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The Classroom Film Festival Assignment

posted: 3.19.13 by Traci Gardner

Pop your popcorn, grab a soda, and settle in for the Classroom Film Festival! It may not be what you’d see at Cannes or Sundance, but it is a simple way to bring video into the classroom without any special equipment.

Last fall, I wrote about the significance video plays in the lives of the typical college-aged student. Students like video. When they visit a web site, the first thing they are likely to do is scan the page for a play button. As a result, I want to include video whenever possible.

When I design video assignments however, I’m always worried that equipment and software will be an issue. Usually students’ cell phones have video recording capabilities, and there are free software options that we can use. Even if we have the necessary tools covered, there’s the question of knowing how to use those tools effectively. There may not be enough time to teach students about filming techniques, their cameras, and the software works.

So what can you do that includes video if you’re worried about all those issues? The Five-Minute Film Festivals on Edutopia have inspired a solution for me. These festivals, collected by Edutopia Digital Media Curator Amy Erin Borovoy (@VideoAmy on Twitter), are annotated collections of YouTube videos that focus on specific topics. Here are some examples that I recommend:

Each film festival is made up of links to about ten YouTube videos with short descriptions that explain the content and how it relates to the overarching theme. The videos are also embedded in a YouTube playlist, and links to related websites are included at the end of the festival.

My Classroom Film Festival Assignment asks students to create similar collections of videos. The activity is quite flexible. Students might create a collection that focuses on their personal interests, a topic they are exploring in their research projects, or a theme or reading covered in the course. It would work well as a writing across the curriculum activity as well.

As I’m imagining the activity, students will create a YouTube playlist of five videos, running from about three to seven minutes in length, on a specific topic (whatever fits the course). The video length matches Edutopia’s examples. The average is five minutes, leading to the festival name. I’m choosing five videos (rather than ten) to make the task a little more manageable.

In addition to the playlist, students need to write an introduction for the collection, list the videos and provide annotations that explain how they relate to the topic, and close their collection with links to some recommended resources. Their finished work should look very much like the shorter versions of the Edutopia collections. I’ll assess the project much as I would an annotated bibliography on a specific topic. Since they focus on videos though, I can justify grading with a large bowl of popcorn by my side.

Do you have a great assignment for including video in the composition classroom? I’d love to hear about how you use YouTube and student-created videos. Please leave a comment below, or drop by my page on Facebook or Google+ and share some ideas!

[*Photo: STAC Film Festival at The Art Institute of Portland by Art Institute of Portland, on Flickr]

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