Saturday, December 7, 2013

Students as Producers of Media, Not Just Consumers

Watch this wonderful news report here!

So, each school year I like to choose an area in which to try something new in my classrooms.  Something that's a challenge and could go really wrong . . . or really right.  This year it's multi-media student productions - primarily video.  I guess I am so drawn to this because I see our world as increasingly media/information oriented.  We all know that our students are rabid consumers of media - the good, the bad and the ugly.  I think it's awesome, because I see my students guiding much of their own learning by following the information threads that interest them most.

But I don't want my students to only be consumers of information - I want them to produce it as well.  The internet is a beautiful things because it's two-way, unlike television.  That means young people can contribute to the intellectual conversations that are happening in cyberspace - whether social, political, literary, scientific, anything!  If the days of textbook head-filling are really gone, then we need to begin to see students (and ourselves) as the producers of intellectual media.  (For more on this idea, see Douglas Rushkoff's book Program or be Programmed.

And it's become so much easier to do because the cost of the technology has gone down while the quality has gone up.  All the tools are accessible to many schools.  What are the hurdles?  For me they were 1) a lack of personal facility with video equipment and editing software and 2) the ubiquitous lack of time in every teachers schedule.

The latter I dealt with by making the uncomfortable decision to let go of a little of my Must-Cover-Lots-of-Content mindset.  That's a topic for another blog post.

The former I dealt with by signing up for a summer teacher workshop called Using Video Production in Your Classroom, run by the local treasure RETN (Regional Educational Television Network).  The five-day course gave me the skills and the confidence and, more than that, the flame under my butt to really go for it this year.  Wonderfully, RETN also loans equipment for free to teachers who have been trained through them.  Bonus!

I decided to make my 9th grade students my guinea pigs.  Our first project: The Odyssey Video Project.  I learned that the students would be reading Homer's Odyssey in their Language Arts class, so I decided they would explore some aspect of the historicity of the epic tale.  We created groups of 2-3 and I set the students loose to begin researching and identifying the focus of their video project.

I'll get more in to the process of the project in my next post, but for now here is the result: a playlist of 6 videos of varying degrees of quality from my 9th grade students!  Please watch and post any feedback to me.

The other "create media" projects this year have been blog curation by my seniors in Ecological Economics, and podcast production by both seniors and 9th graders.  More on those later as well!


  1. I thought the student videos were very nicely done! (I didn't watch all of them- but I did watch three). They definitely explain their position and do a nice job providing evidence for their claims. The video quality was great- hopefully the time commitment wasn't too great. I've found as students do more work with video, each time the relative time commitment decreases as the process becomes more streamlined and students have a better understanding of what they need to complete.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Ben. This was a first attempt, so I'm hoping our future work is a bit more efficient. My sense, though, is that, like any creative work, video simply takes time. It's hard to take shortcuts - and as a teacher you wouldn't necessarily want to since so much of the learning happens as students struggle through the process. I've just had to decide that it's worth the class time!