Too often when sitting in rows, students do not have enough opportunity to practice social interaction. Video projects provide opportunities for young people to collaborate on content-related topics while honing their social skills.
When learning, we need to reflect on the learning itself to actually grow from it. Fast-paced societies allow far too little time for such reflection, especially in our youth. Teachers feel compelled to fill brains with so much information required by boards of education and state or federal rulings that there is not enough time for these ideas to generate the sensitivities required by an equally stressed society. The affective domain, how we feel, has become desensitized.
When young people wrap themselves in digital environments — playing games, texting, or looking for the perfect selfie — they frequently show little mindfulness to the empathy necessary for a compassionate society. Providing time to engage in the process of creating a multimedia podcast that deals with societal “issues” or “problems” helps young people address the deeper realms of these domains.
Empathy through Collaborative Work
Not everything in my classes is group work; there is a fair amount of teacher-centric introduction of new concepts or overview/review. But I think the best learning, the most long lasting, occurs when young people are engaged with their peers.
Group dynamics allow for teacher oversight and guidance. Thanks to social media such as Facebook, my students from the 1980s, continuously remind me of lessons taught. Most are reflections upon lessons learned in “those strange collaborative class activities.” We cannot simply tell our students the things that are important in life; they must experience them in the safe environment of a classroom.
When we are engaged as a team in the production process, we debate the various merits of ideas, becoming mindful of another’s perspective. Effective brainstorming requires all ideas to be on the table, followed by a discussion of those ideas that merit more development. We could have a class discussion about the above question. This would perhaps result in some of the students voicing their points of view, but most will not be focused on the discussion per se.
In making a podcast, students can collaboratively work to visualize an answer as a story. If I present several pictures related to a similar topic and ask my student-groups of three (I call them triads) to choose one they will produce a multimedia story about, the assignment becomes more deeply engaging. If I then ask them to write about their involvement in the making of the podcast, I enable the sharing of their individual experiences, especially if they then share their writing with their triad members.
Compromise is difficult to learn. For that reason, three in a group works well because compromise is required. (When you have four, two sides can result; when you have five or more, the activity can become unwieldy, with some members not doing their share of the work.) Of course, it is true that some think all their ideas are good and others that they have no good ideas, but learning to truly brainstorm – throwing any idea on the table, no matter how odd it may be – students have opportunities to gain confidence in what they are suggesting.
Triad members must also learn to defend their ideas as the discussion evolves about which ideas to be incorporated into the podcast. The process of developing the idea is where the important learning happens. In the same way, the process of making a video is more important for the learner than the actual product of that process, and the reward for doing something well serves to make concrete the learning experience.
Tapping into Behavior
As teachers, we have all experienced being filmed. The “actor” is unable to visualize how the audience perceives the performance so by having an external eye, he or she can fine-tune the performance to meet the desired outcome. In our teacher training, even as far back as mine, we were video taped and then critiqued. Hopefully, we really reflected on what we saw in ourselves as producing better outcomes and evolving as individuals in the process.
During the learning process practiced at BPGHS, we frequently filmed and reflected on professional development and student activities. These colloquia served as learning opportunities, and, perhaps more importantly, as team trust-building occasions that enriched the work environment. Multimedia captures realities that are sometimes not realized as we race from one topic to another in our busy days.
Sometimes, it is helpful for student development if we ask students to act out their thoughts instead of exposing them verbally. These short video statements from young refugees produced by UK’s Kazzum theatre illustrate this point well. In these video snippets, not yet assembled into completed work, we can see how the students’ thinking is evolving. If the teacher is engaged with the student’s editing process, the teacher can elicit deeper focus from them as to the meaning they wish to convey. The students are also learning to use their bodies as well as their words to express emotions that the audience might have difficulty understanding when written.
Tying It All Together
We are a multimedia world, where ideas “go viral” when they reflect universal understandings. WeVideo as a platform has the potential to become a “global classroom,” where students can exchange their ideas about a set of topics dealing with issues they face as young people and that we as global citizens must resolve in this century. When young people share across cultures, perceived differences can turn into perceived similarities, which ultimately results in comprehension of our shared identity as human beings.
Teams of students around the globe can suggest potential solutions to such issues as climate change, water pollution, or the inequities between the peoples of the Earth. Perhaps along the lines of the 2015 UN Millennium Development Goals, this will be an opportunity for young people to express their ideas and then share them globally, which may help to focus the adult attention required for their resolution.