Monday, January 16, 2017

Video Interviews with iPads: The Power of Mobile Technology

It was not that long ago that making a polished video required a lot of expensive equipment and detailed know-how. But the age of mobile devices has changed all that. Students are making high-quality videos with a few taps of their fingers and a little imagination. And that creates a whole new world of opportunities for education.

I am a technology teacher and tech coach at St. Mary's Academy in Portland, Oregon, and I currently teach SMA's mandatory first semester 9th grade Digital Literacy class. This class primarily serves to help our students adjust to the expectations of a 1:1 iPad high school and gain some basic skills in technology literacy and citizenship.

I am always looking for new ways to use technology for meaningful learning, and when I found out that my students needed to do a video interview for another class, it sparked an idea. In previous years, students had not received specific instruction on best practices for interviewing on video; thus, predictably, students paid no attention to framing, angles, lighting, audio, or editing and their resulting videos were not much fun to watch or grade.

I wanted to change all that, but needed to tailor the unit to apply to iPad cameras and editing apps. Thankfully, I found the Our Rock Video Project, produced by UnTamed Science, which offers well-designed, short video tutorials that were perfect for wiggly 9th graders. The video "How to Film Interviews" by Rob and Jonas' Filmmaking Tips plus a couple simple, visually demonstrative written resources were perfect for what became my favorite project of the semester.

By the way, I highly recommend this series of videos by Our Rock Video Project, particularly if you are running a video production class. Rob Nelson and Jonas Stenstrom do a great job of breaking down the basics in a fun, informative, easy to access set of short videos.

Here's how it worked:

Students chose a subject and set up a date and time for the interview, and their other teacher assigned a set of questions for them to ask of their subject.

We spent a class period in Digital Literacy exploring best practices for video interviews. We watched the "How To Film Interviews" video, then I demonstrated best practices in class using an iPad mirrored to our main screen so everyone in the class could see and discuss the results. We focused especially on simple tips for location, lighting, audio, and framing. Students then partnered up to experiment further in different locations around the school.

For my part of the assignment, I asked students to choose an interesting, quiet location with good lighting for their interview. They needed to frame their subject using the Rule of Thirds, then use their iPads to film separate clips for each of the questions and answers, along with a clip introducing their subject.

Once students had completed their video work, we spent a class period editing the videos using iMovie. Students added a title screen, credits, and subtitles or separate slides for each question. They edited each clip to remove any dead space or unnecessary information, and put it all together into a complete, polished final video. Videos were uploaded to a class YouTube account, and students created QR codes that they submitted to both me and their other teacher for evaluation.

I wasn't sure what the final videos would look like, given the brevity of the unit and the tendency of wide range of skill levels in my freshmen classes. But I was totally amazed. Across the board, students demonstrated a solid understanding of the basic skills we had covered and a pretty consistent level of polish on their videos.

But then I realized something--camera work has become a daily practice for most young people. They are constantly taking and editing photos and videos on their devices and already have an excellent eye for good camera work. All they needed was a little push and some tips, and they could fly. That's the power of mobile technology in a classroom when harnessed in the right way.

Want to try this in your classroom? Consider the following ideas for variations on video interview projects (and post some ideas of your own!)

--Interview a older family member about a historical period or event being studied in a social science class
--Interview a classmate about a topic raised in a class novel
--Interview an expert on a health issue being studied in a health or science class
--Create a "Dear Mr. President" video
--Interview a person who works in a particular field or profession
--Collect student reactions to a current event
--Create a personal vlog

Alyssa Tormala
Instructional Tech Coach 
St. Mary's Academy 
Portland, Oregon

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