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Ed Podesta

Digital Video Teaching and Learning

9 posts in this topic

After reading Richard Jones-Nerzic's excellent seminar on digital video in the history classroom (which can be found at schoolhistory on http://www.schoolhistory.co.uk/forum/index...showtopic=3704) I feel inspired to write about my own experiences with DV in my classroom.

Ed.

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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.uk/page_documents/res...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.uk/page_documents/res...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.uk/education/research/teachlearn/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 and I'd really value any comments that readers have.

Ed.

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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.

Fascinating account of how ideas for lessons can be developed. You are right to point out this is an ongoing process. When I was a young teacher I was taught that it is mistake to rely on the lesson you gave last year. It should be an organic process. Each year it should get better.

For many years I used to show a television play on the Peasants’ Revolt that had been produced for schools. The students used to like the play (it was very well done, especially the scene where the hero is hanged at the end). One year I decided not to use the play. Instead I decided to get them to write their own. I divided the students into six groups. Each group was given an outline on a different part of the story. They were also given the names of the characters who were to appear in the scene. They had already studied the subject in some detail and knew about the characters. They also had to use primary sources in order to make sure the actions and words of the characters were fairly accurate.

They wrote their scenes for homework. I then selected the best one from each group. The student who wrote the scene was put in charge of directing the work. Students were selected to play the different characters. Others were recruited to help the six “writer directors”.

They rehearsed the scenes in their own time. The students were responsible for sorting out their own costumes (most of the peasants wore cut up sacks). The six scenes were put together to make a complete play.

It was a really enjoyable activity but the unit only really took off after the arrival of the school’s first video camera. The fact it was going to be videoed and shown to other students in the school increased the motivation to do well.

I would have thought Andrew Field’s storyboard software would be of great help in an activity like this.

I have never put the full lesson online. However, you will find the resources available from my website:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/YALDmedievalRS.htm

It is worth reading the teachers’ notes that can be found here:

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/YALDmedievalC.htm

The last activity, writing a history of the village, illustrated the problems of “interpretation” in history (lesson 25) and was linked to the Peasants' Revolt activity.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/YALD1340-84.htm

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A very interesting approach to the theme.

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.

Giving the students the responsibility of assessing the work, using the original plan is rewarding.

I can imagine 'old style' teachers who'd confront this approach, while they feel that they're not in control. The same with Richard's approach in Toulouse where exam results are fine. It surely has got something of Terry Haydn's IMPACT FACTOR we spoke about in Toulouse. This impact factor comes no1 when writing my materials for the E-Help project.

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Giving the students the responsibility of assessing the work, using the original plan is rewarding.

I can imagine 'old style' teachers who'd confront this approach, while they feel that they're not in control. The same with Richard's approach in Toulouse where exam results are fine. It surely has got something of Terry Haydn's IMPACT FACTOR we spoke about in Toulouse. This impact factor comes no1 when writing my materials for the E-Help project.

Thanks John and Nico for your feedback,

I certainly think that the fact that they were being video-ed had real impact (I admit that I need to read Terry Hayden's seminar) and making them assess their own work brought back to their minds why they were doing it. In my opinion its often only when students know why their doing something that deep learning goes on.

However, I wanted to achieve much more than a lesson with impact or simply videoing their different scenes. I wanted the act of thinking about making a flim to inform their thinking about how they organise and communicate their thoughts in general, and for this exercise in particular how they should be writing essays.

I think I still need to go much further, and plan to get them to make a film about the development of castles later in the year that they will plan in its entirety themselves (although I think I'm still going to have to shoot and edit it given our restrictions on hardware).

I would have thought Andrew Field’s storyboard software would be of great help in an activity like this.

This sounds really useful John, is part of his content generator package?

thanks again,

Ed.

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I wanted to achieve much more than a lesson with impact or simply videoing their different scenes.  I wanted the act of thinking about making a flim to inform their thinking about how they organise and communicate their thoughts in general, and for this exercise in particular how they should be writing essays.

Ed's practical application has certainly given me further food for thought. The problem I have is genuinely knowing what is and isn't practical in a 'normal' classroom environment. Having worked with laptops for 6 years now, I find myself regularly over-estimating and under-estimating what is realistic in the traditional classroom.

In my view the act of 'thinking about the film', as Ed puts it, is the most powerful part of the whole process. If I may quote myself from the seminar Ed refers to above, 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.

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Ed's practical application has certainly given me further food for thought. The problem I have is genuinely knowing what is and isn't practical in a 'normal' classroom environment. Having worked with laptops for 6 years now, I find myself regularly over-estimating and under-estimating what is realistic in the traditional classroom.

We're catching up!

[qoute] 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 totally agree, and what's more as you also suggest in your online seminar, with more experience of making and reading film...

they begin to understand how they are manipulated; they begin to see through the magic.

I think though, that in order to get the biggest advantage out of video, and out of the limited resources that often prevail in secondary schools over here, we need to be precise about the aims of particular lessons. Of course this is good practice, but in relation to video it is particularly important.

I found with my year 7s that not introducing the camera until we were ready to shoot meant that they weren't distracted by the medium from the aim of the lesson (which was that they learned to organise their paragraphs when writing).

I've seen a great lesson by Christine Counsel which concentrates on interpretations, using the first 30 seconds of "Cromwell". Students are asked to watch the film once, then to watch it again looking out for the message that the film maker is trying to get across about Cromwell, and third time looking out for the way that the film maker gets these messages across. The lesson then goes on to look at an extract from Wedgewood's description of the execution of King Charles and the textual methods that Wedgewood uses to get her own interpretations across.

Richard's seminar gives an amazing example of the use of DV at KS4 to help students understand the different interpretations of the causes of the cold war.

Its my opinion that both these lessons are so amazing because the students know why they're doing it, that there's a clear aim to watching or making the video. Richard is right, the pupils will begin to see through the magic, and that should be our long-term aim. Its important that their steps are guided so that they can get there in the short time that we have.

Ed.

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I would have thought Andrew Field’s storyboard software would be of great help in an activity like this.

This sounds really useful John, is part of his content generator package?

thanks again,

Ed.

Hi - this isn't part of something I will sell - the storyboards will be available for free. It isn't technically software at all - it is more a 'web application'. You can see the current progress at http://www.schoolhistory.co.uk/storyboards/. I have yet to complete the work because I want to redevelop the activity using Flash 7. As most schools now have this installed I will attempt to make some progress.

It will be relatively easy to develop new storyboards in the future, but I don't plan to create hundreds - it will be much more appropriate to provide a few carefully prepared and constructed tasks. I also need to be careful about image copyright and suchlike. Nevertheless it might, for example, be possible to have digital video as a storyboard backgrounds in the future.

Edited by Andrew Field

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Thanks Andrew, I'll take a look at that!

I've now added the resources (most of them anyway) that I use with this lesson at

http://www.mrbelshaw.co.uk/shareforum/viewtopic.php?p=51#51

take a look, and please let me know if you think they should be changed

ta

Ed.

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