This case study focuses on the use of short videos as a method to improve pupils’ communication skills and explores the pedagogical approach taken to teaching, learning and assessment within this special school environment. It illustrates the work developed by Jack Todhunter, Head of English and Media at Newman School, who has used and developed these methods over a number of years as a way of introducing what he terms ‘stealth reading and writing’.
5.1.1 Case Study 1. Developing Digital Literacies through Movie Making
Newman school is an average sized special school in Rotherham for pupils aged 2-19 with physical disabilities and medical conditions. A significant number of pupils have additional disabilities such as autism, visual and hearing impairments or moderate learning difficulties. In terms of intake English is the first language for 90.9% of pupils and 23.3% pupils are eligible for and claiming free school meals; there are currently 90 pupils on roll. In September 2009, as a result of its achievements, the school was designated as a Specialist School for Cognition and Learning and was considered ‘an extraordinary school’ and rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted (Ofsted Report 2010). The school has been awarded an extensive range of quality marks including the Becta ICT mark.
Jack is an experienced and well-respected teacher within his own school and, as an Advanced Skills Teacher, he has worked successfully with other schools throughout the borough. He has been involved in a number of significant initiatives both locally, nationally and internationally and is highly regarded for his video work, having had one of his pieces shown at The Odeon, Leicester Square and Downing Street. In 2010, Jack won a National Schools Film and Animation Award for his ‘Homage to Hitch’ and regularly produces videos for the English teachers’ resources site EnglishEdu.com including this one on internet safety.
In this short documentary, Jack’s explains how he uses video and digital technology to engage and inspire students to learn. His use of video to support an AFoR (Alternative Forms of Recording) approach to learning is demonstrated through a range of video clips that showcase the work carried out at Newman and local primary schools. He aims to demonstrate the benefits as well as the challenges of this approach that has been developed in the context of his work at Newman for the past fifteen years.
22.214.171.124 Digital Literacy Practice
In his documentary, Jack explains how he uses moving image work with his students and the advantages it offers as a digital medium for teaching and learning within his setting. He outlines how a moving image can be used to:
- Engage students in the learning process
- Tell stories
- Make documentaries
- Record and analyse life experiences
- Provide a means to help students deal with difficult topics/ or issues
- Present demanding texts in a motivating way Help student order their thought processes
- Embed learning.
Jack’s work combines literacy, learning and technical skills in meaningful and highly motivating projects (see Table 7). He uses the concept of ‘stealth reading’ to describe how his students are often involved in reading and evaluating material they would not normally encounter, either through lack of motivation or because they consider it to be too hard. When they are engaged in a video project they are driven by the desire to produce a good film and often don’t seem to realise that they are reading and learning from new material.
Table 7: Integrating Different Aspects of Learning
| Literacy: ‘Stealth’ reading and writing is involved in the planning and making the movies. This includes:
| Learning: Pupils are engaged and motivated, researching background material and problem-solving. This includes:
| Technical skills: Pupils learn how to use filming and editing techniques ‘just in time’ and ‘on demand’. This includes:
|These different aspects of learning are involved at each stage, from planning through to shooting,
editing and viewing.
Jack’s work is part of his ongoing practice. Students who work with him become self-reliant with the media literacies he uses. He exudes confidence and is expert in what he does; the challenge is to engage others. As well as working at Newman, he also works as an Advanced Skills Teacher (AST), disseminating his expertise. One example of this is his collaboration with Rachel Morley, a primary teacher in a local school. She explains:
The technology he uses captures the children’s imagination – they don’t even realise they’re learning and they quickly become experts. In this way he shows how this approach can be adapted to other contexts and to classrooms that have limited IT equipment.
The outcomes of Jack’s work include an increased awareness of the pedagogical potential of video for teaching and learning and effective and positive collaboration with a local primary school.
To share this work Jack organised a dissemination event in which parents were able to learn about the project. He also led on the iMovie workshop (see related blog post ‘If a picture is worth a thousand words’ and Jack’s YouTube channel Personal Demons).
126.96.36.199 Reflections on Teaching
Digital literacy allows our students to use other methods of recording apart from the usual pen and paper. It also allows our students to gain information that does not come from conventional written sources – books, text and similar written resources. Ever been on holiday when you have to turn Data Roaming off? Well, our Data Roaming never gets turned off!
At Newman School Jack’s use of alternative forms of recording enables students to produce documentaries, dramas, and concerts; it allows them to order their thought processes and reflect on learning. As a result of this work, Jack’s students also access a wide range of resources that would be beyond them if they were to be presented in conventional written format. His approach addresses a diverse range of curriculum objectives and individual needs:
We have used our techniques across the curriculum in a variety of subject areas and with a broad cross section of ages and abilities including MLD [moderate learning difficulties] and SLD [severe learning difficulties] pupils. Presently, we are even working with a group of university students and lecturers to see if this methodology will enhance their work and the answer has been a resounding “yes”.
