Saturday, May 23, 2009

My FLIPn Brilliant Students

... it's the 'process' of learning, not the 'product' that counts? Above: Behind the scenes ... Access Level 3 ESL students prepare for the big shoot

There's been a bit of discussion in the last couple of weeks about making movies in class - and out of class - using the FLIP.

The discussion seems to have spread across forum postings, blog entries and various replies so here's a quick re-hash of what we've been discussing (for those who haven't followed):

The FLIP is a tool no bigger than a mobile phone that anyone can learn to operate in a jiffy. Point and shoot, 'flip up' the USB connector and plug in to your computer. The editing software bundled on the camera automatically loads onto your computer along with your grabs ... you're trimming, and saving and sewing your bits and pieces into a movie before Bob's your uncle! The interface is simple, elegant, intuitive.

Above: Screen dump showing 'grabs' and menu with options for making a movie, a greeting card, uploading to the internet, saving to disk and DVD, etc.

Save the movie to disk (.wma you can play in Windows Media Player or as a DVD) and burn multiple copies for students to take home. You can also convert your movie effortlessly into a file type appropriate for YouTube or another hosting service if you want your product out in the ether. So, so simple - really!

Ps. I was relieved to discover that you can upload to YouTube and select Private viewing as an option as opposed to allowing your video to be Viewed by Everyone.The clip above cannot be publically viewed (unless I embed it on a universally viewable page).

Wayne and his students use Windows Movie Maker (on nearly all Windows Computers) to do the editing but I found using the latest FLIPshare software ( easier by far. I am sure using the FLIPshare software would also be much more manageable and enjoyable for most students to learn. There are 4 easy steps : drag and drop grabs into a sequence, add a TITLE, add CREDITS ... and click FINISH to make your movie. I wonder o0 (Who wants to clunk around anything made by Microsoft when there are simpler and more elegant solutions on offer?) Then again, Junita's students might be more demanding and want more complex effects etc for their Vampire movie, so I guess you've got to wrap your head around teaching a more sophisticated editing program?

Above: Editing within the FLIPshare program ... is extremely easy

I suppose how deeply you go into the movie making depends on who your students are and what the purpose of your activity is. For me its the enhancement of basic language and literacy skills, having students feel confident and proud of their English (expressing themselves in an L2 is an area of great personal anxiety for many students). I'm also interested in encouraging cooperation, learning and creative activity as a group. The finished media product is something my students can also feel proud of and that they can own. The quality of the end product isn't something that worries me too much - but I think the videos so far have been gems.

My ESL and Computer students scripted, shot and largely edited their own movie on Thursday. Three other classes have also made movies in the last fortnight, albeit with much more help from me. It's early days and we need more FLIP cameras and more practice but 'technically' I don't see that I'll have too many problems.

The challenges associated with incorporating new technologies into the classroom haven't changed. It's not the technology per se that is usually the problem, it's everything else around its use that becomes a challenge. It was the preparation, the assignment of roles, the storyboarding, scripting and rehearsing that needed close attention. Then again, I didn't want to kill my students' enthusiasm or dominate. The group was making something of their own, so I knew I also needed to be balanced in my approach and let go a little without allowing the project to go off the rails.

The teacher as director, advisor, conductor? This the area where she is invaluable. She stages and scaffolds, questions and corrects, gives advice, makes sure everyone is involved, cycles students through roles and responsibilities in the production chain and editing process. She needs to know what she is doing in the first place, she needs to keep the project on track, not allow production to drag, to pace the students and make sure the job gets done.

Do you agree? Or can the process be more 'free form' than that (depending on who the students are)? The pedagogical procedure of organising and staging, demonstrating and getting students to move towards independent competence is nothing new - interesting, however, the way the same questions, the same pedagogical issues keep popping up (at least for me).

I wonder o0( is my project now evolving towards the use of video as well as audio in the ESL classroom?) Looks like it.

A lot has been happening on VOXOPOP as well within the Talkgroups. I've been experimenting with role plays between students that seems to have gone well. Also using the discussion to assess some of my Level 2 students (See the PAYING BILLS AT THE POST OFFICE discussions) and I've been heartened by students making voice contributions from home. We've even had one or two blow-ins from Nepal leaving contributions. There's also been Eurovision this week and students voting via Micropoll (see my ESL blog page) ... of course Norway deserved to win! Can't get that cheesy, charming ditty out of my head.

There's so much more to explore both in the area of audio and video. Will keep plugging away.

Enjoying the Circles of Classroom practice greatly and the weekly blogging provides a good opportunity for focus and reflection.

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