Teaching Time with iMovie!

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One of the highlights of 2015 was watching one of my colleagues starting to take big risks with her integration of ICT. In Term 3, I was taken aback by her suggestion that we should teach her students how to use iMovie in Maths, creating movies documenting students’ learning about time.

We worked together to teach students how to storyboard and script their presentations, and gave them some basic instruction in the use of iMovie. The students spent several weeks filming and editing their projects, and some were actively experimenting with the more advanced features of iMovie. We were so impressed with the results that we invited our Acting Principal in for a special screening, and shared the videos with parents on Open Night.

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Powerful Learning with iPads – iMovie Book Trailers in Grade 3

As I look back over the past six months, one teaching and learning experience stands out as a true highlight – the Year 3 iMovie Book Trailer Project, which was developed and brought to life by the amazing students of Year 3B, and their wonderful teacher. 

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The Process

This project was run in Term 3, 2014 as a team-teaching project over six weeks, with roughly 90 minutes (2 lessons) each week. Neither the classroom teacher or I had ever done anything quite like this before, so it was very much a collaborative learning experience – and not just for the students!

Students worked in small group “book clubs”, choosing their favourite book from the Australian Children’s Book Awards Shortlist for 2014. They worked to identify the main events of the story, holding detailed discussions about the book as they set about creating visual storyboards.

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When we started this project, we weren’t sure if we’d have students’ filming scenes from the books, or using Creative Commons/Public Domain images off the Internet. We eventually decided to go with the (somewhat) easier option – filming. Prior to formally filming book trailer scenes, we gave students time to simply play with the iPad camera, Photos, and iMovie app, discovering how they all worked. The stage was set for one of the most intense, but rewarding teaching experiences I’ve ever been a part of.

On filming day, I knew we were in ‘trouble’ when I discovered a group of students setting up with piles of cardboard boxes in the library – before school had even started! Students brought in costumes and props, and set to work filming their scenes. This proved to be a fascinating process for us as teachers, as we noticed some groups found it much easier to work with each-other than others. We tried to maintain a hands-off, over the shoulder approach, and let the students work through the creative process relatively independently; however, we did have to step in with one group on several occasions.  We weren’t overly sure how many lessons we’d need, and eventually spent about three (very intensive) hours in total.

The Results

Our students blew us away with their passion, creativity, and sheer enthusiasm; and the videos they produced were of exceptionally high quality. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to ask for parental permission to share them on my personal blog, and I ran out of time to put them on the school website! Next year, that won’t be such an issue, as student publishing will be one of our major whole-school ICT focus areas.

Reflections

As this was very much a collaborative ICT integration project, I asked my partner teacher to share her thoughts on our teaching and learning process –

It was a pleasure to work with Michael on this Book Trailer project. His excitement was shared by the children and myself. I came to the table with little experience so he was involving me in the learning process along with the children. With his guidance the main elements were discussed as a whole and then the children were encouraged to play and experiment. Other Book Trailers were critiqued by the children, the children became confident critics and through the process the children developed an eye and an understanding for what was required to produce a powerful and successful Trailer.

The children were supported with their learning at all times by Michael as he moved with ease from one group’s individual need to another. Michael allowed the children to be creative and encouraged them to solve problem themselves learning from each other. The parents were impressed with their children’s enthusiasm for the Book Trailer project. Some children asked to have a permission note for their parents, to allow them to come to school early so they could get started on their filming. The project was then able to be viewed by all parents during Open Night. It was a huge success where we got to how learning became fun and effortless for all involved.

The children came into this project with no experience with this type of technology or using iPads in a collaborative project. The children chose to be in a group that they had a common interest, the interest was their favourite book from the Book Week nominations. As a result group sizes were varied along with a variation in literacy ability. This could have been very challenging for most teachers but through this project I believe we got the most from all our children. They are looking forward to the next project with Michael.

My Thoughts

As I look back at this project, I am immensely proud of what we achieved in a relatively short space of time. I was blessed to work with a gifted, enthusiastic classroom teacher who was prepared to take risks, letting the students take the lead in their learning. We were able to forge a close working relationship, building on our respective strengths and expertise to enable our students to create something special. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what we can do together next year!

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.