Preparation

“There is no use having clear images if the ideas are fuzzy”
-Richard Leacock

Define the Assignment.
Be Specific. The more detailed assignment you can give your students the more successful the project will be. Consider the educational outcome for the assignment as well as the technical resources required to support it. The technology should be used as a tool for better comprehension of the subject matter, not a deterrant. If its a writing course you teach, consider assigning your students to produce a video that doesn’t simply reflect a poem, but persuades the viewer to see the poem’s imagery in a different light. In a foreign language course, assign your students to narrate a story about themselves in the language you’re teaching. The project can be limited to only images giving more emphasis on the voiceover. In an architecture class, students can explore and analyze existing buildings and places through video. Take a look at other media project assignments to see examples. If the expectations are very clear the students invariably manage to rise to them.

Plan Ahead.
Because of the demand, plan everything ahead of time with Susan Simon and Sarah Tischer Scully  in the Jones Media Center. Special class projects must be arranged well in advance, ideally 30 days. The benefits to this include technical training sessions, priority for video camera equipment check out, class check-in sessions, external hard drives for your students,  and an overall well organized project process.

Set milestones.

Try to frontload the due dates.
Schedule your last due date a couple of weeks before the end of the quarter due to high demand at the Jones Media Center during that time period.


Use the competitive drive of our students.

Having teams “compete” against one another became the most powerful motivating force to producing interesting and effective work. If you can set up a competitive simulation, your students will push themselves harder than you thought possible. Incorporate competition into a simulation if you possibly can.

Be clear about the workload.
Warn students upfront that the workload for a video project assignment is going to be greater than other assignments. Putting it together will be time-consuming, challenging, sometimes frustrating but overall very rewarding.

Be realistic about training.
Your students can receive training on editing software (iMovie), finding and working with images from online image databases (ARTstor, etc.), and using a video camera. iMovie training can be done in one 2 hour session or can be broken down into two 1 hour sessions. Plus a check-in session or two is always very useful for students. The first time students check out a video camera from Jones Media Center they will be required to go through a 20 minute training session. Cutting corners on training can cause a great deal of frustration for students as they begin to shoot and edit their projects. Figure out dates for your training sessions as soon as possible so that instructional centers can be reserved well in advance. Workshops usually occur a week or less before the students are expected to start shooting footage or editing. The instructor and/or teaching assistant should attend all training sessions. If you do not have a teaching assistant consider having an RWIT tutor assigned to your class during the process.

You may have to work to keep students from over-focusing on the video project.
Having a hands-on opportunity to learn is extremely powerful for students. It can easily trump other more traditional aspects of the course. You will have to work extra hard to keep students focused on the readings and bigger theoretical issues because they will have a tendency to skimp there in order to spend more time on their projects. Frequently emphasizing that all aspects of the course are equally important, and that the video projects are merely a complement to the bigger-picture aspects on the course. In the end, class discussions can be immeasurably more rich and more dynamic because the students had so thoroughly engaged the issues in an active setting.

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