The Summit – Course 5 Final Project

Photo Credit: My most memorable activation

After weeks of hard work and steady progress we have finally reached the peak of StoryTeller Mountain. I think it is fair to say that the journey has provided the students and myself with an exciting classroom adventure; an adventure which shows no sign of stopping.

As I sit at the top of StoryTeller Mountain, looking out across the foothills, woodlands and peaks that make up the world of Educationia, I can just make out the COETAIL path I have cut through the Earth to get here. At some points it looks so worn that you would think there had been nothing there before. At other points, the path is almost completely overgrown so that you can barely see the original path.

Sitting here, watching the children in my class getting ready to set out on another adventure, I think back to the journey I have been undertaken to reach this point and I am reminded of the reasons why the COETAIL path looks the way it does.

The well-worn path

I have trodden some parts bare due to the continual visits I have made over the previous year and a bit. Two such areas include the Visual Literacy Lowlands and the awe-inspiring Gamification Canyon! Likewise, there are other areas where I have walked only the once and have never really thought about returning to; one such place is the Valley of Connectivism Learning Theory.

Regardless of where I have been and how long I have spent there though, one thing is absolutely certain, I have learned more about education, digital Literacy, pedagogy and technological integration in the previous year and a bit than I have in the previous eight years of my teaching career.

The Final Project

And so to my final project for the COETAIL course. I have included two separate videos based on the digital/video storytelling unit I wanted to trial with the children in my class. I hope that they make sense to you! Also please feel free to send me any feedback you have regarding the videos and/or the unit quality/content.

Telling a Story – Imovie Style

My thoughts on the project

Beginning the trek up StoryTeller Mountain

Photo credit: The Storyteller
Photo credit: Sparkle Box

Today we started our climb up the monumental Storyteller Mountain. The children had been equipped with ipads, copies of the ‘legends of the lake’ myth books and organized into groups of four to better help each other with the initial climb. The base of the mountain was relatively easy to traverse as the groups began to experiment and investigate with different storyTelling methods.

The groups generally took quite a long time to work their way through the first three pages of the ‘Enchanted Lake’ myth with some groups needing to be reminded about group collaboration, changing camera angles and suitable voice/character expression; however, I am glad to say that all of the groups successfully made it to the base camp at iMovie editing point.

After a suitably good night’s sleep we continued our journey up the iMovie editing point of the mountain. A few of the trekkers were very experienced with the ipad App ‘iMovie’ and were asked to help those trekkers who had little experience with the application. Initial problems were generally resolved within the groups themselves (however, these issues sometimes required us to discuss them as a whole class). I have included some of the issues encountered on the hike from the base camp at iMovie editing point:

  1. Speaker volume issues – the person speaking was often too quiet so the volume of the audio section of the movie needed to be increased.
  2. Arranging the videos in the correct order was difficult to begin with. The groups eventually realised that they could move the different videos within the iMovie timeline by keeping their finger pressed down on the chosen section of video and sliding it to another position on the timeline.

Overall, the first part of the mountain climb had gone well but I could already see that things were going to get much trickier as we moved closer to the peak.

Video One

First video completed by one of the groups. The filming and editing was completed by the group but the titles and music were added by me.

We began the third part of the climb today with the students split into pairs. This time they were asked to retell the whole story of ‘The Enchanted lake’ as opposed to just the first three pages. It was clear from a very early stage that this was going to be a long climb for many of the students.

The filming was much easier but it also became apparent that the climbers were definitely going to suffer from angle sickness – by this, I mean that the students were only really changing between one or two different camera shots. This undoubtedly made the storyTelling videos less engaging and appealing to the audience.

Another issue which seemed to hinder the students was background noise. This was to be expected with so many groups working in such a small, confined area. We tried to spread the groups out as much as we could but it was difficult to stop the background noise from affecting the final edits.

As the evening wore on it was clear that most of the groups had made it to the second base camp at iMovie editing ridge. After we had gathered round the campfire, we talked about some of the features the pairs might want to include when they were editing their movies. Here were a few of the features we discussed:

  1. Including some sound effects and titles – a limited introduction to this topic so it won’t become the focus of their videos.
  2. Reviewing cropping, splitting and duplicating individual video sections.
  3. Choosing and managing the transitions in an appropriate way.
  4. Possible reshooting of sections which weren’t up to standard.

