Having students create videos is a great way to enhance student learning. Creating a video allows a student to think strategically about a topic and deepens analytical skills. Yet, there is a problem. Just creating a video mashup, utilizing fancy tools like Animoto, isn’t enough. It’s not about the video, it’s about the process of creation. The process is where the learning occurs.
Let me explain. Over the last 100 years, IQ scores have steadily increased. Wired columnist, Jonah Lehrer just wrote about the reasoning for “the Flynn effect” in his column. He explains that one of the increasingly cited factors for this increase is actually the complexity of entertainment, which actually might enhance abstract problem solving skills. “This suggests that, because people are now forced to make sense of Lost or the Harry Potter series or World of Warcraft, they’re also better able to handle hard logic puzzles.”
The process of thinking strategically about story forces students to pare down information to its most important facts and build the sequencing of information into a cohesive whole. The process of creating a video is strategic problem solving. It should force students to think about the information at a 50,000 foot level, then begin to pull out strategic pieces of information, and act upon that information. Isn’t that exactly how you build a business, solve a societal problem, or develop new inventions?
Yet for many students, looking at a mishmash of information is always overwhelming. Even for me, as a documentary filmmaker and web startup founder, I can still feel that way when approaching a complex topic. Here’s how I teach my students to process:
1) Create a logline. A logline is one sentence about your story. (This is like the theme of a paper and the answer to “Why does this matter?”).
2) Use post-its or index cards to extract important information. Don’t write out sentences, only keywords.
3) Think through the framework. The framework to a story works the same way as a framework to a business plan or legal argument.
- Set the stage. Create the environment. Give the establishing shot. Where are we?
- Introduce the characters. Who are they?
- Give your audience the hook. Why should they care? How does this matter to them?
- Build to the climax. What is at stake?
- The “Denouement” – also called the wrap up. This word actually means untying the knot. Don’t just throw out the ending…untie it.
4) Build the framework. Use the post-its to sequence the information from the framework, then and only then allow students to begin editing.
There are some great free online tools for editing like YouTube Video Editor, Pixorial, Creaza, and you can even download free trials of fun software like Smoovie (awesome and easy for stop-motion) and Adobe Premiere.
One of the things that can be difficult in creating videos is having the video content to utilize in the classroom. Currix is an educational marketplace that features downloadable video content and amazing graphics that you can utilize in creating your videos for the classroom. Find videos and music from around the world you can utilize for your class in creating your video lessons.
Also, check out a fantastic book about building a story by Hollywood screenwriter, Blake Snyder called “Save the Cat.” If you are interested in having your students create longer videos in the classroom, it will give you a fantastic perspective on story and help you show your students how to create problems and solve them in their own stories.
What are you doing in your classroom with video? Is it making your students smarter?