In addition to being fun and motivating, video projects teach students to plan, organize, write, communicate, collaborate, and analyze. A successful video project has undergone a process of researching, scripting, organizing, filming, editing, and publishing. Students also have the opportunity to apply artistic and dramatic skills to their academic work.
With the proliferation of webcams, phone cameras, flip cams, digital recorders, and editing tools, video has exploded in the media lives of students. Many of them spend as much time, if not more, watching YouTube as opposed to television. In fact, video has become so prolific that some colleges even include video submissions as part of their application process. As this media further matures, students may need to be able to express themselves as effectively through moving imagery as with the written word.
Using video could be as simple as recording a student oral presentation for future review, or as elaborate as producing an original short film. Depending on the complexity of the project, consider these suggested steps for ensuring that your students create thoughtful final products that demonstrate their knowledge rather than pieces full of flash but potentially lacking in substance.
- Outline: As with any written piece, students should start by outlining what they have to say, what they intend to show, and their main points.
- Script: Whether the students are going to perform in their video, use a voice-over, or simply write captions, they should know what they are going to say before they begin. This also limits the amount of editing or retakes that could potentially occur and drag out the process.
- Storyboard: Video projects can very quickly become complex. Students often have higher expectations than they can actually deliver. Having them present a storyboard before filming, makes them plan each step of the process and encourages them to gather resources in advance. Some word processing programs even have storyboard templates available. Microsoft makes one available for download and Apple’s Pages includes one in the template chooser. A web search for storyboard template provides even more resources such as these from Printable Paper. ReadWriteThink, a website sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) has this rubric for assessing storyboards.
- Filming: The key to a good video project is the actual raw footage. Oftentimes, finding a quiet place for students to record can be the biggest challenge. Consider blocking a few times for recording and having an alternate activity available for the rest of the students. Another option is to have the students do their recording independently and then bring the footage to class.
- Editing: Without defined deadlines and expectations, students can drag this process out forever. Know that tools such as Microsoft MovieMaker and Apple iMovie easily allow students to add soundtracks, voice overs, special effects, captions, and titles. Depending on the goals of the project, this step may or may not be necessary.
- Publishing: Video is a great way for students to be able to show their work to a broader audience. At the most basic level, a camera can be plugged in to a TV or projector and shown to the rest of the class. Online video sharing sites (YouTube & Vimeo) and class websites provide students with an even broader audience. However, before publishing a student video, make sure that you have checked your school’s Acceptable Use Policy with regard to student privacy, and also made sure that copyright infringement has not occurred. For more information on the latter topic, check out the Creative Commons page.
The steps defined above provide a suggested approach for a robust video project that includes the creation of an original script, filming, editing, and publishing. Video projects do not have to be that sophisticated. As mentioned, it could be as simple as recording a presentation or script and then playing it back from the camera. For more major projects, Apple’s iMovie curriculum offers additional details and directions. ReadWriteThink also provides a great lesson on the vocabulary of filmmaking and walks students through the process of creating a short film.
Digital recorders have made video creation significantly easier than it used to be. Digital cameras often have video capabilities. Web cams, whether internal or external, capture quality video that stores directly onto the computer. Cell phones, iPods, and video pocket cams now capture high definition video and interface with most computers seamlessly. The only caveat is to ensure that the camera used can work easily with the computer on which you intend to edit or view your footage. Some cameras have proprietary software which may not work on all machines or have file formats which may not be compatible. For more information on video file formats, see the Video File Format section below. You should also make sure to leave plenty of time for uploading or converting video files as that can often be a time consuming process.
Scripting and filming may only constitute half of a project when working with video. Regardless of the computer or software, students can ensure that their projects are both entertaining as well as educational with this step. Traditionally, editing referred to the combining or cutting of clips of film to produce a near-perfect video. Video editing software such as iMovie or Movie Maker, makes this process rather simple and even includes an array of effects that can be added to create transitions between scenes. More advanced features and tools even allow for the merging of video clips as well as the ability to apply audio from one clip to the video of another.