Video two

This video was filmed, edited and produced entirely by the two boys featured in the video. The video was then exported and uploaded to my YouTube channel.

What next?

Well the next parts of the climb should prove to be the easiest; however, they may also prove to be the most difficult for those children who struggle with role-play, drama and the application iMovie. This is the part where the children will be doing everything independently (with the exception of the videoing part – which will be done by another member of the class). My major concerns with this section of the climb are based on three factors which the children have already struggled with.

  • Using varied camera angles to bring the story to life and engage the reader. I am thinking it would probably be better to have the children change their camera angle for every sentence of their chosen paragraph.
  • Making sure they remember their lines and look directly at the ipad’s camera lense. I am hoping they will make the decision to re-shoot any scene they feel isn’t good enough for their final cut.
  • Ensuring their voices are loud enough and interesting enough to engage the reader. This factor should be less of an issue as they know they can edit the recording’s sound to ensure the volume level is not too quiet or too loud.

In order to help the students with the final trek to the summit, I have created my own storyTelling video based on one of the children’s introductory paragraphs. The students will be able to access this iMovie any time they need to as I will send a link to their email accounts. I will also include another link to our class blog where the students can find their previous storyTelling imovie (if they don’t have a video then they can always check other student’s videos for ideas and improvements).

I hope that these tweaks and adjustments will provide the students with enough impetus to take them all the way to the summit. I have included a few extras which I hope the students might want to include in their final videos i.e. an opening title scene with sound track, images in between each video to give the storyTelling more purpose and credits to thank those involved in the movie making process.

To end with I include two quotes from mountaineering legend Edmund Hillary which I feel accurately capture the feeling of our journey to the summit of StoryTelling Mountain.

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves

People do not decide to become extraordinary.They decide to accomplish extraordinary things

Change the story…

Photo Credit: Republic of Stories
Photo Credit: Republic of Stories

As is so often the case with many things in life, not everything you plan for becomes reality. As a teacher, you work towards a weekly set of plans that focus on key areas of the curriculum – something which I have always believed, and still believe for the most part, to be the right approach to maintaining high teaching and learning standards! Personally, I need organization! I am somebody who likes the idea of planning ahead and knowing exactly what is being taught and when it needs to be taught. Throughout my relatively young life in education, I think it is fair to say that I have come to rely heavily on this framework of structure and rigidity.

Then, the last two years came along and…

Oh how things changed! Nowadays, I find myself becoming more appreciative of having a balance between flexibility and structure. Take the final project for my COETAIL course as an example of this. The original idea for my final project was to revamp and upgrade a science unit on Magnetism that allowed me to incorporate many of the different ideas and concepts that we had used throughout our time on the COETAIL course.

However, for a variety of reasons including time constraints, lack of originality, other science units needing to be taught first and an upcoming school inspection I have decided against using this unit as my COETAIL coup de grace. Instead I have gone for a completely new digital literacy unit that isn’t being taught by anyone else in my year group but is something I strongly believe needs to be shared with the children.

So my brand new final project will be based on (start the drum roll)… STORY TELLING! Now you may well ask “Why?” and “That’s not original considering we have a COETAIL course four unit based on this very same subject!”

And you would be correct! However, my answer to you would also include the following reasons for my choice:

  1. I recently heard a fellow COETAILer (who is based at our school) talk about the students at our school lacking storytelling skills.
  2. It is also has a lot to do with the fact that the new National Curriculum for History in England and Wales has placed a heavier emphasis on StoryTelling as a method for delivering historical content.
  3. I am really keen to encourage the students at our school to become more adept at creating, making and editing iMovie videos.

However, none of these are the main reason for my change of heart; the actual reason I have decided to change direction is because I started something and I liked it so much I thought I would use it as a final project.

The Organic Tale of a slightly Anal Teacher

Once upon a time a thirty-something, slightly overweight teacher decided that the children in his class would really benefit from having more time to mess around with the ipad App ‘iMovie’. After taking some time to ponder this issue, the rigid and slightly anal educator hit upon an idea that might just work. He would combine the student’s current English unit on quest myths with the ipad App ‘iMovie’ to create a storytelling unit that would provide the students with the perfect platform for retelling their own stories. And so after many days of pondering a plan was formed and this was what it looked like…