School Technology Myth #2: Young Students Can't _______

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I get this one a lot when I am working with schools on trying to get more tech projects incorporated into the academic planning...
Young students can’t blog.

Young students can’t podcast.

Young students can’t make movies.

etc. etc. etc.

The truth is they can.

But does this mean that we throw the idea of doing age-appropriate lessons out the window? No, of course not. We do not ask a second grader to blog the same way that we would ask a high school senior, but they both can blog.

When I first started to do movie making with my fourth and fifth grade students, many of my colleagues thought I was crazy. And perhaps I was, but I at least wanted to give it a try. So I started with the idea of how could I make movie making age-appropriate for my young students? And how could I do it with just a few pieces of inexpensive equipment? Since I knew nothing about movie making, I studied the Video Storytelling Guide on Atomic Learning. Now I knew about shots, audio, and filmmaking.

I only had a Flip video camera for my first elementary student-made movie, so I knew right then that I would be restricted with the type of filming they could do. The Flip had no zoom lens or external microphone jack, so they would have to just move the camera a lot to get the shots that we wanted, especially knowing that the built-in mic was only good for a few feet. We also had a simple light kit that was made with reflectors that we got from our local home improvement store. That was it for equipment.

The next thing I did was to sit down with the students to get the outline for the movie. The students had been studying dramatic writing so they knew all about how to tell a good story with a beginning, a middle and an end. Since we knew the limitation of our equipment we decided on a few rules:

1) It had to be shot in the school. We had no money to go somewhere else to shoot. 2) Any dialogue would have to be done using a close-up shot so that our audio would be good. 3) All the shots would have to be simple, static shots. We would avoid panning or tilting the camera.

Soon we had our movie outline and script, so we were now able to start shooting. We broke the script down into a shot list and from there we started to shoot. One of the funny things that we didn’t see coming was that the actors had to remember to where the same clothes every Wednesday so that the shots would match.

We shot Wednesdays after school for about 5 weeks. In the end we had over an hour of footage for our seven minute movie. Editing took a little work; as it turns out, young students want to keep everything -- they don’t want to edit anything out. The solution was to allow them to make a blooper reel. This allowed them to put the very best parts in the movie and then all the mess-ups and mistakes were for the blooper reel. The students were only allowed to use simple transitions and a few effects, so after another two weeks of editing we were done.

Both the students and myself were amazed at how well the movie turned out.

Dude! Where’s my pencil?

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