The “flipped” classroom is all the rage – whether you believe that it works or that it doesn’t, video and audio are coming more to the fore, either as part of the media you consume, the media you make yourself, or even better still, that which your students make on the web. Media use is on the rise in the UK and Worldwide between schools in educational contexts.
First of all let me give a brief note here to the “seen it all before” brigade. Many teachers will point out that there have been initiatives to do with film and film education stretching back to the 1920s and 30s, usually without much effect; all the initiatives were either too complex or too specialist and failed.
To a certain extent this is true; these innovative schemes faded into the past as mere blips of eccentricity. However, in the last 5 years the rise of use of tablet and phone devices in the developed world has led to a ubiquity of platforms serving up media.
More and more people are learning the skills of filming, film editing and live-streaming in informal circumstances in every day life. In the last 18 months YouTube has allowed people to share the secrets of filming that could only be gleaned by an expensive Film School course or a rich hobbyist.
We are now at a time in history for those privileged people who have access to such media, where the tools of production and dissemination of video and film are accessible to everyone. 27% of UK children under eights now own tablets (Telegraph). Around four million master touchscreen devices by age of 3. What previously took days and weeks to produce can now take hours and the knowledge and access to such skills is readily available – almost on tap through channels like YouTube and Vimeo. As the process becomes more trivial, we can exploit it in new and more focused ways to aid our practice in teaching and learning.
Making media can be time consuming; it may not give the dividends you hoped for if it takes far longer than you anticipated to film, edit and distribute your film. You also have to appreciate that there are different types of media which are used in different ways and often these varying processes may form a big part of the learning for both you and your students in your subject specialist areas. How and what you choose to film and for what audience and in what context are the first big questions… and before that, why do it if it is going to be a time sink?
Remember your narrative/message/information to be conveyed or reflected on or participated in is the most important part of making your own media. The ability to tailor it to your own school community with all its idiosyncrasies, eccentricities and foibles is of huge benefit. There are companies who can make far better generic media with much more amazing content than you ever will, so concentrate on what has most value. It will get your audience’s attention more than a generic piece that is too vague or just a vanity project. It has to have real currency (in every sense of the word) with your audience. You know the people you are engaged with in teaching and learning best, and even if you don’t, perhaps making media can help here too.
Very few teachers make slick high production value films like many of those you increasingly seen on YouTube and company websites. Educators just don’t have the time. If you want to go down that route then you will have to learn how to use a simple video editing tool and some editing techniques – you’ll have to learn to write a script and deliver it to camera and to film it so it looks professional and seamless. I will not cover that in detail here, but you can look in the links at the end of this article for resources that can help.
The best camera is the one you have… if you just want to make a simple traditional “talking head” video. However, if you want to go further you will have to think about lights, proper microphones, good cameras, technical filming techniques and scripting.
What I will highlight here are fast and simple solutions to making a basic film and some of the situations where video might be useful and pertinent. I will also highlight films used in education which are superb resources which you could not possibly replicate, but that could be used as starters or as models that you might even ‘try’ to replicate yourself. These enable your students to reflect on and do things not possible in ‘real life’, either for health and safety, travel or many other prohibitive reasons.
What you have to remember about film as a medium is that it is merely another tool to aid you in teaching and learning, but like any other resource you have to be laser sharp about how you use it so you are not wasting people’s time – most of all yours! How can you exploit the resource rather than let it swamp you in a busy work schedule.
Fast ways of getting “Talking Head” videos on the web
The fastest way of getting video on the web is probably through your smart phone, a wireless camera or webcam. On the iPhone the Filmic Pro app is the best I’ve come across, but the built in camera app is fine on most devices.
The Basics Getting the best talking head video is simple when you are practiced.
- Film opposite a window for best natural light – not against one.
- Keep close to the camera, in close up, for best sound if you don’t have professional mics.
- Film three or more “takes” and keep it really simple, but pertinent – delete the ones you don’t want – keep the one that seems most fluent.
- Make sure you have a script or an outline of what you want to say in behind the camera.
- Keep action and narrative simple and clear.
- Don’t waffle.
- Keep it focused on what you want to communicate.
- Even if it takes 20 takes over several days – keep at it – you will improve over time and it will help your classroom presentation skills too as you will see yourself as others see you.
- Upload to YouTube or Dropbox – done.
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