My first venture into project based learning has been very interesting. I asked my film criticism students to create a movie trailer using iMovie. I felt that it allowed creativity within a framework that could be managed by 7th and 8th graders. I tried to give only a few restrictions, and I provided them with the tools that they needed to be successful. I told them that the trailer had to be for an existing movie, and only one group could use a genre so we didn’t have the same format and music over and over. We have seven groups with three people in a group. I tried to mix grades and genders to create a group that could work efficiently. I provided them with their notebook of terms to check and match with the iMovie requirements, access to a computer, and a great technical support person, my mentor Ami, to help answer questions. The initial reaction to the assignment- stunned silence and blank looks. After a few questions, and one eager student, I finally got a reaction to the project, and it was not what I expected. My “digital natives” did not have a clue how to approach the assignment, and several students expressed reluctance because although several of them had experience with iMovie, they didn’t think they could handle this specific program.
I then realized that it was not the technology, or the project itself- they didn’t know how to get started or organize their tasks. So we took a big step back and practiced some basic techniques of problem solving. It was fascinating to see how differently each group began their preparations. One group storyboarded their entire trailer by drawing it out frame by frame “just like Hitchcock did with his movies”- I was so proud because they obviously paid attention during that unit. Other groups made lists, divided responsibilities, tried to do every aspect together, and even had a few creative differences. The filming process challenged them artistically, and we learned how to use a green screen, and be patient enough to do several takes. We are watching the finished product on Monday. I suspect that the real lesson learned has more to do with the process than the product. If that is the case, I will consider this first project a success.