That's a wrap! - Movie Making With Kids

#edtech #elearning Well, it is finally done. This quarter's movie making club finished shooting their last scene on Tuesday and by the end of yesterday it was all edited and ready to go. I am really proud of their work -- as always I am blown away by the ability of these fourth and fifth grade students to make great movies. I get a real mix of students that sign up for my seven week movie making club. We meet every Tuesday before school and we work really hard to have our movie done by the end of the quarter. This year we have gone away from our usual dramatic movie in favor of making movies with a message. Last year's movie called Don't Eat the Cookies was so intense in a few parts that we couldn't show it to the younger grade -- but this new movie is great for all ages.

The movie is called "Confidence" and it is all about a girl who is afraid to sing in from of people, when is is alone she sings great, but when she gets in front of people she is really bad. So the best singer in the school offers her some advice on how to get confidence and you'll just have to watch it to see how it ends.

Teaching students how to make movies is one of the most rewarding parts of my job as an elementary tech teacher. I love how much the students change. Take Avree, the lead actor in this movie. She had no theater training at all, but yet she turns out to be a very talented actor. Then there is Erik, he turned out to be one of the best student-directors that I have ever worked with. He was very professional and knew how to get the kids to stay on task and on time.

This year we have added a worksheet to go with our movie to help teachers use the movie as a lesson. On the worksheet there are discussion points as well as writing prompts to get the students to learn how they can develop confidence in their own lives.

So now is the time to pop some popcorn and sit back and relax as you watch our 4 minute movie called Confidence. If you want a peek behind the scenes check out the making of movie and don't forget to look at the worksheet as well.

Bigger Projects = Bigger Learning

#edtech #elearning - This week I am speaking at a regional teacher’s meeting about some of the projects I do with my elementary students. As I was preparing my speech it  got me thinking...

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The start of a new school year also means the start of my before and after school clubs. Every week I meet with students who want to be podcasters, movie makers or robotic engineers. Today I would like to talk about my movie makers.

Movie making is a big deal in our elementary school. This year we have taken it to a new level, we want to make movies with a message, instead of just the dramatic one that we have done in the past. I guess I had been reading too many books this past summer and now it shows in my clubs, I want my students to make a difference -- and they can do this with their movie making.

Like many elementary schools we have a set of school values that we promote in everything that we do; Respect, Responsibility, Integrity and Kindness. These four values have deep roots in our school and in our teaching. We now make movies about these values, in fact, I stole the idea from

The one thing about making movies with 4th and 5th grade students is that it is a really big project for them to wrap their little minds around. Some would even say too big. We do weeks of planning followed by weeks of shooting, and anyone who has ever been involved in a shoot knows that it is one of the most boring thing to be a part of. It is a lot of sitting around and being quiet, waiting for your turn to be in a shot. The reality of it is that this kind of work in important for students to learn, to be part of a big picture with no immediate payback. Which can be tough for students of fast-food generation. But my kids stick with it and keep coming back week after week until we are done shooting.

The payback they do get comes a few weeks later when the final movie has been edited and it is up on YouTube for their family and friends to see, not to mention the entire world.

As far as I am concerned students learn a lot from these big projects, and I am not talking about filmmaking skills. Skills like patience, communication and cooperation, a movie set is like a family, we are all working towards the same goal and in the end, we all win -- not just the kids on screen, because even my actors soon realize all the hard work that everyone puts into the project.

These are things they just can’t learn by working on a project for only a few weeks, sometimes it takes months for these types of things to sink in. So don't be afraid to push working with school technology projects to bigger and longer projects.

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Book Review - The Director in the Classroom - #edtech

Every August I order a bunch of new books to help me in the classroom and this year was no exception. The first book I want to review is The Director in the Classroom by Nikos Theodosakis, it is the second edition of this book or as it says on the cover: "Version 2.0"

The Rafael Film Center
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I have a very well-used copy  of his first edition and have used it for years when working with my students on making movies. I mostly use the forms that come with the book, there are over 20 of them, everything from checklists to rubrics. Nikos has done all the hard work, now all I need to do is use these forms in the classroom.

