ways, various blends
of product and idea technologies in their own planning and teaching; understand
better how and why educational technology may help teachers meet more effectively
the developmental needs of all students — including those with
special needs — in all settings; and experience many of the decisions
that teachers have to make when they incorporate educational technology into
everyday classroom instruction.
The educational technology course helps teachers incorporate modern technologies
of instruction into their classroom practices. More specifically, the course
content covers several important interrelated subthemes – namely, rationales
for incorporating educational technology, principles of visual/photographic
literacy and design, educational videography, the Internet and telecommunications,
and educational multimedia – as well as issues, trends, and emerging technologies.
The essential focus of this paper, however, is to describe only one of the
several units contained within the educational technology course as a whole,
specifically, the educational videography unit. The purpose of this unit is
twofold: (a) to encourage the graduate students to develop teaching materials
for their pupils and (b) to use wisely technology already in their classrooms
so that they, in turn, will ultimately turn the technology over to their students,
allowing the younger learners to construct their own meaningful subject-matter
This educational videography unit typically lasts 6 weeks, during which students
are introduced to fundamental videographic principles and processes, such as
pictorial continuity, basic shots, camera angles and movements, elements of
storyboarding, digital video editing, audio mixing, and so on. In addition,
they are given opportunities to “play,” practicing with the digital
camcorders themselves so they can experiment and become more comfortable with
their essential functions. Finally, students are required to produce collaboratively,
in small groups of three or four, a 1- to 3- minute video that demonstrates
pictorial continuity, or visual coherence (Sherman, 1991).
Underlying Pedagogical Philosophy
Given the fact that practically all American classrooms contain one or more
high-speed computers connected to the Internet (Thompson, Bull, & Bell,
2005), given that most computers have multimedia capabilities, and given that
many of these computers – either Windows-based or Mac-based – generally
come prepackaged with digital video editing capabilities that accompany their
operating systems (e.g., Windows Movie Maker or Apple Computer’s iMovie),
classroom teachers of almost any grade or age level can easily – and relatively
inexpensively – discover exciting and novel ways to engage and motivate
their students in learning subject matter content in a variety of ways, thus
meeting the diverse needs of their learners.
Defining Educational Technology
Why should teachers devote precious planning, preparation, and academic learning
time in order to learn for themselves and, subsequently, teach their own students,
the basic principles and applications of nonlinear digital videography? To address
this fundamental question, educators must have a clear understanding of what
educational technology (ET) is and how it operates. ET is defined as the systematic
and creative blending of “product” and “idea” technologies
(Hooper & Rieber, 1995) with subject matter content in order to engender
teaching and learning processes within and across disciplines (Bednar &
Sweeder, 2005; Sweeder & Bednar, 2001; Sweeder, Bednar, & Ryan, 1998).
Others have more recently begun to make this critical connection under a different
concept name, “technological pedagogical content knowledge” (TPCK;
Koehler & Mishra, 2005). Similar to Koehler and Mishra’s “situated
form of knowledge,” which they dub TPCK, educational technology explores
“the dynamic, transactional relationships [among] content, pedagogy, and
technology… recognizing that [effective] teaching with technology requires
understanding the mutually reinforcing relationships [among] all three elements
taken together to develop appropriate, context specific strategies and representations”
Digital videography, on the other hand, is merely one facet or subset of ET
in that it integrates or blends “product” technologies such as computers,
camcorders, tripods, and editing software with “idea” technologies,
such as multiple intelligence theory (Armstrong, 2000; Gardner, 1999), cooperative
learning elements (Wilen, Ishler Bosse, Hutchison, & Kindsvatter, 2004),
and Sherman’s (1991) three-stage videographing process with subject-matter
content. In the educational technology course, the digital videography unit
integrated subject matter content such as ethical problem-solving (e.g., The
Purse), automotive driving skills (e.g., A Day in the Parking Lot),
positive study habits (e.g., Under Pressure), and elements of basic
hygiene (e.g., Share Your Snack, Not Your Germs).
In parsing this definition of ET, one might ask, what is particularly systematic
about this unit on digital videography? The answer is the course instructor’s
deliberate decision to use three “idea” technologies themselves,
which when melded together, formed the structural underpinnings upon which the
videography unit rests: Multiple Intelligences (MI) Theory, Cooperative Learning,
and the Videographing Process.
Systematic Blending: MI Theory. During the 6-week period students
tap into and tacitly assess their own intelligence profiles (D’Arcangelo,
1997) when they create a video from scratch. Often students recognize which
of their own unique talents lend themselves to individual responsibilities;
thus, they may gravitate toward certain jobs for which they think they have
a special affinity. For instance, scriptwriters use their linguistic talents
to produce their treatments, storyboards, and rundown sheets and employ language
to convey their ideas to one another in a clear, convincing fashion.
