Posts Tagged ‘Project-Based Learning’

Just a quick note about a part of the media creation process that has the potential to provide fertile ground for classroom discussion and skill development: The Pitch.*  (See also: Pitch Notes 101.) 


I am commenting here because this spring, my Advanced Video Production class has engaged in what have been the most fruitful, productive, constructive pitch sessions I have seen.  In this case, for the final project of the course, based on Chapter 7 writing and Chapter 8 project in Moving Images, the students came to class with outlines and project development materials (story breakdown, log line, other possible elements) and needed to pitch their concept and gameplan to a collaborative team.  Very positive attitudes, creative and respectful reactions and conversations, and concrete story development (along with discussions of sound, visuals, and more) was achieved by all group members.  

One resource available related to the development of skills in pitching and workshopping is a unit on media storytelling from members of Pixar studios (by Khan Academy) and which features a section on Pitching and Feedback.

* Please note: This process also has the potential to provide some of the most thorny challenges to any learning environment: through pitches, students open up themselves to group feedback in ways that can make them vulnerable and defensive.  It is critical to put into place effective, healthy approaches to workshop-type classroom situations and feedback-based interactions.  Make sure to examine a variety of project-based learning strategies outlined in texts like Moving Images and in resources available such as through mediateacher.net or the Journal of Media Literacy Education.

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Screen Shot 2022-07-26 at 1.51.15 PMIn the Journal for Media Literacy Education, I published a piece titled The Role of Collaboration and Feedback in Advancing Student Learning in Media Literacy and Video Production, in which I discuss the importance of implementing effective  collaborative project strategies and managing appropriate feedback at all stages of production work.  In the article, I examine case studies and learning outcomes from courses I have taught, and I have followed up this work in presentations at Media Literacy conferences and professional development sessions by adding more examples of this work in action.   

IMG_0369A regular component of the work in video production courses that I teach has been the completion of projects that respond to actual needs of our school community.  An obvious recent example was the need for public service announcements related to protocols and phases of the management of the Covid pandemic.  Another example is through Student News pieces that have depicted community events or initiatives, such as with our agriscience program or town Land Conservancy.

IMG_0374At the end of this past semester, my Advanced Video Production class engaged in a complex production that involved the entire class in an extensive collaborative task.  This project required intricate planning and organization through all phases from development through post-production.  The genesis of the project came about as a result of a request by our school system central administration for pictures or videos of various school activities in order to share with the school board and community during the budget adoption process.

Screen Shot 2022-07-26 at 2.05.39 PMFollowing that request, I proposed that our media production students work to create a cohesive statement about some of the exceptional learning taking place throughout our schools.  The pitch was greenlit, and work was immediately underway.  (We had to move fast to make the deadline.)

Screen Shot 2022-07-26 at 2.04.13 PMThis project was the last in-class exercise (before the final course project, which are shorts made independently by each student and turned in as part of the final exam), so students had already completed several motion pictures in which they employ collaborative techniques to set objectives, evaluate effective approaches related to the contexts or demands of the project, and implement a team-based structure to complete the work through production and post-production.  Here is the assignment that they received.  (Please note: in terms of brainstorming and other aspects of pre-production in which the team members determine their approach and goals for the project, an important phase is when the class examines and assesses a number of examples from in-house work, as well as a variety of student and professional references.)

Screen Shot 2022-07-26 at 1.57.40 PMAnd here is the video that they produced Keep in mind that, yes, it was entirely planned, written, directed, produced, and edited by the students.  As a final note about this project, it must be pointed out that one of the most distinctive challenges that students can face in terms of topics for the creation of media messages is when the subject is abstract in nature (as opposed to the type of challenge when depicting an actual event or initiative, or a person or group or place), such as when facing a concept such as “education” or “the leaning process.”  Here, the students had to face questions such as “what exactly do our schools do?” and “what is learning all about?”  These types of inquiries can provide strong challenges for any media creators.

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3575304_origSummary of points from the recent article The Role of Collaboration and Feedback in Advancing Student Learning in Media Literacy and Video Production in the JMLE has appeared in Edutopia, the online magazine from the George Lucas Educational Foundation.

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6d92123020c07c0839cc20026e48254aThis month, an article I authored on project-based learning has been published in the Journal of Media Literacy Education, an academic journal appearing bi-annually in coordination with the National Association for Media Literacy Education.

