Video Projects for the Classroom

Working with students and video is unusually rewarding and enriching.  You and your students will truly enjoy the experience. 

My most memorable classroom projects are student-produced videos.  Students are excited by video projects and immerse themselves in the experience and talk about them long after they are over.

Video projects require students to understand subject matter both on an emotional and intellectual level because video relates mood, tone, intensity, and feeling in addition to information.  Your students, as video producers, must connect on all the levels to make a video that is as compelling as it is informative. After having worked with material so intimately, the students do not soon forget it.

Different video genres are available for different types of student projects. There are many to choose from to achieve your educational objectives.  Each genre has educational potential, positive attributes, and specific demands.  Choosing the right genre for each student project is crucial.  Factors to consider when choosing a genre are curricular content, educational objectives, time and resource limitations, and the abilities of the students.
The following is a brief description of the video genres and their educational potential.  Each will be exploited in greater details in articles to follow over the next few months.

• Reality TV: A wildly popular newcomer to television, reality TV has educational potential as a training exercise to familiarize your students with the technical aspects of video production.  Its appeal both educationally and commercially is that very little planning is necessary.  Simply concoct a scenario, turn on a camera, and record.  The results can be surprisingly good.

• Educational Video:  An obvious choice for classroom use, educational video could be a demonstration of a report on a topic.  A student could demonstrate how to solve a math problem or operate science lab equipment safely.  A report could be prepared on any topic; but in either demonstration or report, the students become teachers without having to face their peers in a live performance.

• Documentary:  The documentary is an excellent choice when serious study of a topic is desired.  In this genre, students report on a topic with accuracy and honesy.  Thorough research, in-depth understanding, careful planning, and clear writing are required for documentaries.

• News Report:  The nhews report forces students to gather the answers to who, what, where, when, and why questions and report them in a succinct manner, complemented by visual images that support the information being related.

• Drama:  By staging and videotaping a scene from a novel or reenacting a historical event, your students can better understand literature and history.  A drama could also be used as a creative exercise, giving your students an opportunity to write, direct, and act in their own one-act play, for example.

• Foreign Film: The foreign film creates wonderful opportunities for students to practice their language skills in a taped performance; mistakes can be corrected by reshooting, and subsequent retakes reinforce the desired mastery.

• Commercial/Public Service Announcement (PSA): Commercials and PSAs are fun for the students to produce and will challenge them to condense a message that is entertaining and memorable into a 30-second spot.  Having produced their own commercial or PSA, students become more sophisticated consumers in this market driven society.

• Music Video:  Students will naturally gravitate to the music video, which will challenge them creatively.  Music videos can be a useful way for students to practice music interpretation.

• Video Montage: A compilation of video imagery and sound, the video montage is a way for students to express themselves artistically through video.

For a video project to be valid, the students must know that their videos will have an audience.  Tell them in advance who is going to see their work.  Screening the videos in class is a minimum commitment.  Other options include school assemblies, PTA meetings, parent nights, public access TV, the schools website, and moderated sites such as SchoolTube.com. Some schools have film festivals or simply leave projects playing in a loop on a television in a common area of the school.  The more people the students know will see their videos, the more effort they will put into their projects.

Next month, we begin to look at the different genres beginning with Reality TV: The Video Scavenger Hunt.