Sunday, November 8, 2009

"Hey kids, let's put on a show!”

Film is one of the most pervasive art forms throughout the U.S. While not everyone may get to see Picasso or the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, film reaches a huge amount of the population. Since youths are already exposed to and enjoy film, it can be a great way to introduce students to a variety of the art that goes into filmmaking: theater, literature, acting, music, composition, instrumental and vocal performance, and if it is a musical film, dance as well.

Because of the possibilities of film to be an excellent tool for both creative and documentation work, several schools have found ways to incorporate what becomes a cheaper technology everyday into their curriculum. Some teachers have made inexpensive equipment (flip cameras and other mini-camcorders) learning tools in their classroom (“How Tiny Camcorders are Changing Education”, eLearn Magazine) . Laurie Rowell interviewed a few teachers using mini camcorders who believe “that using camcorders as a medium is affecting not only the message but the student communicators and their learning process.”

A few ways that it was used include:

1) one teacher uses it as part of a final project for a writing class for an oral history video. Wolff's plan was to 1) get the students to apply "the metaphors of writing" (research, drafting, revisions) to video composition and 2) challenge the students to reconsider preconceived ideas about writing. In Wolff's course, the technology was the lesson. "Students had to become critically aware of the social, political, and rhetorical implications of the technology they were using, and not just learn how to use it effectively.”

2) Investigative Interviews for Biomedical Devices
In a course on biomedical engineering at Duke University, student teams create custom medical assistive devices. Armed with the mini video cameras, students recorded interviews with disabled clients, in which the clients explain what they can do on their own, and later, what they can do with assistive prototypes. Video recording helped the student's interviews and the projects themselves, since it helped the students to be able to replay what they saw and discussed with the patients. Presentations were done via YouTube and video conferencing, which Professor Caves said "really helped to improve the quality of those presentations."

3) Community Service Analysis
Jennifer Ahern-Dodson also teaches at Duke, and she saw an opportunity to use Flip camcorders for a service-learning course she teaches. In this course, students do critical analysis and evaluation of their community-service involvement. She had students record both by video and field notes. She noted that the videos caused them to have sharper memory, crisper analysis, and “she was pleased with the way lines of demarcation changed as the videos helped students see themselves as part of the community… 'We all could look at the video and see for ourselves—and not rely just on a verbal re-telling by one person. This Flip video became part of our collective class inquiry.' "

Jack Dunagan at Institute for the Future noted that video is now an important way for young people to acquire knowledge, and YouTube has surpassed Yahoo as the second leading search engine. He also noted that "teachers should no longer expect the classroom to be a private, walled-off space for learning, but an open and potentially very public space, as videos are captured and uploaded to sites such as YouTube."

Video recording will no doubt have a huge affect on the learning and project creation for each student, as they can be deeply involved in the process used to create a work, and be able learn from their own and each other’s videos and creations. In addition to a learning tool, students may be overjoyed to have what had once seemed like a distant and prohibitively expensive art form become something that could be potentially an elective course or formal study in their middle school or high school. Since film’s inception, the tools of video and sound have created such an overwhelming cost structure that the primary participants in the creation of film have been the Hollywood producers with a great amount of capital to support their projects. But now that the tools of film recording (through flip phones and mini camcorders) and film creation and editing (such as through Apple’s iMovie) are more affordable and accessible, the possibilities to incorporate film into public schools, as both part of non-arts courses, and also as independent filmmaking courses, are now real and inexpensive for the first time.

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