Interview with Jessica Pack, Teacher – James Workman Middle School, Winter 2010
1. What types of video projects have you done with your students?
My students have completed video projects in all four core subject areas, as well as Public Service Announcements for our school and community.

2. How do you decide what will make a good video project?
Typically, I assign movie projects based on essential standards for Language Arts, because I find the time investment beneficial in those areas. In Social Studies, I will assign a movie project based on an entire strand. For example, my students have made movies about Ancient China and India, encompassing all of the essential standards for that particular strand. My team partner who teaches math and science has always decided which standards should provide the basis for those movies, and usually they are the standards that are currently being taught according to the pacing guide. My goal with Public Service Announcements has always been to allow students a voice in their school and community. They thrive on opportunities to not only be heard, but to share what they perceive to be an important message with peers.

3. I know you use the student videos projects as instructional tools. Can you explain how that works?
Since my students typically make movies about several different standards at a time, beginning the process with dissemination in mind helps students stay focused. Throughout the process, they are very aware of the fact that their responsibility is to teach others, and they take this mission seriously because I do take the time to show these videos in class. For example, videos are a great way to ensure that multiple learning modalities are addressed after direct instruction has been given. Many students benefit from seeing and hearing a concept in action, and the students who made the video develop a greater understanding of the standard they are working to teach.

4. How do you fit a long-term project into your curriculum-pacing guide?
Making movies really does have to be a long-term project since the pacing guides are so rigorous. I make certain to choose essential standards as the basis for movie making, so I can not only justify the time investment, but also see the greatest positive impact on test scores and mastery. I will generally allow students time to work over a 4 to 6 week period of time. I am flexible in the amount of time spent per week. For example, I will squeeze technology skill building mini-lessons in as a warm up or during the last few minutes of class. I will set aside a block of time on Fridays for filming, editing, and sound. I also set up after school opportunities for students to come film, make props, paint scenery, etc. When given the time and opportunity, students will engage in the project wholeheartedly, often to a greater extent than the amount of effort they output for seatwork or other classroom activities.

5. What has been the impact on student learning?
Movie making incites genuine creativity and excitement in learning. Students generate high quality products with the focused intent of sharing their work with others. The legitimacy of having a target audience makes kids strive to learn, teach, and produce. The first year I incorporated movie making, 75% of my students tested proficient on the 6th grade Language Arts CST, and they certainly all did not enter my classroom at proficiency in the fall. The second year I integrated movie making, I had the same group of students for one section of my day. As 7th graders taking the CST, fifteen of my students tested advanced in Language Arts, though only five students entered my class as advanced. I have experienced similar growth with many of my students since then.

6. Why do you think other teachers should "jump in" and construct a standard-aligned video project?
Movie making really forces teachers to be facilitators instead of the more traditional “sage on the stage.” This results in student empowerment, which genuinely does have a positive impact on the amount students learn and the quality of their understanding. The higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy are addressed in depth, whereas in traditional instruction students frequently remain at knowledge level. As long as technology skills are properly front-loaded and students held accountable for detailed planning, student productivity and engagement is absolute. Integrating movie making is easier than one might think, and the only personal requirement for teachers is fostering the ability to “let go.”

7. What advice would you give teachers that want to begin creating video projects with their students?
You can never plan and teach too much beforehand. Use plenty of planning sheets and storyboards so students have a well defined game plan. Show a handful of anchor videos so students are aware of the expected quality of a finished product. Be brave in your approach to integration, and try the process more than once. You will learn a great deal from the first time you attempt to implement movie making, and you will be surprised at how much better of a job you’ll be able to do the second time around. Go for it!

To access Jessica's WebSite go to http://www.packwoman.com