Thursday, June 5, 2008

Moviemaking Energizes Students

Digital Moviemaking Reinvents Learning in infinite ways. Not only are children as young as third grade easily make movies, but they are also collaborating with peers across the world. Using digital editing tools such as i-Movie, which Jamie Sacharko, demonstrated in our class this week, young children are enamored with making movies.

David S. Gran, a technology specialist, reported in Digital Directions, using i-Movie and Web 2.0 technologies, now as many as 2,600 students and teachers from 40 countries around the world produce collaborative movies. Patricia M. Fuglestad, one of the teachers, commented of her fifth graders: “Complex software is not intimidating to my digital natives….They just need to know where to click.” Citing an example, she referred to three trail-blazing girls who worked on their animated film by drawing "75 frames for their 15-second animation...making one or two frames each day.” She added that digital media creates “a surprising motivation level when it is connected to an authentic audience, even if it requires tedious work.”

Fuglestad reports she that she observes "a consistent spike in student enthusiasm when her students know their work will be shared online….When a group of her 5th graders made a movie called Young Sloppy Brush about a paintbrush that is destroyed in the hands of a careless artist, she tracked the progress of the project on her blog. Fugelstad recalls that on the day the the movie was uploaded, "we had over 800 views.” To help her students understand the extent of their audience, she “printed out a world map and put push pins in places where they received an e-mail or some feedback.” The movie went on to win a top prize at a local film festival and to be entered in three international film festivals. Fugelstad finds moviemaking: “teaches countless interdisciplinary skills....When students make a movie, they learn so much more than the content of the film…They learn to frame a shot, express and capture the appropriate mood from their subject, articulate their words to better communicate, politely critique, work together, take turns, be fair, and share.”

Another teacher, Kristine M. Fontes, who participated in the global moviemaking project, commented that although the moviemaking proces is "complicated, students are eager to learn and often master the software easily....They enjoy the responsibility of creating a project with so many layers and can’t wait to show me their work each day....The entire process is so engaging that it is difficult to get the students to log off their computers and go to lunch.”

Fontes has posted her students work on her website my Web site and burns their movies to a CD for them to keep. She reminds us, “The world is no longer as big as it seems, and their moments of shared creative expression are no longer limited to the four walls” of the classroom.

Use these immediate hyperlinks to view Fuglestad's students'
Young Sloppy Brush, Fugelstad’s blog, and Fontes my Web site, explore. Direct links below connect to the web pages of some of Fontes' students for quick access to their movies. Enjoy.

Island Adventure
Global Warming
Werewolves of London

Let us know how you see the technology and the moviemaking empowering young and older learners alike by engaging them in the learning process and expanding their horizons. What is your response to these new moviemaking forays? Do you believe these kinds of filmmaking experiences belong in the school curriculum?

Source: Ash, K. (2008, June 5). Digital tools cast student moviemakers on a global stage. Digital Dimensions. Retrieved June 5, 2008, from

Image from:


Meg said...

This is a wonderful idea! More schools should offer these types of classes. Not only are students working together, but their is an end product to feel good about. I can definately see where this might be motivating especially for the difficult student.

Colleen M. said...

I think that movie-making is a really good indication of where technology in the classroom is headed. For students to be able to create film is an incredible feat. To think of how technology in film has evolved in the last 100 years and it is phenomenal.
I know at NBHS there is a Film and Literature class where students watch films and read books and analyze how texts are transformed into visual pieces. Discussion often leads to whether or not it is always best for texts to turn into film. Can you imagine if students are able to create their own films based on books (instead of viewing a director's interpretation). I am excited for where this is going and hope the equipment becomes available in schools across the state (both elementary and secondary).

Judy said...

Colleen, Back in the days when I taught high school English, my most exciting projects were moviemaking. Of course, we did not have all the easy-to-use technology tools that exist now, but the students worked well with the equipment and were totally immersed in the learning process. We made both movies and television shows. I am working on a grant now to create a media center at SJC with video-making equipment. In addition, we hope to have a film studio, with the whole 9 yards, of mikes, soundproofing, expert editing equipment, multiple cameras, etc. I hope some of it comes to fruition, if even on a small scale, by fall 2008. I teach a course called Hollywood's Rebels and Justice Seekers, which is primarily a film watching course as opposed to a filmmaking course, but I have dreamed of opportunities to make movies in the course. In fact, I don't even see that as visionary because I was doing that already in my former days as a high school English teacher. The possibilities of making films to enrich the curriculum are endless, and students love the process. It is a real break from the routine work they typically do a school day. The course you desribe at NBHS is similar to another course I taught at the high school level, in which students learn how to analyze the films they watched from multiple perspectives (e.g., theme, directorial style, history of filmmaking).

Colleen said...

I was a Film minor as an undergrad at University of Hartford. The farthest I ever got in "creating" film was a screenwriting class. Your class sounds really interesting. I hope you get the grant, because it would be an amazing opportunity for future SJC students.

Judy said...

Colleen, if you were at a high school with the right equipment, you would get to make films. Yes, mostly what I do at SJC is similar to your experience at U of Hartford; we watch and analyze films for techniques, themes, artistic qualities, etc. The text we use is topnotch, Looking at Movies: An Introduction by Barsam, 2nd edition. Perhaps you used the first edition during your studies at U of Hartford. If you explore my FYS web pages, you will get an idea of the two film courses I have offered at SJC. The first one was "The Silver Screen Comes to the Local Scene," which focuses on films set and filmed in New England that all have coming-of-age themes. When the course moved to an Honors format, I used the theme "Hollywood's Rebels and Social Seekers," with films more cerebral in kind. I had my most enjoyable experiences teaching filmmaking, as opposed to film critique, when I taught 9th grade, which was then part of middle school. The students were totally immersed in the experience. Jamie has lots of good ideas for integrating films into language arts, including using computer tools such as iMovie. If you have a chance, check Karen DiFatta's website. She was a language arts certification student in my class about two years ago. Let me know if you need help finding her site. She used quite a bit of theater and dramatic arts in her site, which might be of interest to Jamie, too.

Judy said...

Colleen, I forgot to mention in my last post, if we get a film studio on campus, we will have education students videotape pratice teaching sessions as well as learn how to use the equipment to consider how they might use it in their teaching.

Jamie Sacharko said...

What I really liked about the article was the fact that the teachers pointed out the fact that despite the sophistication of the programs and amount of time it requires to put one together, students love it and are successful. I'm not quite sure what is so thrilling about the process, because the actual work itself can be so tedious and frustrating when you're trying to get something perfectly in sync..but its something that kids are very drawn to. I know that the first year I try to incorporate it into my classroom (school district willing) will be hard because I will need to figure out all of the areas where very explicit instruction are needed to set up students with the tools to make the movies themselves. It will be useful to create tutorials for use with my lessons, but creating those tutorials can be so incredibly tedious and time consuming as well. With time, I'm excited to see where lessons and units can lead. I'd really like to use it for authentic purposes too, as one of the teachers mentioned in your post. When students see their work posted and viewed by audiences other than their peers and teachers, it motivates them that much more. I'd also like to find ways to use the medium to connect my classrooms to the community.

Its excited. Judy, I want to play in your new studio when you get it. :-P