George Lucas Educational Foundation

7 Tips for Getting Started with Video in the Classroom

7 Tips for Getting Started with Video in the Classroom

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I've run a lot of workshops helping teachers get up and running with making movies in the classroom. Here are some of my tips for those of you who might be interested in getting started with kids making movies in the classroom:

1. Take some time to make videos yourself. Personally, I spent a year shooting and editing videos before I ever attempted to teach it to kids. It's not necessarily about learning the tools, but more about learning a new medium. Trying to shoot video yourself will help you anticipate the challenges your students will face when making movies for classwork.

2. When designing a video project, like any good project, start with the standards. What do you want to accomplish? What do you hope your students will learn or demonstrate their understanding of?

3. The writing always comes first! Students should be writing and/or storyboarding before they shoot any video. They should very clearly know what they're going to shoot. And make sure to edit the writing. Their first attempt at scriptwriting will probably not be as good as you'd like. They'll need guidance in how to make sure they include the things they need to demonstrate their learning.

4. Embrace failure. The first videos are probably going to boring/shoddily produced. My kids learn way more about what they like and don't like in movies by watching each others' work than they ever would be just listening to me tell them what makes a good movie, but that takes time to develop.

5. Especially when starting out, if you have access to iPads/iPod Touches, shoot and edit on your device using the iMovie app. It's incredibly simple to use, and lets you immediately throw away bad footage. The trailer mode in particular is a great introduction to digital storytelling, without all of the post-production editing work.

6. Share the videos in your classroom! We love having a movie premiere where we invite students/teachers, administrators, and parents to join in.

7. Share the videos with the world. Post the videos on a classroom blog or YouTube channel. My students always love to see their view numbers rise at their channel:

If you have any tips for getting started with video in the classroom, please share!

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

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Keith Heggart's picture
Keith Heggart
High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

Hi Dan,
I think tip 3: writing first, is the key. On that topic, I've had a lot of success using colour-coding to with different kinds of shots - so close ups are on yellow paper, mid shots on green, etc. When students come to put together the storyboard, they can see straight away what different shots they have.

Christopher W. Williams's picture
Christopher W. Williams
Director of Information Technology at KIPP Memphis Collegiate Schools

Do you have a specific type of camera that you recommend for student usage?

Tuck229's picture

Before getting started, it's helpful to look at good and not-so-good examples of finished videos, having students identify specifics that separate the two. If it's your first time with a video assignment, you'll need to make your own good and bad examples.

Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

Hi Christopher,
There's a saying in photography that the best camera is the one you have with you, so, really, whatever camera you can get your hands on is the right one. If you're working with older students and they're allowed to bring cell phones into school, take advantage of those.

With younger students I'd tend to lean towards something like an iPad or iPod Touch, because the built in editing features and access to other apps can be really powerful but much easier to manage.

Nicol R. Howard, PhD's picture
Nicol R. Howard, PhD
Educator, Researcher, and Tech Enthusiast

Hello Dan,
I enjoyed your thorough list for getting started with video in the classroom. Your tip #4 certainly rings true when introducing new technology to students. Do you find that embracing failure also encourages your students to take risks? I find that my students are also more willing to share their work, when they know they won't be judged by their first effort. Embracing failure seems to be an effective way to support their steady persistence, without destroying the fun factor, when tackling something new.

Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

Hi Nicol,
Yes, I think it's important to treat our struggles as another opportunity for learning. I've always tried to frame learning activities for my students as opportunities for growth, and we can learn even more from the times we don't succeed than the times that we do.

Ms. Steen's picture

I'm hoping for a little more guidance on equipment. Several grade levels have been filming this year and the piece that tends to suffer the most is the audio recording.

Their smart phones do pretty well for video, but when recording live or doing voice over, it's hard to get high-quality, professional (or closer to it) sounding audio from the phones or laptops.

Does anyone have any suggestions? I'm currently putting together our budget for next year and I wouldn't be opposed to investing a little bit in reasonable equipment for classes to check out if it would make a big difference.

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

Ms. Steen, I've had some luck with recording the audio separately, using a small USB microphone (like this one in a quiet space. We record voice overs rather than trying to capture the audio as we shoot the video. It's not as good as a quality boom mic, but it works.

SuperFrenchT's picture
French E-Tutor and K-12 Teacher.

Thanks for sharing Dan! Enjoyed your post! Making videos in the Classroom can be a powerful tool. Tip #1 for sure rings a bell to me. It is essentiel to FIRST understand the divers issues our students may face when making their own video, before starting!

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