Measuring success

3rd September 2004 at 01:00
Diving into digital video work is the easy bit, but how do you evaluate it? Vivi Lachs gives some helpful pointers

It's one thing to do the work, it's another to evaluate it. Making digital movies is a collaborative task, and when we ask students to collaborate we are asking them to develop their understanding in company with their fellow students.

We are giving them some of the teacher's role. The evaluation therefore needs to be twofold: group evaluation where all group members are evaluated as equal; and individual evaluation to display their personal understanding of the subject.

So for a project where students create multimedia including digital video, there needs to be creative solutions to evaluation that will not mean ticking boxes, but will give a clear idea of what the students have learned. As with all work, original aims and objectives need to be matched against what the students display in terms of understanding.

The examples of evaluation described here encourage students to pull together ideas they have learned and display what they know, which will draw them further into the subject.

Evaluation through questions

To ask suitable questions, material needs to be familiar. Asking students to ask questions encourages them to cut through to the most important aspects of a subject, and by the type of questions they ask, throws light on what they know.

In a Year 8 citizenship project on fair trade for example, students working at Hackney's Highwire City Learning Centre created web pages with videos, sound files and text of characters' stories, role-played interviews and demonstrations. They debated the complexity of the issues rather than choosing simple reactions to materials they encountered.

One evaluation lesson required students to ask the questions rather than simply giving answers. They were asked to think back to the beginning of the project and imagine coming across their completed websites. What questions would they have for the authors?

Although they were working in pairs, students had to write their own questions and then swap them with another pair who worked out how they would answer them. When this was completed, the class was asked what they still wanted to know. This gave an indication of what students understood and gave the teacher an opportunity to develop the work further.

A second example of students being asked to use a question format was a Year 10 science project where groups created multimedia web pages including digital video on different aspects of the biology unit "supplying the cell". After completing the work, students were asked to make a worksheet of up to 10 questions for their classmates.

They had to view their own web pages and review the subject matter, deciding what were the most important things to know. The students shared what they had done by viewing each other's work, essentially teaching each other using the worksheets.

Evaluation through defending work

When classes have done the research to create a video, there is then the opportunity for them to defend their position.

For example, a class of 12 GCSE politics students made digital video party political broadcasts on behalf of the three major parties. The videos included interviews, role-plays and attempts to persuade their viewers. The authors then defended their policies in a version of Question Time. In each group, students took responsibility for a particular policy area. The stage was set with a studio audience from another class and a second audience video-conferenced from another school.

Each group in turn sat around the table with the Question Time host (the teacher) and showed their party political broadcast projected on to a large screen. They then answered questions from the audiences. Students were reminded that they had to look united as a party and be clear on their policies. This meant that although they had their own policy area, if someone else was struggling to answer a question, they should support each other. Thus the teacher could judge not only how well a student had understood the material, but also how, under pressure, students were able to work as a group.

Evaluation through a video diary

Video diaries are a useful way for students to mull over what they have learned. This can be done as a three-minute slot at the end of sections of work, either as a group or individually. The teacher can then see the students' development of ideas through the project.

You may notice that some of these examples of evaluation make little use of the digital technologies. In fact, these ideas for assessment could be used for almost any unit of work.

The reason is simple, the video authoring became integrated into curriculum work as a tool for learning. The more integrated the use of digital video becomes, the more clearly the evaluation should be focused on the content.

The more successful this style of learning becomes, the more essential will be the use of digital video.

Lesson ideas

Disseminating digital video work

* Using any digital video editing package with the raw footage will take gigabytes of disk space so it will need to be compressed into a format that is manageable. Digital videos can be exported into a number of different formats and sizes and you will need to experiment with your particular software to decide which one you require.

Students' copies

* If you want students to have copies of the videos for their records or to take home, you can export the videos as small email files. If the students don't have the capacity in their email you can put them in a larger format on a CD-Rom. If the work is not simply a video but a multimedia web page, it can go on to a CD-Rom as well as the school website.

Showing a class or an assembly

* Every time you transfer data or export to a different format, you lose quality, so you want to do this as little as possible. For the best quality you can export your completed video back onto digital tape and then show it either in a video player that will take small digital tapes or projected from a computer. Second best, transfer the material from the digital tape to a VHS video and show it on any video player. Again, if the digital video is an integrated part of a web page, you will need to project from your computer.

Showing a wider audience

* Video sits very happily on web pages and can be exported as small web movies. These can also be web-streaming movies, which means that you begin to watch the movie while it is downloading.

Vivi Lachs is the curriculum director of Highwire, Hackney CLC,, and the author of Making Multimedia in the Classroom published by RoutledgeFalmer

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