Camerapersons exercise their spatial intelligences as they frame and compose
each shot. Directors tap into their interpersonal talents as they manage time,
keep track of deadlines, settle minor aesthetic disputes, and make leadership
decisions. Actors in the videos often rely on their bodily-kinesthetic skills,
making sure that their audiences “get” the emotions they may wish
to convey. The audio engineers, those responsible for adding the appropriate
sound tracks to the work during the editing process, often tap into their musical
intelligences when selecting pieces of music, for instance, that appropriately
match the pace and mood of a scene.
Other times, however, students who thought they possessed little, if any, technical
skills discover they indeed possess the aptitude, for example, to trim frames
of video and eliminate jump edits from an incongruous scene in their group’s
Systematic Blending: Cooperative Learning. Earlier in the course,
the students are reacquainted with the five basic elements of cooperative learning:
- Establishment of positive interdependence
- Establishment of face-to-face promotive instruction
- Individual accountability
- Promotion of interpersonal and small-group skills and communication;
- Ensurance [sic] that groups process their achievement and maintain effective
working relationships (Wilen et al., 2004, pp. 288-289).
Each of these elements present authentically because the individual production
teams evolve as the process unfolds. The course instructor provides students
with a copy of the assessment rubric, so each production team knows how it will
be evaluated and assigned a grade.
After groups review the assessment rubric, students within the production teams
choose individual roles to fulfill, assuming the responsibilities of director,
writer, talent, cameraperson, editor, and so on. Students share what they learn
as they work through the various stages of their video projects, often helping
one another discover the nuances of their own particular job. For instance,
video editors often collaborate and teach other group members how to use the
various computer commands contained in editing software such as Pinnacle Studio.
Before each production team creates its video, students briefly review the rubric
used to assess their work (see Appendix A).
Although individual grades are not typically assigned for the educational videography
project, group grades are. Thus, implicit within the crucial component of individual
accountability the instructor needs to monitor the small groups closely and
consistently as they work. Given the level of maturity and sense of fair play
that graduate students possess, coupled with the intrinsically interesting video
project itself, students willingly accept their individual responsibilities
in order to ensure that group tasks are completed successfully to the best of
their abilities. Careful listening as well as a willingness to handle conflicts
and compromise are central requirements for all group productions to be successful
and finished on time.
Finally, when each group’s video is complete, its members collectively
compose and submit a single typewritten group assessment, in which they discuss
the discoveries they made as they produced their video, the successes and shortcomings
of their products, and the individual responsibilities they assumed during each
phase of the production process. Most often, group assessments are completed
outside of class, online through e-mail. Hard copies of the assessments are
subsequently submitted to the professor along with the completed storyboards,
rundown sheets, and videos.
Systematic Blending: Videographing Process. Sherman (1991) pointed
out that creating a visually coherent movie story involves the successful completion
of a three-stage process: preproduction, production, and postproduction, or
planning, shooting, and editing. During the 6-week videographic unit each production
team generates a rundown sheet and creates an individual storyboard (i.e., its
preproduction outcome); shoots an unedited master digital videotape, then downloads
and digitally edits each master tape while adding audio (i.e., its production
outcome); and outputs to DVD a revised and edited video that possesses pictorial
continuity (i.e., its postproduction outcome).
Analogous to the writing process – prewriting, writing, and revising
– learning to make a video may well pose as formidable a task for first-time
videographers as composing a well-developed expository essay is for a novice
writer. Videography may seem intimidating to some, pure fun for others. Nonetheless,
creating a cogent story on videotape can be best accomplished by
- Inventing an interesting and purposeful visual concept; by scripting or
storyboarding that idea (which is often done after devising a rundown sheet);
by gathering the necessary props and costumes.
- Selecting, repurposing, or creating appropriate “sets.”
- Shooting each scene in a visually interesting and coherent fashion, which
is basically accomplished through a series of shots comprised of different
lengths, distances, angles, and so on.
- Editing each scene in order to trim or eliminate unnecessary or unwanted
frames or shots, creating logical visual transitions such as fades or dissolves,
and adding sound, which may consist of music, special effects, or voiceovers.
Creative Blending. In continuing to parse the definition of ET, what
are the parallel “creative” aspects of this unit on educational
videography? Creativity manifests itself in many forms as the unit unfolds.
It emanates from the way the instructor develops, transmits, and sequences the
important core concepts, the individual unit activities themselves, and the
selected application of idea technologies. It emanates also from the dynamics
of each small-group student interaction, from the specific product technologies
made available to students, who use those technologies to construct their videos
and from the original insights and discoveries the students themselves derive
from the content and process of their video projects.
