10 Ways to Help Students Create Quality Video and Audio Productions

Picture by: totton.ac.uk

I shied away from tech productions projects. I was a scaredy-cat. Why? Whenever I gave my students a video project, the products demonstrated fun and engagement, but little learning. I needed to learn how to help students create quality productions.

Over the past three years, I’ve discovered a system that helps me help students create media productions that demonstrate quality writing and subject-matter learning.

1. Begin the year by having students practice with presentation formats. I resisted this for a number of years, believing that everything students did with technology should be done in the context of content learning. I now believe that 95% of what students do with technology should be in the context of content learning. The other 5%? Practice in order to become familiar with formats. Students begin by re-creating a 17-second iMovie. Then, they make a podcast using a picture book. Finally, they set up basic Google sites that will be used for learning logs and electronic portfolios. The practice time early in the year saves lots of time later.

2. Focus on content before production. Instead of starting a lesson with “We’re going to make an iMovie about…”, begin with “We want to communicate to the audience [insert purpose of the presentation]. The end product may be a podcast or a video or an eBook…but we will decide that once we’re crystal clear about what we want to say.” Good writing is key. Colleen Cruz writes about how to manage multiple student writing projects, putting content before presentation.

3. Honor what your students already know. Classrooms often have “experts” in different types of media productions. They might have worked on YouTube videos at home. Former teachers might have taught them basics of Garage Band or Google sites. Capitalize on students’ knowledge. Have a “class expert” wall so that students know who to go to with technical questions.

4. Help students critically evaluate media. The web is now full of examples of student video productions. I guide the class to two or three examples of sites and of productions (some good, some not-so-good). As they watch, students think about and respond to the following questions: What was the purpose of the site? The particular production? Do the purposes match? Do they communicate the intended message? What compliments would you give them? If you could give one suggestion, what would it be? Then, teach students to ask the same critical questions of their own productions.

5. Plan separate lessons for photography/videography. When you have a few extra minutes of transition time, teach students about good photography/videography. What makes a good picture? What happens when you point a camera toward a window? Students are allowed “press passes” cameras and videocameras when I know they can get footage efficiently. Students should know they can trim out blunders later. They also need to know exactly what footage they want to get and how long it will take them to get that footage.

6. Keep groups small. Only one or two people can effectively edit at any given time. If students are working in larger groups, help them break the project into smaller tasks. Two students can be editing video while two other students are practicing vocal fluency for the audio portion of the production. The pairs can then switch.

7. Continually ask students What is your purpose? and Who is your audience? Yes, those are writing questions, but tech productions are writing pieces.

8. When technical issues arise, ask students What do you know?What do you need to know?, and Where might you go to find that answer? Those are my math problem-solving questions. Truthfully, I’m not a techie. I can answer some questions, but not the complicated ones. I am good at using the little “help” key at the top of most programs. I’m also good at Googling questions. I want to teach students to do the same.

9. Openly and frequently show appreciation for your school tech experts. Students should email thank-yous with statements of specific things they learned and will remember in the future.

10. Celebrate with Academy Award Ceremonies. It sounds silly, but following parent night, the principals enter the classroom in fancy clothes to regally announce awards for Best Script, Best, Video Footage, Creative Screenplay, Best Audio, Best Picture, and whatever else I can think of to complement quality work.

What do you do to help ensure quality productions?

11 thoughts on “10 Ways to Help Students Create Quality Video and Audio Productions

  1. Hi expat from a fellow one myself!

    “10. Celebrate.” – I’m with you 100% Celebrating real learning is so darn critical. I love metacognition!

    Anyhow, I’m just starting a ustream.com club and will heed your advice as we get ready to broadcast live every tournament we host this year. Big undertaking, and off we go!

      • Janet,

        Well, I use a very simple ‘star mastery’ system to mark achievement. They are die-cut stars that I put on a gigantic cork board. Very neutral. Same with the system I use to reflect. The students write goals on ‘leaves’ that are then put onto a ‘tree’, all die-cut. When a student makes a goal, they get an ‘apple’ that represents their fruit of their labor. On it, they write how they were successful.

        This is for my math class, not yet for my club. However, I expect that I’ll invent some sort of achievement mark for the club. As well as to give students titles of expert or something. Its all still so new, so I have yet to develop something.

        Do you do something in your corner of the world that might be a little more exciting than construction paper?

        I went ahead and wrote a post about the club on my blog, and I was thinking of your number 3 for sure and how that fits socially with the student population vs. when I went to school.

        • Thanks, Jim. I really like the “fruit of your labor” idea. I often ask students the question, “What are you working on as a reader/writer…?” I haven’t had a way to formalize students’ successes in the goals they set for themselves.

          In the past, we set up a dragon’s head and tail in the hallway outside of the classroom. We’d “catch” students doing something good [or students would “catch” each other doing something good. The deed was then written on an oval piece of construction paper. The collection of ovals became scales for the body of the dragon. A scale might say, “Amy got caught for spending her recess helping a friend with her Google site.”

          We stopped because the “You got caught”s became too generic: “So-and-so was caught being a good friend.”

          I could use your “fruits” idea and combine it with the dragon idea. Students show courage to make personal goals. Those goals are posted as a part of the dragon’s body. When students achieve a goal, they can mark it with a star or something.

          I think I’ll bring the idea up at our next team meeting :).

          When I typed in ustream.com, I was rerouted to http://www.ustream.tv/. Let me know how your project goes.

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  4. Celebration is so important I agree! Love the idea of the principal dressing up and handing out awards! A great teacher I worked with also used red bulletin board paper for her read carpet and served popcorn! Thanks for the ideas!

    • Very much my pleasure. Right now I’m planning a celebration for the ends of lots of units. Students LOVE sharing their work :).

      For our poetry cafe, I’m hoping parents will come and share some of their writing :).

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