I did this activity with A-level media studies students using basic DVD-writer software and a DVD digital camera.
I filmed around the school and edited the footage into a three-minute sequence, focusing on one or two pupils and incidents. For example, I filmed the lunch queue, a girl sitting alone on a bench, and action on the field.
I created two separate sequences with the same footage, but using different soundtracks. I made an "ambient" version, using an instrumental piece by William Orbit, and an "in-your-face" version with a Guns 'n' Roses track.
Then I wrote a questionnaire asking: "What is the mood of the piece?", "How fast is the editing?", "What kinds of 'characters' are presented?", "How is the setting represented?", "What does it make you think about school life?"
I split the class into two groups and sent one away while the remaining group watched the "ambient" version and answered the questions. Then they went away and the other group watched the "in-your-face" version and filled in the questionnaire.
Finally, the class came together to discuss their views on the footage. In the "ambient" version the school was seen as idealistic and dream-like, while in the other version it was seen as rebellious and out of control. A girl in the footage was seen by the first group as introspective, worried and a loner, while the other group saw her as an aggressive rebel staring confidently at the camera. The editing was seen as slow in the first version, but jerky and fast in the second.
The groups couldn't believe their differing views, even when I told them they had heard different soundtracks. When the groups watched the version they had not seen, they were stunned and able to appreciate the impact music had on moving images. It has worked far better than showing a cinema clip, no matter how emotive its soundtrack.
Jonathan Deakin, media studies teacher, Helsby High School, Cheshire