This case study looks at how video was used to produce a set of instructional videos on topics related to students’ personal interests and illustrates some of the issues involved in using video for educational purposes. It was undertaken by Chris Welch, an English teacher and acting head of Media at Dinnington Comprehensive School who worked with a nurture group of students in Year 7. The students had had been assessed as having learning difficulty and communication needs and were working at UK National Curriculum level 2.
5.1.3 Case Study 3. 21st Century Show and Tell: Making Instructional Videos
Dinnington Comprehensive School, is situated in Rotherham, and has had special school status for Science and Engineering since 2005. There are over 1,300 pupils on the roll, aged 11 to 18. In terms of intake, 11.8 per cent of pupils are eligible for and claiming free school meals and for 99.2 per cent of pupils the first language is English (DfE School and Local data) The school was rated satisfactory in the most recent Ofsted Report (2009).
The head of Media, Jo Lawson, was involved in designing the project before she began maternity leave. Jo had built up an IT suite equipped with 23 Macs with the support of two technicians, Rob Pashley and Jodie Smith. The project was inspired by Rob’s idea of a 21st century show and tell. The production of ‘how to’ videos covers parts of the English curriculum (instructional text), but it was also envisaged that the work could be easily replicated and useful across other subject areas by adapting the video content to suit curriculum needs. Jo wanted to involve the Year 7 nurture group to see how they might benefit from creative approaches to literacy as because they struggled with conventional methods. Chris felt that making the videos would allow students to practise their research skills, develop their vocabulary and scanning skills, and build their ability to evaluate content on the internet. The team decided to use Final Cut , iMovie, Digital Video and internet-based research methods were used. Rob and Jodie also gave a quick demonstration of shot types and how to use the camera and tripod to best effect.
126.96.36.199 Digital Literacy Practice
Chris asked the students to make their film on a topic of personal interest to them. This resulted in a great variety of topics, including:
- How to do a cartwheel
- How to make a paper aeroplane
- How to be safe on the internet
- How to make a perfect cup of tea
- How to plant a plum tree
- How to look after a hamster
Chris took the students for three lessons a week, two in the computer room, for a total of six weeks. The students spent the first week planning. They discussed what was needed, such as the use of imperative language, clear pictures and simple explanations. They were told that their target audience was younger children, so they had to keep their language quite simple. This was targeted to equip them with the knowledge of an audience and confidence in understanding how to address the audience. Chris also showed examples of instructional videos, of varying quality, for the students to review. The students were quick to pick up on the films’ strengths and weaknesses.
Next, each pupil created a storyboard for their own film; this was something that the pupils needed the most support with. Filming took place at school during three lessons per week. Some students preferred to work behind the camera; others wanted to be on film. Sometimes they filmed each other, and sometimes they used two cameras to shoot from different angles; this was pupil-led and occurred without instruction. They were mostly confident on camera when improvising the text rather than reading from a prepared script.
Students grasped the editing process very quickly, cutting and moving clips around the timeline very confidently. They were shown various techniques such as inserting text, hard edits and aligning audio and visual content. Following this, one student independently incorporated a close-up in the main screen to illustrate the folding instructions for making a paper aeroplane.
As well as the instructional video, each student produced a video diary, often filming each other, sometimes with Rob or Jodie setting the scene. They also designed the questions they were going to answer themselves and then worked with Rob and Jodie to improve these. They described what they were going to do and what they had done. In most cases, they completed this at the beginning, middle and end of making their film. A number of students found this easier than writing and felt they could express themselves better.
In addition to the technical support staff, the pupils were supported by a Year 12 media studies student and a Year 10 student on work experience from another school. The role of the support staff was mainly to show the students how to use software and students did about 80 per cent of the work themselves. In total, the project took about five weeks to complete including one week preparing and planning the films. Chris had planned to spend longer but, owing to the nature of the group, they were keen to get on with the filming because the planning, involving a more traditional form of literacy, highlighted their weaknesses and they were keen to do things where they could feel more successful. There was a certain amount of ‘letting go’ by Chris from a planning perspective, as the pupils asserted a greater ownership over the project.
