I recently approached the administration in my school district about creating a YouTube channel for my media and film production high school students. The purpose of the channel would be twofold – firstly, to showcase student work, and secondly (and more importantly), to allow my students to learn from each other. I’ve always had class sharing of all media or film projects, but they tended to be a “too short class viewing” followed by a quick critical discussion of the work (all within a 70 minute block). While this has worked, it didn’t allow for (easy) repeat viewings that are needed when checking out certain techniques or searching for deeper meaning. Students would now have both the opportunity and the time to see each others films and think about them beyond the walls of the classroom and the minutes of the typical school day.
The idea of a YouTube channel emerged because my students had been requesting it and it was clear to me their voices needed to be heard. It is something that has relevance to their world, but extends to an educational application. Some students even suggested they would be able to link their work to their resumes or post-secondary applications, while others wanted to be able to show their parents our work. Clearly we were heading in the right direction. The good news is the school district has supported this initiative.
When I approached the school district I provided some clear parameters for how we would use this high school channel. I would be in charge of uploading so care would be taken regarding security and privacy issues, and there would be clear quality control – it isn’t simply a matter of every project being posted. Students must use copyright free, or cleared material only (I’ll cross the mash-up and re-mix bridge when I get to it!). Students who appear on camera must have their parents sign a letter giving permission for this. We are still sorting out what to do with the credits, but we’ll start by only including students’ first names and last initials. I am hopeful this can be expanded to full names as we get a better sense of the cyber implications. If other issues arise we’ll keep all stakeholders informed and make decisions accordingly. It has been my experience when embracing new technologies that it works well to start slowly and then expand boundaries as understanding grows and the needs change.
One of the first projects we’re going to try on the channel is to experiment with one story told using a variety of web tools. This idea originates with Alan Levine (aka “cogdog”) who explored over 50 web tools to tell the story of his dog Dominoe. Not only will students learn the tools, but they will also figure out which ones worked better than others and why. The students have agreed on the fable “The Tortoise and the Hare” because the story has a universal theme and can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. We are just getting underway on this project so stay tuned for updates.
And now for the big picture!
I have discovered by using social media and web tools myself, that, in turn, my students share their similar interests. Out of this emerges a valuable dialogue that centres on creating a digital identity. Most of my students had never really given much thought to their digital footprint before (other than avoiding posting inappropriate photos on Facebook or elsewhere), and have welcomed the chance to talk about it. This discussion has led them to realize that creating their digital identity and managing their reputation is something they have a lot of control over, and it is both valuable and increasingly necessary in the world. Indeed, they begin to see both the forest and the trees.