Learning by Making

This post is not about Integrating Technology Within the Communicative Approach to Language Teaching. This post is about making a film about Integrating Technology Within the Communicative Approach to Language Teaching.

I started by researching and making fairly extensive, referenced notes about my research project. Next, I broke into the Darling Husband’s stash of story boarding Moleskines and began the process of planning out my film. This part was exciting! It’s been a long time since I wrote a creative piece and I found it interesting to be able to exercise my creative muscle.

Even after storyboarding, I wasn’t really sure what the final project would look like and had to spend a few evenings brainstorming what kind of figure I could use to easily move around and create the action. I had a couple of simple rules for myself: it had to be something that wouldn’t normally move on its own (which would kind of be negating the purpose of stop-motion animation in my opinion) and it had to be simple (no need to have to add the complicating factor of facial expressions to an already difficult assignment).

A quick stop at Colours Art Supply delivered what I was looking for: art figurines!

I started filming using NFBStopMo, which unfortunately, I have to say is ultimately a do not recommend. (Edited to add that the good people in charge over at the NFB took the time to respond to my tweet asking for help, which I thought was pretty impressive).

I spent a great deal of time in the planning stages, ensuring that my shots were well-aligned and focussed. I ensured that the photos I took within the app were also saving to the iPad’s camera roll, I did a small test video and exported it to the photo roll easily.

Imagine my frustration after 6 hours of filming when I attempted to export one minute of film and the app wouldn’t do it! I knew after about a minute that my film was getting long and I didn’t want it to crash the app. My plan was to export my video in several small chunks and stitch them together using another program.

No luck…

I tried for about an hour to get the video off the iPad to no avail. Knowing that I was kind of stuck with what I had or would have to start over and re-create the many hours of work, I carried on with the app and planned to simply film the screen with another camera. Kind of bush league…

Time to start film making!
In the end, I was happy enough with the video that I created and I see value in making something to share learning, thus embodying the “constructionist” theory of learning that students learn by doing and actively engaging in their learning. I feel that the theory was thoroughly understood by me by 9 am after having made notes and story boarded my video, but I ended up not completing the project until well after midnight.

Some frame-rate calculations… Real-world math!
The “Studio”

Some wins on the project: I wanted to quit and didn’t. I wanted to ask for an extension and didn’t. I most definitely learned what NOT to do. I would do it again, but now I know I can do better the next time around!

The more I reflect on the project the stronger I feel about it as a way for students to express learning. I have spoken with many people about the ups and downs of making and have also discussed the academic content. I have an artifact in the end their I am proud of and have returned to watch several times (many more than I would re-read an essay). And I have definitely retained the learning and used it in subsequent learning. 

Apps I Love

Finally, I got the Reflection app installed and working. Really great stuff here. I can have students work in their groups on their iPads and three clicks brings up a dock with a “share” option on it. The students choose that and the computer hooked to the projector will mirror the iPad, sharing whatever they do on their screen at their desk.

Evernote, again, is awesome. I have started using it with a student who has trouble getting organized and so far it’s been like night and day. No more papers to go missing. No more “I left it at home on the kitchen counter”. We also had enormous success with this student’s writing today. He was able to photograph the organizer and write on it with Skitch and save it to his Evernote.

eclicker has an updated app for $14 and I splurged. It’s much streamlined over the old version and a great way to have students review. I had groups of students use the “host” version (eclicker presentation) to write multiple choice, true and false, and open question questions that they will share with peers at the next science lesson. The app, brilliantly, allows users to bring in image files and is so easy to figure out I had kids up and running in minutes. The “audience” version (free) allows students to buzz in their answers all at the same time (class review) or at their own pace (could see using this for quizzes).

A colleague showed me sock puppets, and we’re going to try it Friday with our reading buddies. Looking forward to sharing our results with you!

Also, I have lately recommitted to using my SMARTboard everyday in a meaningful way and have had good success this week. More on that later!