Storyboarding helped one student in particular to visualise what she needed to cover in the filming; this helped her to carry out the filming efficiently and produce a good video. A number of others also got involved with the idea of the storyboard and it helped to draw their attention to detail. Many wanted to commence filming straight away, as is often the case in media studies. Some took longer filming because they planned as they were filming. It was harder for them to edit because they had more material to sequence and edit.
There were technical issues around Mac use because the school depends mostly on PC-based provision. Additionally, the Rotherham internet safety settings blocked access to helpful pictures and examples during the research phase. Work was lost at times due to issues marrying the Mac use to the wider school network and one particular student’s work was partially lost. This had the potential to cause disruption. Eventually these issues were resolved with a great deal of technical input from Rob.
Towards the end of term, Jodie Smith organised an ‘Oscars’ award ceremony for the students in the group, complete with red carpet, bow ties and ‘champagne’. The head of English, the literacy co-ordinator and head teacher were also invited. The students introduced their films to the group before showing them. They each received a different award, such as Best Editor, Best Actor, Best Stunt Actor, Best Director, Best Storyboard, Best Research.
There will be a further dissemination event at which the students will show the films to their parents. Outcomes of this case study include increased awareness of the pedagogical potential of short instructional videos together with the development of a pedagogical framework for using short video with pupils. It also offers pupils a chance to improve their communication skills as well as support skills in writing/recording for a target audience.
188.8.131.52 Reflections on Teaching
Chris sees digital literacy as ‘the ability to read, select and scrutinise digital material.’ He sees the project as an opportunity to improve pupils’ digital literacy by enabling them to be more judicious about online sources they access. In addition he sees potential to support those with weak reading and writing skills through the use of technology and media:
Our idea – that, by looking at other methods of advising, informing, describing and instructing, for example, through instructional videos on websites such as YouTube and getting students to transfer those skills to an informative video themselves – can help pupils improve their oral articulacy while also understanding how to select, present and pick out key bits of information.
Chris does not make a distinction between digital and traditional literacy arguing that ‘traditional forms of literacy and digital literacy are not mutually exclusive’. He cites an example from the project where pupils asked for correct spelling in order to research what they needed on the internet but were more confident in evaluating and using the information they found. As Chris points out: their brief involved them planning on paper, working out what key terms they wanted to put at the forefront of their instructional video and using certain techniques such as imperative language. These are significant challenges for pupils with weak reading and writing skills
This is not to say that the work is always of the best quality but it is certainly their work. If I were to compare this to a mostly blank page, save for a copied model paragraph in their books, the work completed on computers is certainly preferable and arguably more beneficial.
One aspect of the project Chris noted was how much time is normally spent in planning ‘engaging’ lessons to create a positive learning environment. However the basic introduction given by the two technicians on using the DV camera had every pupil in the room listening, engaged and learning. Proof of this was that pupils required little assistance with filming later. He goes on to reflect:
I feel that the difficulties weaker pupils associate with reading and writing are not replicated with their digital work. Perhaps it is a greater confidence and familiarity with the means of expression, with the pen and notebook symbolising a struggle throughout their school years, but I think it is also the case that pupils know where and how to correct and check their work on a computer better than they do in a classroom.
Considering how he would do the project different if repeated, Chris said he would prefer a longer period of time (most of a term) in order to build in more skills in editing and to be able to evaluate the impact, if any, on attainment. However, he recognises the possible difficulties of this with the Year 7 pupils who find it difficult to stay on task without extra support.
184.108.40.206 Reflections on Learning
Pupils completed video diaries as part of this project:
We practised it, but the fun bit was we actually made [the film]. [We enjoyed] what we did in the film because it’s like we didn’t have to sit down all day and write
I liked working together, that was my favourite part. I liked working together in groups … Like if I were stuck on an idea, my partner could help me out and I would know for next time.
[I liked] editing … because we could put music on it and that.
Sir told us what to do but we got to choose what we did.
Editing was quite easy but looking at the camera and doing stuff was quite hard.
I feel better when it carried on ‘cos I feel more confident with it.
It practices your reading and your confidence like talking in front of the class.