Educational Videography: A Time-Tested Instructional Unit
The following week-by-week breakdown explicates how this educational videography
unit systematically and creatively blends both product and idea technologies
as preservice and in-service teachers ascertain the essentials of nonlinear
digital video and experience producing educational videos of their own.
Week 1: Basic Grammar
During Week 1, before any preproduction and project planning begins, the course
instructor explains and demonstrates, using a variety of media resources (such
as Videomaker’s videotapes entitled Basic Shooting, Videomaker,
2002, and Introduction to Digital Video Editing, Videomaker, 2003,
as well as Krivicich’s, 1998, interactive multimedia CD-ROM entitled How
to Make Your Movie), the basic grammar of film and video so that students
become familiar with the fundamental concepts and lexicon of videography. In
addition, the instructor engenders within each of his preservice and in-service
teachers a metacognitive awareness of how the three main idea technologies –
multiple intelligence theory, the video production process, and cooperative
learning – are deliberately melded as they are unobtrusively applied throughout
the 6-week unit.
Normally, classroom teachers need not make explicit for elementary or secondary
students the underlying pedagogy they incorporate into their instruction; however,
in order to emphasize the importance of how theory bolsters classroom practice,
such metacognitive experiences should be explicitly conveyed by the university
instructor so that the preservice and in-service teachers will be more likely
to recognize their utility and potency and subsequently emulate them in their
own classrooms. It is not absolutely essential, however, that those three particular
idea technologies be blended in order to conduct an “effective”
videography unit. On the contrary, teacher educators, and by extension, classroom
teachers, should judiciously and creatively blend technologies they believe
will be most effective, given their curricula and objectives, student populations,
unique classroom contexts, and personal philosophies of teaching.
After their orientation to basic videographic grammar, the preservice and in-service
teachers begin their creative play by completing a brief warm-up activity, designed
to give them practice handling the digital camcorders and tripods to reinforce
the concepts that have just been taught and to gain firsthand familiarity with
the specific equipment they will use to shoot their videos (see Appendix
Week 2: PreProduction
After students read Sherman’s (1991) Videographing the Pictorial
Sequence, as well as few additional articles dealing with educational videography
(Clevenson, 1999; Hoffenberg & Handler, 2001; Nulph, 2003; Ross, Yerrick,
& Molebash, 2003; Wilhelm, 1996), they take a test at the beginning of class
during Week 2 of the unit. This test reinforces the declarative and procedural
knowledge they have studied, and prepares them to apply these concepts correctly
throughout all phases of their video projects (see Appendix
C for a sample of potential test questions students use as study guides).
Having completed their brief half-hour tests, students are introduced to the
requirements and parameters of the video project (see Appendix
D) then form their small video production teams to begin the project’s
preproduction process: brainstorming for ideas, concepts, and plots, which they
can subsequently record visually onto tape and share with an audience.
Since the course instructor does not assign specific topics and purposes, student
groups devote their initial energies determining their videos’ content,
aims, and “working” titles, carefully taking into account that the
choices they make must be feasible given their limited resources, especially
time. As the overarching goal for this video project is for preservice and in-service
teachers to learn how to produce an educational video, their movie stories’
topics, purposes, and target audiences vary. The course instructor encourages
his students to be creative and purposeful when choosing their videos’
content. For example, the purpose of A Day in the Parking Lot is to
teach parallel parking with the intended audience of an adolescent driver-education
class. The course instructor recommends topics for production teams experiencing
“writer’s block,” such as “The Discovery” or “The
To encourage students to think in visual terms and to discourage reliance on
the use of spoken language, the instructor requires that all videos be shot
as if they were silent films, thus ensuring that visual primacy is the focus
and that students’ movie stories are not told, but shown.
After the instructor approves the groups’ topics and purposes, they begin
creating their rundown sheets –outlines that briefly identify and describe
the sequence and types of camera shots—using a word-processing program.
(See Appendix E.)
Each team needs to be able to convey in writing the specific purposes of its
Storyboarding may also begin at this time, and Sony Mavica cameras are provided
for each group (see Appendix F).
These digital still cameras enable student videographers to capture and subsequently
print a “frame of video” (see Figure 2).
|Figure 2. Frame of video from The Purse.
Each group’s printed frames of video are then used to create the required
storyboards. Students are shown that an effective storyboard is not unlike a
successful comic strip in that, just as the frames of an entertaining comic
strip convey a story that contains a beginning, middle and end, so do the frames
of an effective storyboard convey a complete, coherent movie story.