What I really love about this book is how complete it is -- it is missing nothing as far as I am concerned. Nikos covers everything about student filmmaking.

Here is an outline of his book:

Part 1: Why Filmmaking Belongs in the Classroom He covers topics like higher order thinking skills and personal and social skills like creativity, confidence, and self-esteem. These are all ideas that I have personally seen when I make movies with my students. So as I read his book I find myself nodding my head in agreement as I highlight another sentence or paragraph.

Part 2: The Filmmaking Process in the Classroom This part covers all the nuts and bolts of filmmaking with students. He breaks each of the phases (development, pre-production, production, post-production and distribution) into easy to manage step-by-step instructions (with forms and checklists).

Part 3: Obstacles and Opportunities Nikos takes on the issues like assessment and copyright and how filmmaking meets SCANS goals.

Part 4: Some More Thoughts This part is where Nikos has added the most in this edition of his book. He makes connections to the new Web 2.0 opportunities for filmmakers as well as connections to 21st Century Skills. He concludes with ideas on how to get your student-made films in to film festivals.

Part 5: Teachers as Directors His ideas to help the process move along.

Part 6: Teacher Resources This wraps up the book with a glossary and copies of all of his forms and checklists.

So if you are like me and you enjoy filmmaking with students, this is a definite must have book.

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Leadership Day 2010 - Exploit Their Passions - #edtech #leadershipday10

Today's post is part of the Leadership Day 2010 campaign, a day when bloggers post ideas about how school leaders can advance technology and 21st Century Skills for students and teachers. A How-To Guide To Exploiting Your Teacher's Tech Passions

I believe that one of the most effective ways to get your teachers to embed technology and 21st Century Skills into their lessons and the culture of a school is to find and exploit their technological passions.

Let me explain...

Imagine with me a beginning of the year meeting between a teacher and a principal (minus the chit-chat for brevity):

Principal: Thank you so much for meeting with me. Today I would like to talk about ideas for bringing more tech projects into our school.

Teacher: Okay, great, how can I help?

Principal: Is there anything about technology and teaching that you would like to see in our school?

Teacher: I don't understand?

Principal: Well, is there anything that you like to do with technology, or that you have heard about other schools doing that you would like to try here at our school.

Teacher: I don't know if this is what you are thinking... When I was in college I minored in acting and filmmaking, something I have not thought about for years, but a few months ago when I was watching a few YouTube videos I got a few ideas?

Principal: Ideas?

Teacher: Well, my first idea was about how bad most of the videos were -- from a production and acting point of view. I thought that if only these kids had a few tips about filmmaking and acting, they could do so much better. Tricks that I learned while I was in college. Then I started to think about how my students would love to make videos and put them online, especially for units like the one I teach on the California Gold Rush.

Principal: A video about the California Gold Rush?

Teacher: I imagined that the students could do the research, write a script, and them make a short movie acting out a few scenes from the unit. I think they would have a lot more fun and learn a lot more that filling out the current worksheet.

Principal: What would you need to be able to do this?

Teacher: I think just a cheap Flip video camera and some video editing software.

Principal: Let's give it a try, I think the students will love it. We still need to work out some details like parent permission forms and let's make sure to cover all the 21st Century Skills in the project so we can make it a model projects for other teachers to follow next year. I can use $200 of our tech budget to buy the things that you need and you can take it from there.

Teacher: Wow! That would be great, I'll get started on the lesson plan and rubric right away.


Voila! Happy teacher = happy principal = happy students.

This teacher will now spread his passion for this project to the other teachers in the school, within a few years there could be many great videos being made in this school.

Passion is contagious -- use it.

The Struggle to Find Age Appropriate School Technology Projects

Over the past 12 years of teaching technology to K through 12 students I have learned that they can do amazing things with technology...

  • A second grade student that blogs.
  • A 9 year-old video game designer.
  • A high school freshman who writes and records his own songs.
  • A middle school student with her own webshow and over 5,000 followers.

This list could go on and on.

But the question that haunts me as I design new edtech projects is this, "Just because they can do it, should they do it?

I am sure that if enough time and effort was spent, we could have an eight year-old student do algebra. But why?

