During last year’s Grade 6 study I kept hearing the same question:
“Are we watching the movie today?”
This year it’s been:
“Do we play with the cameras today?”
Before the students began developing their movie analysis, they had time to explore the different uses of a camera and the roles of director, actor and editor. Having made up their own rules (mainly along the lines of “No fooling around” and “Respect other groups”) they worked productively together and enjoyed the freedom of exploring a different space to the classroom.
The word “play” in the students’ question was an apt interpretation of a lesson which offered them time to do just that - experiment, explore and learn in a way that might otherwise traditionally be consigned to the ‘one-way delivery’ of lectures, video demonstration or textbook.
Last year Steve Denning interviewed authors Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, posing a series of questions which both promoted and challenged their educational theories. In response to a ‘traditionalist’ argument, they stated that “If you watch a small child explore the world, they don’t need to be told to study, explore, experiment or learn; they do it naturally.” It is with this in mind that I believe that Middle and High School students need as much ‘play’ time as “a small child”.
After the Grade 6 students finished their ‘movie-making’ and uploaded their footage, they reflected on the process that they had gone through. Each student wrote a blog post, some helpfully linking to his or her partner’s blog. They embedded screenshots of key angles and other types of shots in their posts and shared their thoughts. Students went from trying out different angles to joining another group to film with multiple cameras and even jumping over the camera for the ultimate action shot! These extracts speak for themselves (click on each image to visit the full post):
It is only near the end of this academic year that I really feel I’m starting to use the students’ blog posts in my classes. With more time to ‘play’ in class, the blog posts can exercise the important skills of reflection, presentation, inquiry and further investigation, responding to the natural curiosity that the lesson hopefully has drawn upon.
For an excellent example of developing learning beyond the classroom, read Jeff Utecht‘s Reverse Instruction in SL IB English. I have drawn inspiration from his model and hope to pursue it with my IBDP Language and Literature classes next year.