Storyboarding is an especially powerful form of planning, because it compels
preservice and in-service teachers to think visually. Since thinking visually
is something that most adult educators are not necessarily accustomed to doing,
it provides the added benefit of convincing them that their video projects are
viable—it forces them to prove to themselves, as well as the course instructor,
that the abstract ideas they wish to convey can indeed be concretized and subsequently
recorded onto digital videotape in a way that makes visual sense to an outside
Students are encouraged to use their digital still cameras to scout their locations.
Most of their shooting tends to take place outside of the immediate ET classroom
on campus parking lots, in student cafeterias, in other offices or classrooms,
in hallways, in gymnasiums, and so on.
Student storyboards are seldom completed during Week 2; however, the production
teams are required to finish, online via e-mail, their rundown sheets so they
can begin shooting their videos immediately at the beginning of the following
week’s class. Before students are dismissed for this week, the instructor
asks them to prepare in advance and subsequently bring in the following week
any graphics, costumes, and props they will need for their “shoots,”
prompting them to make written lists and share responsibilities.
Week 3: Production
As students enter class during Week 3, they pick up their camcorders, tripods,
tapes, and digital video cameras to complete their visual plans (i.e., their
storyboards), as well as their 1- to 3- minute videos. The course instructor
reviews briefly the primary goals of the class, troubleshoots any last-minute
equipment problems, proffers a few last-minute tips, and answers any remaining
student questions, then sends them on their way. Periodically throughout the
evening, the instructor meets with each group to ensure that each team uses
its time efficiently, to recheck the video equipment to ensure, for example,
that every camcorder has sufficient battery power, and to make himself available
for any extemporaneous technical, moral, or administrative support that students
Because student videos usually consist of 25 to 40 separate shots, and since
students are required to shoot their videos twice — in chronological order
— during this evening’s 3-hour session, time management is critical
for meeting shooting deadlines. Production teams typically complete their first
drafts videos in about an hour and a half. They then replay them in their camcorders,
looking for ways to improve the pictorial continuity and eliminate faulty camera
movements or jump edits, and to improve the pacing, if necessary. The video
production process, as stated earlier, is similar to the writing process: it
is recursive, so students are reminded that revising as one creates is not unusual.
When students complete their second drafts, they again review them, return
their equipment and tapes at evening’s end and await next week’s
homework assignment. Students are instructed to select and bring in the following
week some audio CDs containing musical tracks they believe suit the purposes,
mood, and pacing of their videos, tracks that are intended to “run under”
any voice-over narration or sound effect that might be needed to create their
coherent movie stories.
They are also asked to print out their storyboard photos and bring them to
class, along with large trifold art boards (see photo of storyboard for The
Purse video in Figure 3), upon which each team’s student design artists
arrange and mount their digital color pictures. These photographs are accompanied
by written descriptive details that comprise the completed storyboards (e.g.,
the number, length, and camera angles and movements used in each shot, as well
as a brief account of the action portrayed).
|Figure 3. Storyboard from The Purse.
Week 4: PostProduction
Before students enter class during Week 4 the course instructor, in order to
save time, captures all of the student videos by downloading them directly from
the digital camcorders onto separate multimedia computers using nonlinear digital
editing software. Students can easily perform this capture function themselves;
however, capturing video is a relatively simple and passive job, requiring only
a single student per group. Precious class time is often better spent editing.
The instructor begins to tutor several of the students, specifically the video
and audio engineers, showing them how to edit, render, and output to tape or
DVD their group’s video footage as well as the music, sound effects, and
voice-over narrations (see Figure 4).
|Figure 4. Student video engineers.
While the engineers are busy attending to their responsibilities, referring
periodically to the step-by-step editing protocols provided by the instructor
(or to the more detailed software manuals if and when necessary), other production
team members spend their time revising and improving their storyboards and composing
their detailed, small-group assessments. During the course of the following
week, team members collaborate synchronously with one another in person or by
phone or asynchronously via e-mail, copy editing and completing each component
of their respective group projects using the provided rubric as their guide
(see Appendix A).
Week 5: Project Submissions
As class begins on the fifth week, all components of the video projects are
due. The edited videotapes, the revised storyboards and rundown sheets, and
the typewritten small-group reflective assessments are collected and reviewed.
If, however, student groups – for a variety of reasons – need additional
time to revise, edit, and improve their projects, the instructor may grant students
additional class time to complete their work.
Since video production is a creative, intrinsically motivating, multifaceted,
collaborative, and emotionally intense activity, students often deserve being
awarded extra time, especially if they request it in advance. In addition, because
of the nature of video production, unintended technical difficulties sometimes
occur, causing human tensions to arise.