The same goes for teaching technology to our students -- do second graders really need to know how to blog or are we just showing off?

My concern is this; There is no doubt that the Internet is a two-sided sword -- being the greatest information source and also a dangerous place that  is not safe for our students. As technology leaders we must be vigilant in our weighing of the risk and reward values of any school technology project we develop.

Take for example the fifth-grade movie project in my school. In this projects the student write, act, direct, and film their own movie. In pre-production the student learn a lot about Internet safety and how by putting this video on YouTube their name and face will now be seen by anyone. We spend a lot of time on ideas like this so that the students understand how to safely put projects online. Guidelines that they use as they publish and post their own future home-made projects online.

Every year when we premiere the movie at the school the younger students want to immediately start working on their own movies, they don't understand that they have to get a little older before you can start making online movies. It is not that they are not capable, it is that they are not mature enough to deal with the online risks.

So the next time you start to develop a new tech lesson please keep in mind the balance of risk and reward with regards to the age of your students, try to make the projects with the lowest risk that offers the highest reward.

Here is the 5th grade movie from this past year...

Students and Technology -- Finding the right fit.

Every Friday some of my 5th grade students put together their own web-show for the school and the 1800+ subscribers we have on iTunes. (Not 180 as Nikki says in the intro)

Although the above video looks fun and natural and you are amazed that it is completely 100% student-made, the truth is that it took us quite a few tries to get it right...

We started the year with wanting to do a Friday show. We tried it pre-recorded and the first episode was over 17 minutes long -- way too long for a school morning show. Plus we had to put in a lot of editing time.

Then we changed the format a little and still it didn't work.

We just kept trying week after week, looking for the right fit for us.

You see, as the adult and teacher, I had a vision of what I wanted the show to look like, even though the kids had no idea what it takes to make a great show. So we just kept trying.

Weeks went by with shows that were okay, but they still were not "it."

We were about six months into the school year when we finally moved things into our little studio (we were shooting in the huge media center) and we went live. Shooting the show live was the best move we made. It really forced the kids to practice and work hard to get it right the first time. Before we would just keep shooting a segment until we got it right -- like 10 takes to get the school lunch segment done. Now we just run with it.

My point is this: as the adults we need to have the vision of what a good quality digital product will look like, we then put together the necessary school technology, provide the training and then keep trying until you can get what works for you and you students. My students know that my bar is high, but I will give them whatever support is needed to help them get there. Never settle for just "okay" when it comes to students and digital products.

Can't wait for summer.

Like many teachers I look forward to my summers off.

Not that I get to go fishing or things like that. Instead, this is when I get to go around the country and talk about school technology. I usually give about four or five different presentations over and over again as I go from district meeting to convention. And although I love to give presentations, there is something more...

What I like most about my summers are the ideas I get.

For example, last summer when I was speaking about student filmmaking, a had a group of tech and media teachers come up to me after the presentation and we started sharing ideas. Things that I had never considered before. We exchanged contact information and to this day we still follow each other's work. In fact, just this week when I posted the 5th grade movie, I got an email from this new friend of mine telling me about how he showed the video to his middle school students and challenged them: "This is being done by elementary students -- you guys can do better!" Which is almost exactly what I told my students a few months ago. "Come on kids, we can beat these middle schoolers."

I am a big believer in the sharing of information, ideas, lesson plans, etc. Which is why I started this blog, I wanted a place for tech and media teachers to get together and find the best practices and ideas for what we do.

I am planning on blogging all summer, but the format will change slightly -- I am mostly going to be focused on workshops. Everything from claymation to macro digital photography.

And one more thing... if I am in your neck of the woods this summer, make sure to stop by and say hello.

Movie Making with Students

Last week we finally wrapped up shooting of our annual 5th grade movie project. The movie project begins with the students having a story writing competition, I they select the best story and the students make a movie based on the story. This year's movie is based on Bobby E.'s story that involves cookies, zombies, and action. Stats: 3 weeks of shooting makes 2 hours of footage which equals a nine minute movie. Check out the bloopers, they are really funny. Just so we are clear about this -- this movie 100% student produced. The only thing done by an adult is the editing.