Films and Media Technology
Every time my students make a film, a podcast or piece of stop motion animation, I discover a new way in which they benefit from the process. As English language learners, they benefit from the formal speaking element. The process of attempting to perfect their pronunciation for a wider audience can lead to breakthroughs in language development.
This podcast and song were part of an interdisciplinary music project. The podcast served to introduce the students to outside evaluators. Students recorded their songs using the Arduino drum machines they designed and constructed with the help of Mark Kleback from the Beam Center.
Media Technology is also a wonderful way for students to demonstrate their knowledge in a manner not limited by literacy. As a teacher of many refugees, asylees, and unaccompanied minors, I have many students with interrupted formal education. Many of these students are highly intelligent and quick to comprehend complex concepts. But they often struggle putting those thoughts into writing. While we spend a great deal of time on writing in all subject area classes, it is important that all students have the opportunity to express themselves at the highest possible level, unhindered by any lack of a given skill.
Furthermore, when adolescents who are struggling with traditional academic tasks are able to have public success in other areas, they become far more confident and tolerant of enduring those struggles. I've had more than a few students who simply disliked school until they were given a microphone and quiet place to record. Once they were able to show off their musical talent to their peers and teachers, they became members of the community. Media technology is an area in which students struggling with literacy consistently prove themselves equal, or ever more capable, than classmates.
Film making in particular is a beautifully complex task, perfect for building collaboration, organizational skills and systematic thinking within small groups of students. Film making also makes clear the value of revision. While adolescents struggle with putting sufficient energy into revising and editing their writing, they have an easier time persevering through the film editing process. I use this learned perseverance as a model upon which students can improve their writing practices.
Finally, film making rewards diverse talents: the writer, the designer, the editor, the sound editor, the actor. While it can be a challenge in some types of projects to keep all members of a group occupied, a well designed film project has a wide range of authentic jobs to appropriately challenge a heterogeneous group of students.