Videos are everywhere! They have become a powerful tool for communicating any kind of message and telling stories. With 2.0 web tools any Internet user can create a digital story and share it with friends on social networks. Nowadays video storytelling is more and more frequently used even for product marketing.
Image source: “It’s not about the tools. It’s about the skills” by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano – via Flickr.com
We are positively surrounded by images and our kids are immersed in videos and clips. Only school still remains at times hardly touched by these radical changes in communication and social networking.
Students love telling stories and digital storytelling has become quite easy to do nowadays, even in schools with little technology. By combining narrative with digital content and including their own images, sound and video, students can create a short movie with a strong emotional component. Moreover, working on a project can help students develop a wide range of competences.
Unreal interviews with celebrities
I am sharing with you a video storytelling activity, which has been carried out this year with my 11th grade students of a High School in Northern Italy. These students learn Classical Ballet & Modern Dance at school, along with more traditional academic subjects like Italian, English as a Foreign Language, Maths, Art History, Philosophy, History, etc. They are very creative kids and their learning style is definitely more of an aural-visual type than logical-rational.
Being a new teacher of English in the classroom, I had asked them to do an entry test at the beginning of the year based on English Grammar. The results were very unsatisfactory: only three students passed. If confronted with theoretical, abstract learning, these students tend to fail or they study all by heart. However, if given a chance to express their creativity and work in groups, their motivation boosts and also their linguistic competence improves.
Let’s now come to see how we developed the idea of creating “Fictional Interviews with Celebrities”.
First, take a look at my blog on which I posted my students’ final projects:
Learning objectives for this activity were the following:
- Writing & speaking in the foreign language
- Gather and reuse information in different ways using a variety of digital tools
- Exploit background knowledge and vocabulary learnt in previous lessons related to jobs & professions, and personal past experiences
- Improve pronunciation, fluency & oracy
- Use the English language in known contexts, also beyond classroom walls
- Learn how to construct knowledge in a personally meaningful way
Image source: “Digital Storytellers” by Wesley Fryer via Flickr.com - https://c2.staticflickr.com/4/3292/3067537756_b4abde9597.jpg
This is how we worked in class using all technology available:
Students first created a draft of the interview script based on the celebrity biography which they had already prepared on a Tackk webpage (to view it, click on each Thumbnail picture on the blog). Interviews were written cooperatively with the help of another classmate. Topics and modality of the interview were left free for them to choose. The only two requirements on my side were:
- to formulate at least one question using a Duration form - e.g. How long have you been doing....?;
- to describe the qualities and skills necessary for the related profession.
Unlike the drafts that had been previously made for the Tackk pages, this time texts were not going to be corrected by the teacher, since the imaginary interviews were meant to be assessed and marked orally.
Students rehearsed their interviews with a partner, alternatively by using the text-to-speech option on my iPad or listening to correct pronunciation on Google Translator.
We then proceeded with the recordings in class on the only two iPads available. To do this, we used Spreaker – a free podcasting tool which works well also off-line.
We managed to finish all recordings in just three class periods! You can guess how motivated they were!!!!! They even reproached each other at times if one made a pronunciation mistake!
Students searched for copyright-friendly images on the Internet and uploaded them on our Edmodo e-learning platform. The mandatory choice of Creative Commons images was an excellent chance for me to teach about responsibility and digital citizenship.
Audio files of the interviews were posted as well on Edmodo for homework check and peer feedback.
We then started with the creation of the introductory trailers with iMovie. Students worked out their projects shifting on the two iPads available in class. They took turns on the iPad stations, while the others were rehearsing their interviews (sometimes even in the corridor!) or listening with their ear-phones to the trial tracks recorded on their smartphones.
Our Mp4-files were again shared on Edmodo for everybody to see and comment.
Audio tracks were uploaded on Wevideo, chopped up in various pieces and accompanied with background music.
Images and videos were later uploaded and synchronised using Wevideo. This is an excellent, Freemium video editing tool, which allows 5-minute video exporting for free and offers a monthly subscription for 1-hour-exporting time at a very reasonable price.
Last editing, including special effects and transitions were taken care of by a small group of students, who got together also in the afternoon.
Conclusions & Learning outcomes
Video storytelling can be efficiently applied to almost any subject at school, because the digital stories can incorporate any type of content. Depending on the focus, a digital story can be instructional, persuasive, historical or reflective. In any case, telling a story through a video gives students the possibility to express themselves in a very creative way.
Moreover, building a narrative and communicating it effectively requires the students to think carefully about the topic and consider the audience’s expectations. In few words, digital storytelling can facilitate across-curriculum teaching of 21st century skills, and in particular:
- Critical Thinking
- Personal Responsibility
- Digital Literacy
Video storytelling can have immense impact on students’ motivation to learn, which is essential in learning a foreign language. This type of activity has helped my students develop new skills with the help of technology. The use of a digital tool has helped them overcome the fear of speaking and has triggered their natural desire to express themselves and their creativity. The final goal of making a video to be shared with others was very motivating and facilitated inclusion in the class. My students have learnt a lot also about themselves and with the help of the others.
It is not easy to record one’s own narration. All in all, I can say that - apart from a few evident uncertainties - mostly due to the fact that my students were speaking out, not simply reading their interviews aloud – they have done a good job. All of them have significantly improved their pronunciation and fluency in the English language.
My role as a teacher in the classroom was essentially that of guiding and monitoring the various activities. Because of the lack of technology and reliable wi-fi connectivity at school, our range of choices was of course limited to few digital tools and BYOD.
Students, however, did not have any problems in getting things organised on a practical level and proved quite autonomous in their learning process. Most of the planning and storyboarding had already been done in the first phase of the project with the making of the Tackk webpages.
The final editing was the phase which required most technical supervision, often to be done in the afternoon sessions with my kids! But it was definitely worth doing! This has been a very rewarding experiment in creative teaching for me as well!
“Unreal Chitchat with Celebrities” has been one of the most popular learning activities in class this year. My students said they will probably not forget about this experience for a long time. One of the videos dedicated to Roberto Bolle was seen by one of his uTube curators and is now being shown on their uTube Channel. What a great reward for my students’ efforts!
For another great experience of video storytelling in the classroom, please check out my blog post dedicated to a class project we carried out in another of my classes this year about “Theatres at the Time of Shakespeare”:
The above video storytelling activity was also documented in an article published on Insegnanti 2.0 blog:
Please feel free to leave a comment for my students on my blog. I am sure they will be delighted to see that someone has appreciated their efforts. Thank you.