Titled The Role of Collaboration and Feedback in Advancing Student Learning in Media Literacy and Video Production, the article shares collaborative learning case studies to explore a range of strategies and objectives in media literacy education and to highlight the importance of structured processes and assessments in project-based learning.  Check it out!

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IMG_1704In a post from this past spring, I provided information to support a presentation I made at the 11th Annual Northeast Media Literacy Conference, in which one of the topics I discussed was the development of collaborative skills in the classroom, both as a means and as a goal of learning.  This has prompted me to share a few further thoughts about collaborative processes.

A story from this past school year offers an illustration of the importance of developing a flexible yet rigorous process when completing cooperative tasks in the classroom.

DSC_0959One of my media literacy classes was producing PSAs on the theme of safe driving for teens and the students were placed into groups that I selected.  Often I designate groups for projects, and at other times I allow students to choose their collaborators.  I feel that allowing for both arrangements is beneficial because it forces students to work with a variety of peers while also giving them outlets for independent choice.  These arrangements mirror either work situations when people are inserted into groups or those creative or business opportunities when we can choose our teammates.

IMG_1699IMG_1700Each member of the class had to write a proposal for the 30-second PSA, which could be in the form of a script or a storyboard with shot list and description of the content.  The members had to pitch their ideas to their designated group and then they had to come to a decision on which PSA would be made.  In fact, these clips are so short that it is quite possible for a group to produce two of the proposals, and one group finished their first one quickly and did just that.  As was often the case during this year, a number of the students could not produce a viable complete script for the PSA; this was a class that struggled greatly throughout the year with generating narratives and expressing written concepts or ideas, and this assignment was no exception.

For some of the groups, the students swiftly came to a decision because there was only one viable proposal on the table.  For other groups, there were no concepts that anyone was confident with, so they decided to initiate brainstorming sessions to come up with ideas and then see if they could flesh them out.  In the end, this is how almost half of the groups settled on a story or idea for their PSAs.

I'm in are you in 2  1For one of the groups with a student who had written a detailed script that she felt confident about, they decided right away to produce her idea.  It centered on a student driver who agrees to give a ride to a friend (which is illegal for beginning drivers), then answers a call when she begins to drive.  It is ended with a third person peeking forward from the back seat to deliver the message of “Are you in?” in relation to good decision-making on the part of teen drivers.   The narrative was a single uncomplicated scene in one location, so they rapidly proceeded to production.  They shot the scene and edited it within a brief time.  From their point of view, they were done.

DSC_0965I watched the “completed” movie and talked about it with them.  Like many projects I have seen in introductory media literacy courses, the concept of “finished” for some students actually amounts to a rough cut.  Occasionally, an entire class will screen their projects on the due date and every single one will be in rough cut form.  That is why for major projects I always have a buffer for “extra time” so that students can learn what it means to tighten or refine a movie into one that resembles a true final cut.

I'm in are you in 1  1In this case, the weaknesses of the initial script combined with lack of focus in the directing resulted in a piece that was nearly incomprehensible.  It was hard to follow the dialogue, and the poor writing choice of having another character suddenly appear made for even more confusion (while this had also been pointed out at the script stage).  We talked about the editing, and, after some evaluation, it was agreed that they did not have the footage to make it much better.  What to do?  In this case, they were fortunate that they had shot so quickly, because they had the time for a complete reshoot.  This allowed us more time to talk about how they could  more effectively communicate their idea.  They replicated the initial shots with some improvements on composition, timing,  and performance, and they also added ideas such as a last shot with a character pointing to the viewer saying “Are You In?” punctuated by a snazzy graphic of the message on the screen.  They reshot, edited, and completed a far more successful PSA.

There are many daunting challenges when facing collaborative learning situations: fairness in assessment, delineation of tasks, group dynamics, power struggles, among many factors.  However, one of the most significant tests for project-based learning in the media literacy classroom is the ability to get to the finish line.  Often, students do not know exactly where the finish line is, and it generally takes organization, determination, and tenacity to develop the skills and strength to be able to see projects completely through to fruition.  It is one of the most challenging tasks for an educator to provide the contexts and support to enable students to strengthen their abilities in creative problem solving and cooperative ventures.  These skills can be enormously beneficial to them in fostering critical thinking, strong writing proficiency, and the ability to meet the diverse professional and personal challenges they will meet in their lives.

Many of these messages are reflected in the interview with copywriter Kevin Goff in Chapter 3 of Moving Images and through the projects for commercials and PSAs with that chapter and in other lessons of the textbook.

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