Sometimes I don’t spell right but on the computer it comes up and you can spell-check it. And sometimes I can’t read my writing so on computer you can.
I find it easier on the computer ‘cos it’s less confusing and you don’t forget what you’re going to write … It also helps me remember my spaces and my full stops.
With regard to the film-making process, one pupil felt she had learnt a number of skills and that it had benefited her confidence overall, especially with regard to her communication difficulties. The storyboard gave her a vision of what she needed to do:
It helps me to think. Sometimes you see me thinking what to say because I don’t want to, like, say it wrong.
When I was cutting words out [in the editing process], I was thinking, ‘I done that okay but this is better, this is more good.
And stuff like that. When I speak I think ‘I’m saying it all wrong.’ I have to think all the time what I’m saying ‘cos I can’t talk like this all the time. I have to really think.
The hardest is to look at the camera, and thinking, ‘Oh no, I think I’ve said it wrong’ or something. When I look at it again I think ‘Yeah, I did it right, I don’t have to think of that.’
I think if I keep doing it again and keep doing it again, I think, ‘The camera is just like a mirror.’
220.127.116.11 Reflections on Digital Literacy
Chris felt that digital literacy involved being critical: searching, evaluating and selecting. He talked about how the use of spell-checks and texting were seen by some as lazy. But his view was that young people were reading and writing more than ever before. This sense of a dilemma came through strongly from the teachers’ comments. He had some reservations about the amount of work the project involved and the perceptions of others about what they were doing. Despite this the students themselves said they enjoyed the project partly because they did not have to write all the time – even though reading and writing were actually involved. Chris pointed out how using digital technologies did not eliminate the need for writing and reading skills and that, in order to perform the task they had set up, these were important to get right.
This project showed the pupils gaining confidence as the project progressed and using a wide range of ‘traditional’ literacy and digital literacy skills in order to participate. There seemed to be learning happening in a range of spheres: the pupils became more confident as speakers and as writers; they became more confident about using new digital technologies; and they were able to reflect upon their sense of themselves as expressed through and reflected by the work.
We saw that even though teachers may be confident in some circumstances – for example, using technologies with older and more able learners – they may not be so sure when working in other contexts. Structuring the project carefully was the key to its success and allowed the teachers to manage the learning as well as the children’s behaviour. Choosing to make videos of the ‘how to’ genre was a good choice because its formulaic structure allows pupils to design their own content.
As Davies and Merchant (2009) argue, the most common and popular types of video on video-sharing sites tend to be within the ‘how to’ genre. Such films have a structure that is easy to replicate, and a clear purpose and format. Davies and Merchant argue that the ‘how to’ video lends itself well to the classroom for these reasons, but also because films in this genre are a useful medium for peer teaching, and for the revision of teaching points.
The students worked individually on their projects, which meant they could build on their own interests in ways that could reflect aspects of their home life and demonstrate pre-existing expertise. For example, a student was able to fulfil a childhood idea of making a film about a plum tree. The idea was challenged by peers but she felt confident to explore it, given the right equipment, time and support. This notion of building on home ‘funds of knowledge’ (Moll et al 2009) brought aspects of life beyond the school into the classroom.
There was a strong sense of the work engaging with the students’ sense of themselves, being relevant to them and requiring their full attention. Switching across multiple modes seemed to allow them to explore ways of representing and embedding their identities in texts, so they puzzled about writing, about speaking and about filming, and considered ways in which each of these modes brought different challenges and benefits. There seemed to be a certain fluidity in the way students talked about the different modes and perhaps there is a sense in which the boundaries between writing, filming and speaking and listening were blurred, a process of crossing and blending, which Williams (2009: 87–89) identifies and exemplifies in some detail. The project clearly challenged the pupils as well as the teachers and worked to stretch everybody to their limits!
18.104.22.168 References/Links to Further Information
Davies J and Merchant G (2009). Web 2.0 for schools: learning and social participation. New York: Peter Lang.
Moll LC, Amanti C, Neff D and Gonzalez N (2009). ‘Funds of knowledge for teaching: using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms’. Theory into Practice, XXXI(2), spring: 132–141.
Williams B (2009). Shimmering literacies. New York: Peter Lang.
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