For example, software sometimes unexpectedly “crashes” during postproduction,
and novice video or audio engineers may not always save their work as they edit.
Or perhaps one or two talents become ill or have last-minute family or work
emergencies occur on the evening of their group’s “shoot”
and, therefore, are unable to attend class. Both instructor and student flexibility
are therefore imperative, especially since students’ dignity and grades
are on the line.
Graduate students take special pride in their work and typically want not only
to please their instructor, but also – and more importantly perhaps –
not let their fellow teammates down. In light of such circumstances, course
instructors need to build flexibility in their syllabi and class schedules to
anticipate some unintended setbacks and to maintain a positive, productive classroom
Week 6: Debriefing and Awards Ceremony
During the concluding week of this unit, videography projects are evaluated
using the aforementioned rubric. However, on Week 6, before the graded projects
are communally viewed, celebrated, and returned to the students along with their
accompanying award certificates, the instructor spends important class time
reiterating the underlying rationale for this extended activity. He puts into
perspective the course’s overriding definition of educational technology
and delineates exactly how the students themselves experienced the
systematic and creative blending of several product and idea technologies that
were integrated with subject matter of their choosing.
The course instructor shares aloud with the class a litany of student accomplishments
during the prior 5 weeks. These accomplishments include inventing their movie
story’s ideas and purposes; scouting various locales for their “shoots”;
designing and selecting their sets; composing, typing, and printing their rundown
sheets; creating and revising titles for their videos; shooting, organizing,
reshooting, and printing digital photos for their storyboards using digital
still cameras; gathering and organizing their props, costumes, make-up, and
graphics; shooting and re-shooting their videos – under fairly strict
time limitations; downloading their digitized video onto computers; selecting,
editing, and mixing an assortment of musical soundtracks; editing video and
audio, adding transitions, effects and credits; rendering and outputting their
finished products to Digital-8 tape, VHS tape, video CD; or DVD; negotiating,
compromising, and overcoming “creative” and “technical”
difficulties – under pressure; and reflecting deeply upon their final
products, as well as the entire experience itself. Additionally, the instructor
notes that student videographers accomplished all of these feats with budget-friendly,
consumer video hardware and software.
Recalling that most preservice and in-service teachers have never worked with
nonlinear digital video/audio editing software, the instructor reminds them
that they have demonstrated great pride in their work, a keen sense of accomplishment,
and remarkable persistence, which are key indicators of student motivation.
Throughout this unit they have remained active learners, who have taken creative
risks in order to communicate content-specific ideas to variety of audiences
in novel ways.
Finally, the instructor emphasizes the point that the students enrolled in
this ET course need not only become familiar with, apply, and integrate all
of the components of their projects into their own teaching, but also give their
present and future elementary and secondary students opportunities to create
coherent movie stories of their own. They, too, can master curricular content
as they, under the facilitative guidance of their teachers, tap into their multiple
intelligences and sharpen their negotiation, teamwork, and leadership skills
as they assimilate a three-stage video production process in a discovery-oriented,
creative, and constructivist fashion.
Student Reflections, Themes, and Excerpts
Over the past few years student reactions and written feedback to these videography
projects have been positive, critically analytical – and sometimes pleasantly
surprising. In the aggregate, student comments suggest the following themes.
First, virtually every production team comments upon the pressure it feels
as it strives to meet successfully its predetermined project deadlines, even
though the course instructor sets tactical waypoints and emphasizes the importance
of time management during each segment of the project. This reaction is not
unexpected for any instructor who has ever infused technology into a methods-of-education
course, or taught a stand-alone educational technology course that involves
multimedia computers, digital-video equipment, and so on.
Thus, a critical skill for any teacher educator is the ability to anticipate
this felt sense of student pressure and create a positive, balanced atmosphere
of creative play, while simultaneously setting appropriate and manageable levels
of student achievement by using specific criteria, typically conveyed through
a shared rubric.
In addition, not unlike an effective science teacher preparing for a lab, the
teacher educator needs to ensure that all equipment, cables, computers, cameras
and so on have been “test driven” in advance and are in proper working
order before the students arrive for each class meeting in order to palliate
the natural stresses and anxieties many adult students experience when they
engage with new or novel product technologies with which they may lack hands-on
familiarity. For instance, the production team that developed the effective,
humorous, and creative video, Blockheads: Trade-First Subtraction,
(see Video 3) commented in its reflective, small-group
assessment that “the established time parameters that were given by the
instructor to complete the project are what we struggled with most.”