A video project, however, does not have to only include actual footage captured by a video camera. Still images can be combined to create an animated slide show or to enhance existing footage. Many audio tools allow students to create a narration to accompany the imagery or add a sound track. Most editing software also includes the ability to add titles and captions to both video as well as image files. This further allows students to creatively present their knowledge.
Most of these capabilities exist within the video editing software that comes with the latest operating systems. However, there are also web-based editing tools, software packages that come with various cameras, as well as third-party tools that can be downloaded at no cost. The list below include a few of the more commonly used tools.
- iMovie - A full-featured product that comes with all Mac computers. The Apple website has good technical support and tutorials.
- Windows Movie Maker - Available on all Vista and Windows 7 computers, it rivals iMovie with features for PCs. Microsoft has a good support site and ReadWriteThink also provides tips for using MovieMaker.
- JayCut - A completely web based video editing platform with similar features availabe in both iMovie and Movie Maker. Here is an online tutorial to help you get started using JayCut
- PhotoStory3 - A free download for Windows computers, this program provides an easy way to edit videos. More information can be found on the Microsoft site.
- Animoto - This web-based application provides basic editing features that can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection. Students or teachers only need to sign up for a free account at http://animoto.com.
One of the most complicated aspects of working with video is interpreting the various file formats that work with cameras as well as editing and publishing tools. The list below are the most commonly used and accepted file formats.
- m4v - Created by Apple, most video files in iTunes use this format, and most players can open an m4v file.
- mp4 - iPods and other digital audio playing devices made the mp3 famous as a format for streaming music. An mp4 is similar but includes the video files. This is a universal file format that works with all types of players and editors.
- mov - QuickTime video creates mov files. These files work best if you are using iMovie for editing. However, they are often slightly larger in file size.
- wmv - Widows Media Video, developed by Microsoft, used to only work on a PC. However, downloads such as Flip4Mac, converts wmv files so that they can be viewed or edited on a Mac and iMovie as well.
- Flash - This product from Adobe creates a variety of formats (swf, f4v, and flv) that are used frequently by video sharing sites such as YouTube or Vimeo. When viewing a video on the web, it is frequently displayed as Flash, though this is beginning to change.
One of the greatest benefits of using video is the ability to publish projects for other students, teachers, and family members to see. Originally, because of the large file size, video was very difficult to put on the web. However, video sharing sites have changed that, making it very easy for anyone to post their videos online - regardless of size. The sites listed below all offer free accounts for video hosting and publishing.
Anyone can set up a free YouTube channel. Some schools or teachers may even create one just for student projects. It is simple to upload videos to this website and then share them with your school community. One word of caution would be to enable comment moderation to protect your students from inappropriate commentary on their videos.
This video sharing site strives to create a virtual educational community. Though primarily used for posting instructional videos made by teachers, student works can be uploaded after creating an account. TeacherTube also provides good examples of educational videos on which student projects could be modeled.
Originally, Vimeo had much better video quality than YouTube, however that has changed over the years and the two sites are comparable. In addition to having the same uploading, comment moderation, and sharing options, Vimeo also allows users to organize content into albums and channels as well as to create custom viewing options. For an annual fee, a Pro account provides even more features. Vimeo also has some great tutorials on its website http://vimeo.com/videoschool
As an alternative to YouTube and Vimeo, Blip.tv is an outstanding video sharing site that will not only host your videos, but will allow you to distribute them from Blip to a number of online media sites including YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook and Twitter.
Though usually considered a photo sharing site, Flickr does allow video uploads for files that are under 90 seconds in length and 500 MB in size. If students have created short videos, such as advertisements or public service announcements, then they could be published to Flickr.
With a Google account, video can be uploaded to GoogleDocs and then shared out to any designated audience either via a direct link or with an embed code. Google has great support resources available.
