what students learned completing the youtube project

One of the main goals of my courses is for students to reflect on what they are learning as they are going through the process of completing an assignment. That goal has in the past been fulfilled by Learning Record Observations, which are 3 – 5 sentence snapshots students write about the work students are doing as the are doing it. Over time, patterns of development in learning emerges from the almost 30 observations students would keep over the course of a semester.

However, since I decided not to use the Learning Record this semester I thought it would be useful for my students to vocalize what they had learned as we moved from project to project. Here is what students learned during the 4.5 weeks they worked on the What Does YouTube Mean to You? project.

The first comment, made by MissChelly09, is really what I think all teachers want to hear. I paraphrase:

This class now makes sense. That is, if the goal of this class was to show how video composition is a kind of writing, then it has succeeded.

Needless to say, a very happy moment for me in class.

From there, we discussed the metaphor of writing in terms of video composition—something we’ve been discussing throughout the semester—and then moved on. Students listed learning multiple software applications—Windows Movie Maker, Zamzar, Jing, Jamedo, Moby Gratis, to name a few—and their associated functionality. They mentioned Creative Commons, how to take screen shots, and how to convert video files from one format to another. They talked about the process, what they would do differently for the next project. We discussed how video software and hardware are much more visible in the video composing process than they are in the written composing process (where in their discussions Word has become essentially invisible). We even touched on the rule of thirds and the impact that off-center shots have on the viewer. All in all an excellent discussion.

One other reason I like to focus on learning and not final product is because aesthetics are so hard to assess. My eye is different than another’s eye. What is not as subjective is what students have learned, how they have employed what they have learned, and how their work is evidence of their learning. All but one of the students had never composed a video before this project—some had never spent time on YouTube other than what they had been asked to look at in other classes.

These discussions, I think (and hope), reinforce for the students that I am more interested in what they learn than in the production value of their final product—a production value that is always going to be grounded in the quality of the software they are using. Windows Movie Maker is great because it is accessible and easy to learn. It is, however, extraordinarily limiting especially when compared to Final Cut Pro and iMovie 2009 (software that my two Mac user students taught themselves).

If students can learn how to use the software, can talk in meaningful ways about why they made certain choices in their video, then I think the project has been a success. And I am happy to say that this project has been a success that has far exceeded my expectations. And I now have even greater hope for the next project: an oral history video composition.

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