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.
Timing is everything. Every semester I try to find a creative way to let my Film Criticism students demonstrate their understanding of the work that we have done during the semester. Projects that find examples of film terms, outlines, and film clip analysis are ideas that I have used in the past. I was trying to come up with something new and challenging for my students with little success. Media fluency defines what I am looking for from my students-the ability to look at media to understand the real message. We talk about how different directors influence and guide their audience to an artistic and emotional message. The good director takes an audience on a journey of discovery for a variety of purposes that should be well defined and create a platform for the director’s vision. The second component is to create an original product that matches the media to the understanding of the purpose of the film.
Then we visited New Tech High in Coppell, Texas, on April 2. The young man, Jack, that was one of our ambassadors and tour guide on the visit, inspired me. One of the classes that he is passionate about creates videos and movies. He was so enthusiastic that I started thinking about how I could let my students create a movie about movies. After working with iMovie, I wondered what options would suit my 7th and 8th grade students.
I then sought professional help – my colleague Ami, who has been a true inspiration to my education into all things technical. As I explained my goal, she immediately pulled up the new version of iMovie that allows students to create a movie trailer- a perfect project that will ask students to use a variety of camera angles and other terms that we have discussed this semester. Our plan is to have them work in teams with the goal of having a trailer film festival at the end of the project to show to the other elective classes. I hope that this will allow the students to show their knowledge of films through the creative process and get more experience with iMovie.
It has always been my goal to have my film students be intelligent consumers, and enhance their enjoyment of an activity that they choose to pursue in their free time. I am excited about plunging into this project!
“Why won’t you help me? You’re the teacher.”
“This project is going to take FOR…EVER. Ugh.”
“You mean I actually have to think on this assignment?!?”
Ever heard one these grumblings from one of your students? Believe it or not, it’s a good thing. It means your learning environment is transitioning. Our students are programmed to succeed in the traditional educational system. They want to continue to use BASIC while the world now requires them to know Objective C.
FACT: The recent shift to 21st century learning – promotion of skills like creativity, collaboration, problem-solving, curation, and innovation – is just as difficult for students to embrace as it is for teachers. Shocked?
Our kids are accustomed to the age-old game of content acquisition (passive learning) and testing (regurgitation). And many have gotten downright amazing at it. You know them. They’re typically your honor students. The ones who breeze through the homework and ace all your tests. They average a 98% or better in your class. And they’ve found a nice, warm, cozy niche in your educational environment. The problem is that information, once scarce, is now abundant and instantly available in today’s world.
So now, you’re challenging them to move. You’re asking them to take knowledge and do something with it (other than just spew it back to you). You’re asking them to design. Create. Innovate. Share. Debate. Present. Choose. Imply. Ask questions. Manipulate the content – and do so in a team with others.
It’s not going to be an easy adjustment for some of them. And, as teachers, we must understand the challenge involved in figuring out the rules of this new game – 21CL. So, what can we do to help our students then?
Have you encountered student resistance to 21CL activities in your classroom? How have you handled it? Found anything that works? Share your experiences with the E21 blog community. Comment on this post.
We have to “deprogram” our students by increasing the 21CL opportunities. We have to talk with them about the fact that the game is changing. Discuss the new “rules” when you implement a PBL unit. Explain that it may seem at times like you’re not teaching them, but that’s because you want them to learn. The active process is now theirs, not yours. It’s because you want them to take ownership of their own learning. Assure them that you are not abandoning them – and they can call on you for help and guidance as they explore. Expect mistakes along the way…and encourage your students to learn from failure. You are their 21st Century Tour Guide.
Failure is okay. Some of the world’s most successful people failed miserably while learning to succeed. Remind your students that they fail time and time again playing video games.
And yet, in the end, they always save the world.