" UndoDog: Reflections on the Fifth Grade Movie Project

Friday, June 19, 2009

Reflections on the Fifth Grade Movie Project

I have been so impressed with the fifth grade movie work this year. We haven't had enough time together, and I've had to rush them a lot, but many have chosen to come in early or during recess, and their hard work really shows. (Wish I could show some here, but a) didn't do permission slips and b) didn't have time for them to cite their image sources)

A couple more new things I tried this year (in addition to the new planning elements):
1) Incorporating real video with the zooming and panning of still images
Most video sharing sites are blocked at school, and it can be incredibly time-consuming to find the right bit of video within a longer clip, so I told students that all they had to do was write me a note or email requesting a particular kind of video clip (eg. someone making sushi, golden retrievers fetching, Ozzy Osbourne playing Crazy Train) and I would get it for them. This turned out, not surprisingly, to be a lot of work, but so worth it. It brought a whole new element into the project--both technically and artistically. It was too bad that only about 20% of kids opted to use video, but if everyone had I don't think I would have been able to collect it all.

This brings up the question of sustainability in designing a technology curriculum. I can't count on other teachers wanting to spend 8 hours a week at home doing prep work for a particular project, which makes the project not duplicatable at that level. If I want to share this work out in a way that others can try it, it also has to work without these elements. In this case I think it does, but I also thought the movies that mixed video and still images with voice-over were much more effective.

Here's the example I made for them. Some of the still images and the music are copyrighted, but I'm claiming fair use here:

2) Having kids take control of recording their voice-overs.
We use the built-in iMac microphones, which are nondirectional and record all ambient sound, which doesn't work well in a collaborative classroom setting. In the past, I've had kids come up during recess to record voice-overs for their movies, but since they get only 20 minutes a day for recess and they understandably value this time a lot, and I have 120-150 fifth graders, this meant not very many kids got to record. This year, I started out having kids record during class and I would get the room quiet for each student before they started recording, but it didn't take long for me to realize that they were capable of doing that for themselves. It was so satisfying to hear kids independently calling out "quiet on the set!" before and "clear!" after recording, and negotiating with each other so that everyone had a chance to record. I'm considering using this strategy in combination with a good usb mic next year.

How this project will evolve next school year depends on whether I'm able to have the fifth grade for the whole year. It was such a disappointment to have to rush this project and not to get to the "I Have a Dream" GarageBand remix project. Another semester would allow us to reflect and talk more about what we're learning, to collaborate and share work in progress, and to do research, which (in addition to its inherent value) would give kids more possibilties when choosing topics.

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