Shooting a breeze

14th May 2004 at 01:00
Jack Kenny visits the Apple Teacher Institute and gets fired up about support for digital video in the classroom

Want to hit curriculum targets without boring your pupils? Using digital video (DV) with children can be one of the most exciting and rewarding curriculum activities. It can also be hard and tedious; in fact, tedium and excitement usually go together in this kind of work. After finishing a short animation, one pupil described it as back-breaking work.

Nobody will go in for back-breaking work unless there are rewards. The biggest reward is that children love making video. And when you look at the work of gifted teachers you wonder how they have managed to blend video activities with the curriculum.

Joanne Murray, a teacher at Cookstown Primary School, Northern Ireland, started her video with her literacy work in mind and she is confident that she has covered many of the literacy targets (see today's TES Teacher magazine). Michael Keenan from St Austins in Liverpool also insists that his video work has deepened his understanding of literacy because it has a context.

Creating video gives pupils a long-term satisfaction rather than a short-term high. Joanne Murray is insistent that training and meticulous planning is essential. Joanne attended a British Film Institute course and was assisted by an advisory teacher from Northern Ireland's C2K organisation. You can pick up a great deal from books and videos but a day's training can save hours.

Capturing the scenes with the camera is the easy part: the hard part is the editing. Getting your head around at least one digital video-editing program is crucial. The programs in themselves are not that difficult; once you have learnt one you will easily be able to pick up another. They all let you move the video from the camera into the computer. They all split video up into clips, splicing each time you stopped and started the video recorder. You can then pull down the clips to the editing time-line, trim them and arrange them into the sequence you want them to play. You can also choose how you want to move from clip to clip. Then all you have to do is add the music and edit the sound.

One of the best ways of learning how to use digital video is at an Apple Teacher Institute. The process of working with others can be more important than the results. If you believe in learning by doing there is no better place to be than one of these courses that take place regularly across the UK.

The most recent four-day course at Cheltenham college, Learning in a Digital World, concentrated on the creative aspects of the Apple software suite iLife. Teachers impaled for weeks on end on the demands of the curriculum learnt to think, unwind and create for themselves. The tutors are Apple Distinguished Educators, all of them working in schools or with teachers, and they soon had the course seething with ideas.

Especially popular this year was the work that Oscar Stringer and Barbara Ainscough were doing with animation. Oscar believes that animation is particularly suitable for the classroom and by the end of the course everyone who had worked with him agreed. "It is a great activity for getting kids to work together, to discuss, to share their ideas creatively," argues Oscar. "It is good for kids who are shy, who do not shine in drama-based activities. It uses a mixture of manual activities and traditional skills all mixed with ICT. It also introduces the basics of movie-making: editing and telling a story with pictures. What teachers love about it is that the kids are being creative as well as very focused. If they are doing an animation about bullying then they talk about the issues as they plan and work on the film."

iMovie was at the heart of the conference and easier to use than ever in its latest version. If editing video is something that every child should experience then this is one of the most pleasant ways to introduce it.

Everybody was soon up to speed at adding sound and transitions. By the third evening we had perfected our videos and transferred them to either CD or DVD. The main hall at the college filled for the show, and for the next three hours our work baffled, amused, intrigued and rocked the audience.

However, the real question is: how much of all the learning and training will be transferred back to the classroom?


* Scripting, story-boarding and planning are important

* Video plenty of material; shape it by editing

* Use DV to create resources you can use in class

* Use an interactive whiteboard for class editing

* Think of editing transitions in terms of punctuation Activities

* Present different views of the same material by cutting and editing

* Make short animations

* Capture an experiment

* Make a silent movie sequence, with the images telling the story

* Capture special events

* Create a video sequence to illustrate a poem

* Ask different groups to edit the same source material

* Record work in drama so that participants can evaluate their contribution

* Create a piece of music and then create visuals to accompany it

* Video an event from different perspectives


* For free courses on iMovie and MovieMaker go to

* For courses on Pinnacle, MovieMaker and TAG's Digital Moviemaker try

* Film Education runs two-day courses www.filmeducation.orgtraining.html

* DigitalSchools runs digital video workshops South Street Studios run regular animation courses

* Making Multimedia in the Classroom, by Vivi Lachs, RoutledgeFalmer, pound;19.99

Tel: 08700 768853

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