With a lot of help from Ameer, I am finally reaching the point where I can make videos more or less on my own. As I have been making them, I have been thinking about how educationally useful the experience of making the videos is. The countless decisions about what edit out, how to write captions that add to the content of the talking heads, and how to select images that enrich the storyline are really useful exercises in critical thought. The making of the video is more stimulating and engaging than the experience of watching them. Maybe this is simply a reflection of my still-modest chops as a filmmaker, but I think fundamentally it has to do with the difference between consumption and production
– or, to use Halverson’s terms, between the kinds of content based technologies educational institutions have often been drawn towards and the learning technologies that have proliferated on the internet.
So, I have been thinking about how to use the hybrid 2110 and its video component in ways that try to capture something of the experience of making the films. I know of at least one person at GSU, a VL named Nicole Tilford over in Religious Studies, who has been teaching students in upper division classes to make video as an assignment. You can see some of the results of her student’s work here. However, Nicole has been doing this with upper division courses, which has several significant advantages for projects of this nature. She has smaller classes, and self-selecting students with deeper background knowledge and an actual interest in the course material. Any attempt to capture something of the experience of making films in the hybrid 2110 would need to be built around a recognition of the unique challenges of large classes and substantial numbers of students with little personal interest in the class.
The simplest idea, at least conceptually, is to have a final project that involves students making their own historical videos. Perhaps you could allow students to choose to either write a final paper or to produce a short video. From an educational perspective, this idea has lots of merit – it’s a very active learning project that at least some students might enjoy. It might also give people an incentive to watch the videos for class with a more careful eye, since in addition to being ‘content’ for the course, they would suddenly also be models for an assignment. On the other hand, it would also require the instructor to commit to teaching video editing. Now, there must be easier software out their then premiere pro, but this is still a substantial additional obligation to add to a course that is already absolutely packed, weighed down by large class sizes, the laudable decision by the university that 2110 needs to be taught as a “writing-intensive” course (which means grading long written pieces, and quite often exercises aimed at developing writing skills), and the much less-laudable decision by the university that 500 years of U.S. history can be taught in one semester.
Maybe some of you know software that students could learn quickly enough to make this viable?
I have also been thinking about more middle-ground solutions that would get students interacting with the video making production in less depth than making their own videos, but in getter depth than merely watching them. One idea I have been kicking around is having assignments which involve asking students to write captions for videos. The idea would be to show them a short video (and one which had been specifically made with the assignment in mind) which had no captions, and ask them — either individually or in small groups — to write captions for it. This strikes me as a useful exercise, especially if you had a WAC or TA in the classroom, who could help students develop the ability to write meaningful captions that add something to the video, or that demonstrate the ability to synthesize from the video. This strikes me as something you could do either on its own, or as a laddered assignment that built towards student generated video.
Any thoughts on other ways to realistically get students engaged with video rather than simply consuming it?