Video Storytelling Transformed My Classes
As teachers, we all model skills, assignments, and behaviors for our students. Here is a video introduction, using Apple Clips.
Before we talk about how Clips has become a fantastic tool for video storytelling, I want to share just a little bit about myself. I teach in one of the largest and most diverse schools in the New York City area, New Rochelle High School. I think it is important that people know that for the past 16 years I have been a General Ed English teacher in a somewhat traditional English department. In fact, if you walked by my classroom before my video storytelling program, you would have seen ninth graders in rows. I was obsessed with order, and I hated group work. I would do it because I had to, but I always found it loud and pointless. Secretly to myself, I would say what the kids would say, “When am I ever going to stand around and talk about this stuff.”
Example Student “Walkout” Video
My program started five years ago with what I call the “Poem Project.” I got the idea to explore famous poetry using video storytelling, and I created the program for all the wrong reasons. I thought if I could make it work I would get out of teaching ninth grade students. I proposed this idea of video storytelling using iOS devices, not even knowing if it was possible, and my administration loved it. There was one catch; they wanted me to create this program as an alternative option for an existing ninth grade class. I had a principal who used to say, “You wanted the dog. We bought the dog. Walk the dog.” This was my walk the dog moment. So I began the next school year with 28 ninth graders and 5 iPads. And I had to teach students all the same topics and skills the other students were learning, but I had to do it with video storytelling. I was shocked when that year became one of the most transformative years of my career. Sometimes people walk by my classroom and comment on my film class, and I have to remind them that what they are looking at is an English class.
Let’s look at just one of my student’s projects, created with Clips. And it was a simple assignment. Students had to record an assigned poem, and they had to keep recording until enough students in the class believed that the student recording understood what he or she was saying. Here is an example of this assignment with Shakespeare’s “My Mistress’ Eyes Are Nothing Like The Sun.”
Sample Project Video
One of the mistakes people make when considering video storytelling is the belief that it is movie making. This assignment “My Mistress’ Eyes…” is a very simple video storytelling assignment that can be used in any class. The simple act of recording something as written to demonstrate understanding. The poem could be substituted with any content, such as vocabulary words, steps in a process, an article, etc. In my assignment, I had the simplest task. Each student had to record him or herself and show the video to a group of peers, and they could not submit a video for grading until they demonstrated an understanding of each word said. And as students worked, it was amazing to see them recognize how even though they say something out loud, it doesn’t mean they are communicating their intent. And, the number of students who openly admitted that they actually did not understand something was amazing. For example, with this assignment I would say, your classmates think you don’t understand the word “demask’d,” and they would go… “Yeah. You’re right.” And the amazing thing is that I would never have to teach it, because once the students had this moment of self-revelation and even self-acceptance they would go off and look all the words up themselves. I asked a student once why he would say something out loud and on video, if he did not understand what he was saying. He responded, “Because it is what my teachers expect me to do.” As I dug down, I began to realize that he was ashamed to share that he did not know the meaning and that he did not want to let me down.
This student, like so many, wanted me to be proud and wanted my approval. Video storytelling began to make it easier to explore the content and help students develop new ways to approach that content. Video is a powerful tool that encourages student self-reflection. What has been amazing is asking students to watch their work back. One question I always have students answer is, “What is a piece of criticism that is irrational or unnecessary?” When students reflect on themselves and their work it impacts their self-image. I have been amazed at how this type of exploration has impacted their self-esteem. It is a natural byproduct of this type of creativity. And it is a very comfortable way for students and teachers to approach sometimes sensitive topics.
This simple assignment has transformed the way my students were working. Once students had recordings the students were happy with, they used Clips to edit each video together, and I had them prepare Keynote presentations to accompany their poems, where they explored all the topics, such as literary elements and writing rules, and we took these presentations and sent them to teachers in our school. All of a sudden, my class was all group work all the time, and I loved it. Video Storytelling gave the work purpose, and I assigned each student a job, such as director, or editor, or writer, jobs that were catered to their strengths. What has been awesome about switching over to Clips is that the work they were doing is now easier than ever to produce, and the built-in features allow students to produce polished final products in little to no time. And while so many students feel compelled to airdrop footage to be edited on a computer, students now realize that they never need to leave their iOS devices to create a well crafted and sophisticated final video. Because Clips makes the format and form so easy, students can focus on content. By making design choices easy, students don’t spend an unnecessary amount of time on form, and content is able to be the true star of your lesson.
So what message would I want you to talk away from this? I hope you take a chance. One thing I will say is that it is always scary in the beginning. And honestly, I had to learn that sometimes my students knew more than I did. I think the biggest fear I had was that I had to be an expert. I just need to provide the basics and opportunity, and the students brought a set of skills that are so much a part of their everyday lives. Once I did it once, it was easier each time I revisited the concept. Video storytelling, and now video storytelling through Clips is an exciting way for any teacher to transform how students explore content.