Monday, March 12, 2012

Movie-Making in the Classroom

Whoa! Has it really been this long since my last blog! I need to work harder to become a consistent blogger!

I am here because I wanted to share with people the project that has just finished with my grade 7 class (and also because I am doing my Additional Qualification Course for Technology in the classroom, part 2, and it requires me to start a blog - I already have a blog, but haven't updated it!).

Anyway, the project that I am doing with my class is a movie making unit. We had a budget of $4000 to spend on technology in our school, and it was agreed upon that it would be great to spend it on a kit that students could use to make movies. I purchased 6 Toshiba laptops with Windows Movie Maker, 4 Canon digital cameras and 4 microphones (although as of writing, the microphones haven't arrived, and students had to use the internal mics!), the idea being that next year we could perhaps buy another 2 cameras/mics to complete the set.

Students had just finished a project that was initiated by an awesome volunteer teacher who has been team-teaching with me for the last 5 months. She had my students make and publish their own 'Fractured Fairy Tales', using the movie 'Hoodwinked' as the starting off point. It got me thinking about a next step for this project, something that would be really nice for the run in until March break, where the students could demonstrate their learning in a fun way. I decided that the students would choose groups and pick one of the fractured fairy tales from their group and make a movie trailer on it. It ended up being 6 groups, varying in sizes from two students to 6 students. I wanted to make sure that everyone had some kind of role to play in the movie making process, so I went through a series of lessons talking about storyboarding and camera angles, music and sound effects, hair and make-up, costumes and sets, editing and promoting. I decided to focus one two main ideas while doing this project: summarizing and procedural writing.

Students were to complete their scripts and storyboards before they even thought about using the laptops and cameras, along with costumes and sets. From the very outset, the engagement of the class was phenomenal! My class has a few very disengaged students, so to see everyone of them being this engaged was very encouraging. In their groups they set about drawing their storyboards, writing their scripts and designing their sets and costumes. Some even researched hair and make-up, designing a portfolio of designs that they felt comfortable in making and then handing them out to the groups with the instructions "if you want your characters to look like this in your movie, then we can make it happen!".

Once all the paperwork was completed and the directors had collated all this work into a nice portfolio, they were to show the work to the volunteer teacher and I and then they were allowed to be let loose onto the equipment! They worked from their shot lists and location sheets to better utilize their time around school, and came back into class to save their shots before lunch every day. (I should also point out here that two groups wanted to work outside of school, and because I wasn't willing for any of them to take the equipment with them home, they decided that they would use there own recording devices. One was the new I-phone, the other was the new PSVita, which worked out nicely because now every group had one camera and one laptop to work with). They would shoot scenes from different angles, with different actions in it.

While this happened, a couple of students would be inside at the laptops editing the videos into something that looked like a trailer! While one was cutting scenes together, another would be cutting music together, either by creating their own music, or by using copyright free music (from sites such as They had the last bit of the week to bring it all together, whether it was to complete last minute re-shoots, add in a bit of music, type in some titles to make it come together to make sense and to publish it. While some were a little abstract (!), on the whole the trailers were amazing, and it led to some great conversations about how their trailer summarized the story, what's missing and what's working.

The only difficulty we had was that sometimes a video wouldn't be recognized on the laptops. This was either because some students had worked at home with a different version of Windows Movie Maker, or the I-pad/PSVita wouldn't save the files into the correct format. I would like to say that I jumped in and saved the day, but I can't, the students themselves figured out how to reformat the clips to work in WMM.

I have seen all but one of the trailers now. The one I am waiting for, I kind of knew would be a tough time frame for the students to get in on time. This was because the group decided to produce a claymation trailer. The amount of work they put into it, I knew that they would need a bit more time to get it done. I have to be honest, I can't wait to see it, because the sets and models they made looked fantastic!

All-in-all, a great exercise, and was probably one of the best projects I've done that had such an amazing level of student engagement.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Hi! Welcome to my blog. I've decided to start a blog to share with you my experiences of trying to get technology into the classroom, what has worked, and what hasn't and why.

To start of with, here's a little intro:

I teach grade 7 language, math, science (for the first time!), history, geography and drama at a 7-8 school in the TDSB. I have been teaching there for the last 6 years. I’m from Wales and I taught high school in the UK for a couple of years before that.

I have been a teacher/librarian for the last 4 years, and that has necessitated my voyage into technology.
This year I wanted a change for various reasons, frustration being a main one (I'll probably deal with that in a later blog!). But when I started I knew nothing about technology, my board e-mail being the height of my tech know-how! That changed when I went to the York University ABEL summer institute, and I was introduced to Moodle - and it was all systems go from there.

I took the Pearson Publishing grade 7 history/geography textbook and converted it into the Moodle. It took me about 6 weeks during the summer, for about 4 - 6 hours a day, but when I introduced it to the kids, they loved it! As more and more teachers started to ask questions and ask for help to set up there own Moodles, I was eventually asked to run a few workshops for the TDSB. I said sure, and then teachers started to ask if they could use my Moodle, again, I said sure. Then I realised that I was in breach of copyright laws - I hadn’t asked Pearson for permission!

I’m starting to ramble now, so I’ll cut a long story short - I asked Pearson to come in, they saw my Moodle, loved it and asked if I wanted to be a tester for their new technology innovations, which I jumped at. I still do the testing for them! And now I’m running my own workshops for Moodle at the ABEL summer institute!

Over the past 4 years I have used quite a bit of technology, such as SmartBoards, Twiducate, PollEverywhere, iGoogle, DropBox, Podcasts, Prezi, BitStrips. I have been using cell phones in my classroom for the last year, and my new favourites for this year, Edmodo, MangaHigh, SpellingCity and ClassDojo.