Regardless of the tool, all of the video sharing sites listed above also provide embed codes. This HTML code can be copied and then pasted into any website or blog to display the video even though it is being hosted on a separate website. Some blogging tools, such as WordPress or Blogger, also allow for video to be uploaded straight onto the blog. Depending on how the site is hosted, though, there may be some file size limitations.
From filming scripts, to creating original short films or slide shows, video can be integrated in a variety of ways.
- Book Trailers - A book trailer essentially is the same idea as a movie trailer - it provides a dynamic way to introduce the plot, characters, setting, and conflict to entice a viewer or reader to seek out the full version. Students could use this concept to demonstrate their knowledge of a historical event, document, or person.
- Scene Reenactments - Students can use video to re-create their interpretation of significant scenes in the books. By using video, rather than just performing a skit, students can also integrate music, images, and even other video clips.
- Public Service Announcements and Advertisements - Students can use the format of a public service announcement or advertisement to teach a concept, explain a theme, promote an author, or market the book itself. These formats can be applied to practically any topic. Resources and rubrics are available through ThinkFinity.
Assessing video projects can be difficult, especially if students are working in groups. An approach to this is to assess each step of the project separately. Also consider factoring in a peer review as part of the final project.
“Too Late to Apologize: A Declaration”, though professionally created, is a great example of how a music video could be used as the format to tell a story.
“Nation” was created by two 8th grade students as a book trailer project as the culmination of their summer reading work.
Often, the most difficult part of having students use video is giving them options and concepts beyond simply recording themselves speaking. Below are three options that have proven to be successful video concepts for student projects. All of the concepts require the planning process outlined on this page: outline, script, storyboard, film, editing and publishing. To determine which concept will fit for your students, consider the amount of time you would like to devote to the video project, the equipment available to your students and your comfort level with editing video.
Common Craft Style Projects
Common Craft is an organization that creates videos to explain complex concepts with a simple approach, paper cut-outs. This style of video is perfect for classroom video projects, as students do not have to appear on camera because they are only filming paper cut-outs with narration. Below is an example of a student created Common Craft style video project and a few ideas to consider.
- Tripods are needed to keep the camera steady and pointed down towards the floor
- Film on a large sheet of white paper
- Allow students plenty of time to rehearse the video before it is filmed
- Find enough room for multiple groups in one class to film simultaneously. Often the school cafeteria is the best location.
- Minimal editing. Student may be able to film one continuous shot.
RSA Animate Style Projects
RSA Animate videos are slightly different than Common Craft videos, as someone is filmed with a dry erase marker writing words, pictures and ideas that is then speed up and has narration edited over the original footage. This style of video requires two additional steps after the filming, as the footage needs to be sped up in the editing process and students need to provide a voice over audio track. Below is an example of a student created RSA Animate style video and ideas to consider about this style project.
- Plenty of whiteboard space is necessary. Multiple groups can film on one large wall mounted whiteboard.
- Editing is required. The film must be sped up and each group needs to individually record a voice over track.
- Multiple groups can film at once as any audio picked on up the footage will be removed during editing.
- Tripods are needed to keep the camera steady.
YouTube Choose Your Own Adventure Projects
Within YouTube there is a feature called the 'Spotlight Tool' that allows a video to have a hyper link embedded within the video. The link appears on the video it itself and when a viewer clicks on the link they are automatically brought to another video. By using this YouTube feature, students can create multiple video segments that can be linked together and allow the viewer a unique experience based on the path they choose to follow. There is no video editing required for this style video project, however there is extensive planning necessary as students need to determine how their videos will be linked in order for the viewer to transition through the project. Below is an example of a Choose Your Own Adventure video project and ideas to consider when choosing this style.
- Upload all of the video segments separately to YouTube and then link the videos once they are all uploaded.
- Planning is crucial for this style of project. Students must outline where each video will lead to in their project and which videos need to be linked.
- Allow the viewer time when filming to click on the link within the video.
- Tutorials on how to use the Spotlight Feature: Tutorial 1, Tutorial 2.