Digital video allows the user to record video sound and images and then easily and quickly import this information to a computer. Video editing tools (like those included with Microsoft Windows or Apple OS X) allow the users to add titles, transitions, voice-overs, and music. This makes the movie-making process accessible for the classroom. Students can use video to demonstrate their understanding, express ideas, and create authentic products. Teachers can use video to create digital portfolios or provide new opportunities for feedback. Like digital still cameras, digital video cameras have dropped in price in recent years, making them more accessible for school use.
Middle school science students commit to goals through learning contracts
Sharla Merton teaches eighth-grade physical science in an urban middle school. She is determined to get her students to improve academic achievement. She teaches three classes of physical science, two classes of study skills, and also coaches the girls' volleyball team.
Merton had attempted to increase student focus on academic achievement by having students create learning objectives. They didn't really commit to their goals, however, and made little progress toward them. In an upcoming science unit on waves, she has decided to take a new approach. She begins by doing some research on goal setting.
Once Merton realized that documenting the goals was key, she decided to have students express their goals in a digital video diary. She knew students found video motivating, and that visual imagery supports memory (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 1999).
To get started, Merton outlined her instructional goals for the unit on waves:
Next, Merton focused students' attention on setting personal goals within these broader learning goals. General, flexible learning goals are best.
She knew that students' fascination with common devices that use wave signals would be a strong "hook," so she brought in a variety of devices that use infrared and radio waves: a cell phone, pager, car key with door opener, television remote, infrared wireless headset, and a microwave oven. She asked her students: How do these devices work? What other ways can you imagine waves might be harnessed for science or technology? What do you want to study, and what could you contribute to our common understanding? Students were asked to prepare goal statements for their visual diaries.
Knowing they would be videotaped was motivating for students; they drafted their goals and practiced their statements with care. In an empty storage room they created a "private video booth" where students taped and retaped their goal statements until they were satisfied with both the content and the presentation.
Students' goals ranged from the general, to the specific, to the very scientific:
The next step was to help students determine their steps toward meeting personal goals. Merton selected four students whose goals differed from one another, and practiced a problem-solving discussion with them that they later demonstrated for the class. In a "fishbowl" discussion (where a group sits in the middle of the class and other students stand or sit around them to watch), they modeled a discussion that addressed:
The fishbowl discussion was complete when each student in the discussion group could answer these process questions: "What are your research steps?" and, "What will you be able to do or show to prove you met your goal?" After the class discussed the processes they had seen, students met in groups of four, and students from the fishbowl demonstration guided small-group discussions.
Each group viewed the goal-setting tapes, and discussed and refined goals. Students helped each other answer the process questions. Each student had an opportunity to videotape a new statement, restating the goal, describing steps toward reaching it, and listing what kind of evidence they would provide to show learning. The focus on goal writing elevated the idea of meeting goals for the class.
Students' attention and interest were more focused when they had to draft, practice, and state their goals for the video camera. Videotaping the goal-setting process was valued more by the students than when they simply wrote out their goals in one class period. Using a motivating technology helped students see the value of setting their own learning goals.