This past fall I embarked on a project based learning opportunity with my media literacy elective class for 7th and 8th graders. It has always been a project based course, but this semester I gave my students an authentic challenge and ten weeks to fulfill the requirements.
Authentic Challenge – How can we develop an award winning movie short to highlight a problem in our world and create a film festival to showcase these movie shorts?
As my students were working on their own videos, I created a video to document the process using Adobe Spark.
Whereas, I wanted my students to make a movie that was 5 minutes in length, that was very difficult for many of the students. Most of the movies were around 3 minutes in length and all follow a documentary style format. Despite examining PSAs and short feature films, all felt the documentary format was the best to communicate their message and meet the objectives of the project.
Last week, my students presented their films to the entire 8th grade during a film festival assembly. This was the scariest and most stressful part of the process – most students confided – but it allowed for an authentic audience.
I compiled all the students’ films on YouTube and created a playlist with all their films.
At the end of the process, I asked students to complete a reflection that asked questions about the process and their final product. Students were honestly candid on the reflections. Many told me that it was too much work for an elective class and they learned how challenging it is to produce and edit a short film.
Among my own reflections, I observed many students losing steam producing a video over ten weeks of creation and editing. As many times as we viewed the films and offered suggestions for edits, students did not always following through with the edits. The students stamina for the project wavered depending on the day. Next semester I am thinking of breaking up the semester into two projects, one non-fiction and one, a fictional film.
I shared the student videos with Rushton Hurley, author and founder of Next Vista for Learning, an educational nonprofit dedicated to saving the world from ignorance, one creative video at a time. I met Ruston at an Google Summit in Connecticut back in October of 2019 and then we ran into each other again at this past month at FETC. I spoke with him about how to get students to see revision as an opportunity rather than a tedious task. How do we move students from one and done to seeing revision as an on-going process to better work.
Rushton shared this video with me along with a blog post he wrote regarding the same dilemma. The video portrays “the lesson that we get better as we get and effectively act on constructive critique.”
The great thing about teaching a semester long class is that I have the opportunity to reflect, revise, and re-do. Next week I get to launch the project with a new group of students and this time I will approach revision and editing in a new way to support my student’s stamina and attention to detail.