It is important to note, however, that during the several semesters in which
the instructor has administered the video projects, not once has a group failed
to complete its assignment on time. All have met successfully the challenges
Second, production teams take pride in and develop a sense of fulfillment
in their ability to compromise, overcome adversity, and work together as a unit
in close conjunction with one another. For example, one team began its written
reflection by stating,
The collaborative process was one of the most difficult aspects of this project
for our group ….Once we were redirected to narrow our focus… we
decided to take a short break which enabled us to clear our minds and develop
a concept for our video. After brief internet research on the subject of Dr.
Suess we were able to create a story line around the book, “And to Think
That I Saw It on Mulberry Street”….During the actual filming process
we worked very well as a team….While the DVD was being burned Cherie
Lynne and Matt went to help Janelle with the creation of the storyboard.
The third reccurring theme relates to the production teams’ ability to
recognize and capitalize upon each member’s individual strengths. For
example, one team wrote, “Janelle was an awesome on-screen talent. She
took stage direction and obstacles with grace.” And another team stated,
“Each of us has worked together before in previous graduate courses….
We knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses, which made dividing the
duties of the project less stressful.”
Fourth, production teams were successful in assimilating a new, specialized
vocabulary: the visual lexicon they had been taught and learned about. For instance,
one team wrote,
We were able to smooth over most of the pictorial continuity issues….We
realized there were a few jump edits…. One specific jump edit
was when the camera went from an establishing shot to a medium
shot of Janelle in scene three. The transition was not as smooth
as we would have preferred....We could have prevented the noticeable transition
by using the zoom option instead of trying to avoid it as recommended.
The other option would have been to insert a cut-away to a specific
item in the hospital room during editing. [Italics added for emphasis]
Similarly, another group stated,
The final product is one with very strong pictorial continuity with
a fairly wide variety of shots. The opening shot which begins with
an unorthodox pan from the classroom sign to a peek into the classroom
serves as a very effective establishing shot (ES) for the film. Once
inside the classroom the viewer is oriented nicely to the action with a long
shot (LS) of the teacher writing the subtraction problem on the board.
The film moves efficiently forward from this point with appropriate pacing
as differing shots are implemented: from numerous side angles, over the
shoulder (OVS) shots from the perspective of the two students, high
angle shots of the students at work (giving the viewer a feeling that
the students are subordinate to the teacher), and a series of close-ups
(CU) and extreme close-ups (ECU) of the students at work. [Italics
added for emphasis]
The fifth theme deals with the production teams’ ability to adapt to
minor, technical setbacks, and to problem-solve in appropriate — and sometimes
unexpected —ways to improve the quality of their completed video projects.
For instance, one group commented, “Upon creating the storyboard we realized
that three photographs [were] missing, but we were able to use existing technologies
after altering them in Photoshop.” What is particularly significant about
this comment is that the course instructor did not anticipate his students,
initiating their own technological solution to a procedural problem by using
a piece of software – Photoshop – that was not an officially sanctioned
technology in this course. Students, to the surprise of the course instructor,
took their own initiative by bringing their own technology to complete successfully
at home a required component of the overall video project.
The sixth theme relates to the teams’ analytical ability to identify
and discuss some of the shortcomings in making their first, coherent movie stories,
as well as to suggest ways in which these developmental miscues could be remedied.
For example, one production team commented, “We would definitely make
a few changes. The first would be to try to use our tripod even more than we
did during the initial shoot.” Likewise, another team wrote,
This film would also have been better served had it included some shots from
the teacher’s perspective of the student working…. much of this
could have been done with over-the-shoulder shots from the teacher’s
perspective, and possibly reverse angles from the students’ perspective.
The seventh theme their reflective feedback conveyed deals with the elation
each group experienced over the completion and success of their projects. (e.g.,
“Overall we’re very excited for our first ever video creation!”
and, “It was amazing to see how this two-and-a-half minute film could
be used as an engaging 30 minute lesson.”)
The eighth theme deals with the production teams’ willingness to “re-vision”
and share their final products with real learners in authentic classrooms and
make both planned and extemporaneous instructional adaptations to their teaching
to promote more effective student comprehension. For example, one team member
shared the video, “What a Trip!” with a class of six year olds,
and subsequently wrote,
After Cherie Lynn premiered the movie to her first grade class we found that
the students had a hard time grasping the main concept, although the audio
track chosen seemed to capture the students’ imagination. After an additional
discussion about tall tales and the reading of Dr. Suess’s book the
students were better able to comprehend the movie story line. After the second
viewing the students were able to recognize the dream sequence and the tall
tale within the movie.
