Lessons learnt working with iMovie in Upper Primary

In Term 3, 2014, I spent half a term working with Years 3-6 students on various iMovie projects. While I plan to blog about my Year 3 and 4 students’ creations later on, I am in a position to share and reflect upon my experiences working with the upper primary classes. The Year 5 and 6 students were set a challenge – to create an iMovie ‘explanation‘ or advertisement for a chosen audience.

As I wrote in my planning document, the iMovie project was intended as an introduction to digital storytelling, one which will

“develop students’ skills for telling powerful stories through the use of images, text, and sound. Students’ final product will be an iMovie book trailer / explanatory video (depending on year level), which will require them to create planning storyboards, identity and cite Creative Commons images and music, and edit a video presentation.”

At the time, being new to the school and teaching ICT, my planning for this project was more closely aligned with the ICT General Capabilities than the new Digital Technologies curriculum, of which I am starting to develop a working knowledge. The project ran for just under 5 weeks, which in hindsight, was barely enough time to complete and submit the finished products!

The Challenge

I challenged my  students to plan and produce an iMovie which respected copyright through the use of Creative Commons (CC) images and (optional) soundtrack. Stressing that the completed works were highly likely to be published online (which will be a new initiative at the school), I tried to build my students’ understanding and awareness of copyright and online privacy, encouraging their use of CC images rather than live footage of themselves. I was also very keen to emphasise that the time spent planning and scripting the iMovie was just as important as the actual filming – countering the expectation that students could  just jump in front of a webcam and perform with little to no preparation.

The Year 5 students, with the benefit of the detailed project framework, came closer to achieving these goals – although approximately half of the teams didn’t take on the challenge of using images instead of live footage (some had permission to do this). The Year 6 students, set the much broader challenge of creating an advertisement, had more freedom with the use of live footage; however, were expected to demonstrate that they could plan, produce, and edit an iMovie which respected copyright laws.

How did we go? 

Year 5

Given this was not an ICT integration project, and only loosely aligned with the classroom English curriculum, I wasn’t overly worried that many students created procedures rather than explanations. What I did find fascinating; however, was how some groups responded to the challenge of using still images rather than live footage – by creating and using their own photos.

Amongst the Year 5 projects, there were some truly stand out examples of creativity, collaboration, and learning – including explanations of life cycles, the formation of igneous rocks, and how to paint your nails (I work in a girls school!). Some of my personal favourites are the recipes for cakes, brownies, and chocolate balls; the best of which I will be seeking parental permission to share later on.

In the meantime, I can share a selection of my Year 5 students’ iMovies which illustrate a wide range of iMovie production skills, and an emerging awareness of Creative Commons. Some of these have been edited to protect students’ privacy.

Year 6

My Year 6 students, despite some initial hesitation, responded brilliantly to the challenge of planning and scripting their iMovie presentations. I suspect the purpose and usefulness of writing the script / scene plans was made a little clearer due to their participation and intensive preparation for the upcoming Year 5-6 dramatic production, based on The Amazing Maurice, by Terry Pratchett.

Set the broad challenge of producing an iMovie advertisement which respected copyright, students set about collaboratively creating advertisements for the Royal Show, gymnastics, the Garden City Shopping Centre, and the school production. I had students spread out across the school – some were interviewing the Principal, Deputy Principal, teachers, and younger students, while others were filming gymnastics on the front lawn. The resulting advertisements reflected students’ unexpectedly high level interview skills, and a wide range of iMovie production skills, including the very clever use of effects, and a classroom wall as a rudimentary greenscreen.

Considering that students were primarily encouraged to work out how to use the iMovie tools amongst themselves, I was thrilled with the results. Unfortunately, as most of the Year 6 videos feature students’ faces, I can’t share them on my personal blog without parental permission. I can share one though – which if the students’ had included a ‘hook at the end’, would have come close to being one of the best advertisements in their class.

So, where to next year?

I will take a great deal of confidence and learning out of this teaching experience, which is technically the first major upper primary ICT project  I have planned, taught, and assessed. I now have a much better understanding of my students’  iMovie planning and production skills, and have a fairly good idea of the topics I will need to teach and reinforce in 2015.

Some notes that I’ve made along the way include:

  • There is a real need to explicitly focus on the use & referencing of Creative Commons media (music, images, etc) in ICT. This was a brand new concept this year, so it is not surprising that many students are still coming to terms with it.
  • I will need to continue the emphasis on prior planning and scripting, with some more work on storyboarding, especially with next year’s Year 6s. We will likely use Google Docs for this.
  • Never assume students know how to export and submit iMovies via Edmodo or Dropbox. (This is a mistake I won’t make again!).
  • I will also be focussing on the introduction of more advanced iMovie skills, especially the use of title / text overlays to convey meaning, and how to adjust volume and length of film clips.

Overall, this was an invaluable teaching and learning experience for me, and a great way to start my ICT teaching journey. I know I have a great deal to learn, but I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, and especially proud of my wonderfully creative students – who never cease to inspire me as a teacher.