George Lucas Educational Foundation

Using the iPad as a window

Using the iPad as a window

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It may seem odd to post in a group titled "Technology Tools" and then advocate for placing said technology off to the side for large swaths of the learning experience for students. But that is exactly what I'm saying. I think the iPad is great, but it is best for consuming media, not making it. In fact, I think we can create more meaningful encounters with media-making and an iPad if our first step is to work with scissors, glue, markers, pencil and paper.

I recently had the opportunity to help lead a group of teachers at the University of Washington through a two hour workshop that was centered on paper-based diorama storytelling where the iPad was used as the framing device to capture, edit and share the stories. We used iMovie to sequence the stories, add simple sound effects, transitions and titles. But the focus was collaborative storytelling first and technology second. The technology was our archiving and sharing tool. I purposefully focused on the bare minimum for editing vocabulary associated with iMovie. Where as set building, script writing and performing are all collaborative at their core, editing is not. It is the bottleneck because one person is controlling the interface and this is where I see a fall off in group-wide engagement. Therefore, editing is a means to trim clips, put them in the right order of the story and maybe add some titles and credits.

Participants are able to display their different intelligences and skill sets early on in the process. This helps them feel like they are really contributing to the effort. This is particularly true of students whose first language may not be English. Their ability to build, draw, stage and shoot are not bound by language proficiency. Overall, I think the low tech paper-based approach allows for a more authentic encounter with collaborative storytelling using technology like an iPad.

Here is a link to photos from the session with reflections from the professor and participating students.

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

Hi Brick,
You make some really great points here that echo my won experience with iPads. I do a lot of film-making work, and what I've found out is that it's always better to start of with paper for the storyboard - and preferably coloured paper for different shots.

In many ways, that's the beauty of tablet devices. They complement the learning but they don't dominate it (if used correctly etc etc). And I couldn't agree more with you when you said that we've got to look at learning first, and technology second.

Brick Maier's picture

I like the idea of color coding different components of the movie. Storyboarding is an essential step in helping students think about films as a sequence of different shots as opposed to one long take at a wide shot (this is the typical non-storyboard-ad-lib-run-on-shot). Once students start seeing the importance of intentionally breaking up shots, they can start building up the fundamentals of film grammar.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

I've taught a video class at an afterschool program using an iPad, and I think it can be a great media making tool. Many of the templates they have built in for the "trailers" work as great templates for kids to start thinking about storytelling within these frameworks. Film has its own grammar, and as much as we can start talking about storyboards and structure in advance, with Middle schoolers, it was really helpful to let them give it a go with their ideas, fitting into the "story types" available in the create a trailer feature.
The templates are really helpful in giving kids a product in a short period of time, while starting to introduce concepts ranging from production values, to types of shots, to duration, etc.

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