In his own school Jack encourages students and teachers to embrace new technology to enhance teaching and learning – in and out of the classroom. He feels that making and viewing film helps students and teachers to understand multimodal composition. It provides good opportunities for both teachers and students to embed and reinforce learning in areas where conventional forms of tuition may not be effective. ‘Moving images’ Jack explains, ‘engage participants’ and by using technical vocabulary pupils can refine and reflect on the visual images produced.
Jack is pleased that a number of ‘stealth’ literacy opportunities arise en route, and often previously reluctant learners can be engaged with text in this ‘new, less-threatening climate’. Students and their teachers employ digital technology, communication tools or networks to find, assess, select and process information. For Jack, literacy includes the ability to read and interpret media, to reproduce data and images through digital manipulation, and to evaluate and apply new knowledge gained from digital environments. As digital literacy evolves Jack suggests that it will require a meta-language, using concepts from, amongst others, the world of cinema, computing, media and rhetoric.
188.8.131.52 Reflections on Learning
This beats reading and writing any day and I wouldn’t mind working in the area when I leave school.
Mikey (Key Stage 3 student)
It’s great when the teachers ask for our help. We know more about some of the editing programs than they do. It’s fun to set them right.
Connor, (Key Stage 5 student )
Going up to receive my gold award for a film I made on the Titanic was one of the best days of my life. I felt so proud and so did all my family.
Ashley, (Key Stage 4 student)
184.108.40.206 Reflections on Digital Literacy
The approach that Jack uses puts pupils in the driving seat, placing a strong emphasis on the creative production of digital video. Literacy, learning and technology work together. His definition of digital literacy includes the ability to read and interpret digital media as well as to produce and evaluate it. This case study shows a confident and inspirational teacher explaining why and how he uses moving image in the classroom. As a teacher with a background in English Literature, Language and Media Studies Jack is already ‘tuned into’ some fundamental orientations in text production and consumption and this shows in his approach to using technology. In addition to this, he is working with students who have difficulty in accessing the curriculum in traditional ways. Engaging their interest and encouraging the use of a variety of communicative modes is clearly important in this context. However, Jack has a broader vision than this; he believes that these approaches – and particularly the use of moving image – are relevant and applicable to all learners, and captures the essence of what have been referred to as 21st Century skills (see Abrams & Merchant, 2012).
The last ten years have seen some important development work in the use of moving image in school contexts, led not only by universities and organisations like the BFI and Film Education, but also by the National Strategies. At the same time, there have been various developments at policy level, including the European Charter for Media Literacy (Euromedia, 2004).
As yet, there is little agreement about the place of moving image work in the curriculum, what progression might look like, how technical skills should be introduced and what conceptual frameworks and terminology might be used (see Buckingham, 2003 and Burn & Parker, 2003 for example). Screening shorts, a website dedicated to moving image, reflects Jack’s approach and philosophy:
Traditionally defined as the ability to read and write, literacy is now understood to be the ability to locate, evaluate and communicate using a range of media resources including text, visual, audio and video – this is recognised as including films, TV programmes and interactive games. Moving image education, however, is about more than just literacy. It is a rich context for learning that allows children to develop across the curriculum. Different activities can feed into different subjects – often crossing over – which means that moving image media can be a relevant teaching source across all (Screening Shorts, 2011)
220.127.116.11 References/ Links to Further Resources
Abrams, S. & Merchant, G. (forthcoming) “The Digital Challenge.” In K.Hall, T.Cremin, B. Comber & L.Moll (eds) The International Handbook of Research in Children’s Literacy, Learning & Culture. London: Routledge.
Buckingham, D. (2003) Media Education: Literacy, Learning and Contemporary Culture. Cambridge: Polity.
Burn, A. & Parker, D. (2003) Analysing Media Text. London: Continuum.
Euromedia. (2004). The European Charter for Media Literacy. Accessed 16/10/2009 at: http://www.euromedialiteracy.eu/charter.php
Ofsted report (2010) Ofsted Report, Newman School Rotherham, last accessed 29/10/12 at www.ofsted.gov.uk/provider/files/1957163/urn/106966.pdfScreening Shorts (2011) Moving Image and the Curriculum, last accessed 29/10/12 at http://www.screeningshorts.org.uk/
Links to Further Resources
Comber & L.Moll (eds) The International Handbook of Research in Children’s Literacy, Learning & Culture. London: Routledge.
Cutfilms (2012). Guide to making a short film
EdApps.ca (2011). 13 ways to use imovie in the classroom.
Haynes, P. (2010). Making educational movies – without a camcorder, HEA
Jisc, Introduction to Digital Video
Stringer, O. (2010). Collaborative Learning with iMovie
Vimeo, Video sharing site
Welshsuey (2008). Intro to imovie