Posts Tagged ‘Video in the Classroom’

Video in the Classroom FAQ

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

I frequently get wonderful e-mails from teachers who’ve discovered our class films. They have some questions in them so I decided it was time to answer a couple of them.   If you have questions after reading, please post those questions below as a comment. -Mathew

1. How did you get started?

My Filmmaking Background

I just turned 31 and I’ve been making films since fifth grade. My junior year of high school I made my first feature, a ninety minute tale of unrequited love.

I went to NYU film school for a year but left over fears of spending too much for a degree which might not have career possibilities. I took any tuition money I had left after freshman year and bought a digital video camera and the top of the line Apple G3 and made my movie. (You might say there was a theme to my films).

Video in the Classroom: My Start in the Ed-Biz

I have been a teacher for seven years but have been integrating video in the classroom for twelve years.  I began working in the after school program at Community Magnet School right after high school. There I worked with Martha Melinda who taught me how to direct children and about how they like special effects.

When I had my own classroom, I spent my first two years making sure I knew what I was doing in terms of teaching the curriculum and completing coursework to obtain a teaching credential. I advise new teachers to do the same, make sure you know your curriculum before you start integrating technology. But once I had a credential, I didn’t feel like I had any excuse not to start integrating technology.

How Should I Get Started?

I compiled some links here to tutorials and film tips.  There’s a lot to know but you don’t have to know everything to get started.  Just get started, begin to play and work out your technique as you go.  I recommend the book, Film Directing Shot by Shot for help when you’re ready to start planning your shots and a one-to-one membership at the Apple Store if you’re using the Mac and want software lessons.

How Do You Get Your Audio So Clear?

Proximity is number one rule.  If you record from across the room, you can’t hear, particularly with younger students who talk quietly when they’re nervous.  Get the microphone close and practice projecting before filming.

My microphone cost $300 five years ago. It’s a BeyerDynamic MCE86 shotgun microphone. I also have a microphone stand ($30) which holds in place in a shock mount of sorts. For “Tales from the Yard” students sat right under the microphone as they recorded their voices into Garageband on my iBook. That’s my only secret. Also turn up the volume as loud as you can. Today, there are other microphones that might be much cheaper and give you equally good sound. The cheapest microphone would be better than using the built in mics on your camera or computer.

Video in the Classroom Interview: It's Elementary

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

I was a guest Tuesday on the It’s Elementary show with Jose Rodriguez, Alice Mercer, and Lisa Durff to discuss using video production/podcasting in the elementary classroom. They were terrific hosts and I had fun being on the show.
I particularly enjoyed brainstorming productions gone wrong. It forced me to think more about how you start out doing video production in your classroom. Similar to other subjects, scaffolding is key but more about that later.

You can hear the audio, view the archived chatroom, and even post a new comment here.

Summing Up: Blog Year One

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008


A Brief History of My Blog
(Open Court Reading Strategy: Summarizing)


This blog started last year as another way of communicating with visitors of my site, Open Court

Open Court, for the uninitiated, is the required reading series in Los Angeles Unified and many other large districts across the country. Some people love it, some people hate it. My site started four years ago as a way for my first grade colleagues and I to share resources with each other from any internet connected computer. It has grown to include all grade levels and thousands of resources contributed by teachers across the country.

Hello Lifelong Learners

While the Open Court site gets thousands of visits daily I started feeling limited by what I could write about on the “Open Court Resources Blog”. In changing the blog’s name to Creating Lifelong Learners in October, I began to feel freer to write about integrating technology, educational practice in general, and I’ve been able to get a little more personal.

I hope I’m still relevant to Open Court teachers but of interest to others as well.


Hello to Hollywood

Last month I relaunched my site, Video in the, and that site needed a blog. Rather than split my audience and my own energy between two blogs I hope you don’t mind that the video in the classroom blog has moved in here.

If you only want to read the video related posts you can choose the “video in the classroom” category on the right. However, in the real world very few of us are able to teach only video and so I focus on integrating video production into the curriculum. How to teach reading and writing and video production at the same time.

So What’s This Blog About?

Literacy. All types.

Traditional, digital, media, film.

As my concept of twenty-first century literacy grows and changes, so too does this blog.

I hope you’ll continue reading or start reading (maybe even bring a friend) and come along with me on this journey.

Thanks for reading.

Design and Storytelling in Film

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

An interesting conversation began in Students 2.0, where Anthony, a high school student, wrote,

“…like home movies, most…student videos are lacking a thesis and a design to support them. As technology allows us to integrate creative projects…we need to give students the tools to funnel their creative efforts into an effective and cohesive whole.”

I made the point that teachers need to be showing students basic elements of film language if they’re going to ask students to make films. We would never teach writing without teaching students how to read text. How can we teach film without pointing out how to read film language?

Anthony felt that this was out of reach of most teachers. He’s probably right since most teachers don’t have this knowledge themselves. However, I don’t think it’s hard for a teacher with an ounce of motivation to learn how to analyze film nor does it take a lot of time to teach because most of us are already subconsciously aware of what goes into the “design” of films.

Tom of Bionic Teaching picked up on this thread and posted an excellent Before and After Powerpoint example of how a powerpoint slide could be improved through better storytelling and by linking design to the storytelling of the slide.

I’d like to try to illustrate the point from a film making perspective and demonstrate how this relates to film. Specifically, let’s look at framing from high and low angles and at varying distances.

These shots come from our film “The City Mouse and the Country Mouse” which was made almost entirely with still images in my first grade class. In this scene, a mouse party is interrupted by the entrance of a cat in the room. The mice flee and a chase ensues.


Most of the teacher and student films I see look worse than the above shot in that they’re taken from even farther away and the camera never moves from that position. The cat might enter, turn her back to the camera and the mice would quickly run off-frame.




So we looked at at least three things in this brief example:

Shooting from different angles can make characters more or less powerful.We can show character’s point of view by cutting to what they are looking at.Shooting from different distances conveys different information about a scene.

Naturally there are technical names for these shots and techniques but I’m trying to simplify things so that a teacher who knows nothing else could teach this.If teachers would teach just these basic film elements by analyzing any popular media, students would be able to produce better video and be better able to analyze all types of media.


Reflection on AFI’s Screen Education Series

The City Mouse and the Country Mouse (See Entire Film)

Digital Storytelling Blog Carnival