Another member of the Blockheads production team showed its video
to a group of second graders to solicit their opinions about and discern their
collective understanding of the mathematics video they made. In this team’s
reflective analysis they wrote,
The students view[ed] the film in its entirety initially. The then viewed
[it] with their teacher pausing and playing certain sections of the [DVD]
in slow motion to discuss the action. Finally, they were given the opportunity
to verbalize their feelings on the film….Even only after initial viewing…students
were able to accurately sum up the action…and verbally display comprehension
of what had occurred. There were also many laughs…. The film was then
used as a teaching tool as the students described to partners the reasons
behind why some of the action was occurring as the film was paused at selected
points. After selected students offered their opinions on the reasons why
the actors were doing what they were doing, the teacher showed much of the
next scene in slow motion and was able to describe exactly what the actors
were doing and why…[which] served to solidify the students’ understanding
of the trade-first strategy for double digit subtraction.
The ninth theme that the production teams’ comments address deals with
reiterating the significant “lessons they learned” as they created
and reflected upon both the videographing process, as well as their final products.
For instance, one group wrote,
It is with the clarity of hindsight, that we realize how valuable the run-down
sheet truly was…to complete the film in the given timeframe….
[The run-down sheet proved] to be an effective crutch for us again when it
came time to edit our film….Time spent logically designing each shot
in pre-production paid great dividends in helping to produce, what we believe
to be, a quality film…completed with many shared laughs throughout the
entire filmmaking process.
Finally, production teams frequently surprised the university course instructor.
Some creatively extended the parameters of their video projects by going beyond
the requirements delineated in the assessment rubric provided, and others did
something unexpectedly unconventional as they planned, shot, and produced their
videos. Two examples come to mind: One group, for instance, hand-designed playful,
colorful, and age-appropriate cover art and put it on the actual DVD disc that
contained their three-minute video, What a Trip! (See Figure 5).
|Figure 5. Cover art from What a Trip!
Another group shot its video in a 16:9 widescreen format (up to that point
in time, all videos had been shot in the standard 4:3 aspect ratio), which added
to the overall aesthetic of viewing their muppet-like video entitled, Ants
March to 10. This project intended to introduce, teach, and reinforce the
basics of counting single- and double-digit numbers to preschool students in
a highly motivating and entertaining manner. (See Video
4.) For this shoot, the production team created and designed a magnificently
colorful set, replete with flowers and knolls, as well as detailed costumes
for their irresistibly cute, animated ants.
“Re-Visioning” Video Projects: Some Implications
for Teacher Education
Reading Relevant Literature
One of the challenges teacher educators face is keeping up with the swift,
ever-changing technological professional landscape: the seemingly endless software
upgrades, the varied and wide-ranging technological readiness levels of preservice
and in-service teachers, the increasing emphasis upon meeting state-mandated
standards, as well as the differentiated needs of children and adolescents for
whom our teachers prepare their lessons. Print and online journals can help
educator remain alert to changes in the field. Videomaker is one example.
Its authors and editors not only critically review and rate a variety of the
latest product technologies, but also write user-friendly articles that briefly
and accurately describe the basics of producing videos at all levels of sophistication.
Other relevant journals include Learning and Leading with Technology, Computers
in the Schools, TechTrends, Current Issues in Technology and Teacher Education,
and The Journal of Technology and Teacher Education.
Keeping Standards in Mind
Another way teacher educators might use and adapt the type of video projects
described in this article is by exploring ways in which videography can help
preservice and in-service teachers identify specific state-mandated content
and performance standards their students’ video projects might address
both in and across a variety of subject-matter disciplines. For instance, The
Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Academic Standards for Reading,
Writing, Speaking and Listening suggests that by the end of Grade 3 students
should be able “to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to…identify
techniques used in television and use the knowledge to distinguish between facts
and misleading information.” By Grade 5 they should be able to “establish
criteria to design and develop a media project for a target audience,”
and by Grade 8, they should be able to “use, design and develop a media
project that expands understanding.” Thus, in creating the guidelines
for video projects course instructors may want to require preservice and in-service
teachers to list and show how each of their videos address the specific state
(e.g., Pennsylvania State Standards), organizational (e.g. National Council
of Teachers of English Standards), or national standards (e.g., National
Educational Technology Standards).
Video projects may also help teachers more fully differentiate their instruction
and assessment. Videos are by their very nature multimodal; thus, such projects
help to meet the needs of visual and auditory learners. And if, for instance,
close captioning or subtitling were added to videos using graphic generators
contained in most pieces of digital video editing software, one might be able
to address the needs of special and English language learners, as well.
Educational Video Repositories
If teacher educators and regular classroom teachers and their students begin
producing short, effective, instructional videos on a larger scale, then one
can envision saving them to a Web-friendly format (e.g., a Windows Media or
Real video file) and subsequently uploading them to the Internet to share with
others. Teachers might then create Educational Video Repositories (i.e., resembling
a peer-reviewed, vetted, or filtered U-Tube-like site) of standards-based teacher
and student-created instructional videos that help teach subject-matter content
within and across the disciplines.
In conclusion, the 6-week unit of instruction can be easily adapted for undergraduate
or graduate education programs that meet more often than once a week, or for
extended, districtwide, in-service programs and workshops in basic education.
Simple infusion of digital videography into preservice and in-service teacher
education programs interests and motivates most any elementary, special education,
or secondary classroom teacher. However, when digital videography is contextualized
and taught within the more grand pedagogical framework of educational technology,
as it has been defined, described, implemented, and demonstrated in this article,
it metamorphoses into a more powerful, embracing tool for teaching and learning.
It nurtures deeper understanding of curricular content, while simultaneously
addressing the diverse cognitive, social, and technological needs of 21st century
teachers and learners.
Special thanks are given to Maryanne R. Bednar, trusted colleague and friend
who provided this author with timely and much appreciated editorial feedback
and advice in the preparation of this manuscript.
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La Salle University
Video Project: Assessment Rubric
4 = Superior Work: a model for others to emulate
3 = Very Good: Fulfilled all requirements in a competent manner
2 = Satisfactory: Fulfilled most requirements, but problems or omissions still
1 = Unsatisfactory: Did not meet the minimum requirements
________. The Process: collaborative support; individual accountability; effort;
enthusiasm; keeping lines of communication open throughout the project; ability
to handle obstacles and setbacks with grace and perseverance; ability to meet
intermediate and final deadlines
_______. The Storyboard and Rundown Sheet: creativity, detail, appropriateness.
The storyboard and rundown sheets make sense in and of themselves. They indicate
a clear beginning, middle, and end. They possess an identifiable central theme,
which is audience appropriate.
_______. The Product: pictorial continuity, evidence of videographic literacy
(e.g., stable shots using a tripod, slow pans and tilts, minimal zooms, varied
angles, use of basic shots, cut-aways, cut-ins, subjective camera, reaction
shots, proper headroom, pacing, clean entrances and exits, and so on); audio:
appropriate use of music, voice overs, sound effects or a combination thereof.
_______. Group-Assessment: neatly typed reflective analysis that discusses,
with a sufficient degree of depth and clarity, the strengths and shortcomings
of your product as well as your process. Suggestions for revisions were also
noted. Incorporated the videographic lexicon you have learned.
Overall Grade: ______
Practicing Basic Videographic Principles:
Using both camera and tripod, shoot a brief video that demonstrates each of
the following shots in the specific order listed below:
Close up (with appropriate headroom)
Pan (Slow & Smooth)
Tilt (Slow & Smooth)
Educational Videography: Questions to Consider
“Strengthening the Visual Element in Visual Media Materials” –
- What is the central point of this article? Can you paraphrase it in one
- What should one do before beginning to write a script or storyboard for
“Composing Your Shots” – Nulph (2003)
- What is “composition?”
- What are some common “composition” problems (e.g., tromboning)
that videographers deal with? What are the solutions to those problems?
"Picture-Perfect Communication" – Clevenson (1999)
- What are some of the ways that teachers and students at Gunston Middle School
use video production? Why? What benefits do they derive from that use?
“Digital Video Goes to School” – Hoffenberg and Handler (2001)
- What are the authors’ reasons for having students use digital video
for classroom projects?
- What do the authors mean when they state, “educators must aim for
curriculum-driven technology use, not technology-driven curriculum?”
- Which video projects that the authors describe hold most appeal for you?
“Lights! Camera! Science!” – Ross, Yerrick, and Molebash
- Why did the science teachers require their students to create storyboards
for their science experiments?
Video Project: Requirements and Parameters
Overall Goal: Create a “movie story” that demonstrates pictorial
continuity. Be sure your video
- contains a clear beginning, middle, and end;
- contains a focused, identifiable theme that is audience appropriate;
- lasts between one and three minutes in length; and
- contains an audio track consisting of music, sound effects and/or voice-over
narration (or any combination thereof).
writers: ones who compose the script, storyboard, and/or treatment
talents: includes all on-camera performers and voice-over narrators
- Edit your video “in the camera” as much as possible;
- Make sure your video is doable – that is, capable of being shot within
the time you have been allotted;
- Tell your “story” visually;
- Be creative and have fun!
Video Project: Pre-Production
By the end of class, please submit the following:
1. Names of group members:
2. Working title for your video:
3. The purpose(s) of our video is/are to show