The Common Core of Student Film
The writers of Common Core seem to understand the role technology plays in the dissemination of information and the self-publishing of work. The Common Core Writing strand 6 (K-12 literacy standards) says students should be able to, “Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing…” Furthermore, the visual and digital literacy inherent in student video production means that students will refine their understanding of how to tell an effective digital story each time they engage in the process. This type of learning is clearly reaching a depth of knowledge level 3 or 4.
Performance tasks are intended to measure student mastery of both content area standards, as well as expose the Common Core habits of mind. Student demonstration of mastery is inherent not only in the finished student product, but also in the process of writing, planning, executing, and refining digital stories. Hence, digital storytelling is the Common Core in action.
Why Tell Digital Stories?
However, during the process of digital storytelling, students engage in almost constant communication that is far more authentic in nature than a structured conversation at a desk. When given the opportunity to make movies, some of the quietest students in my classes become the most vocal. The loudest students are often forced to listen by necessity, and every child is engaged. After all, what kid wouldn’t want the opportunity to make a movie? I have yet to meet one.
Few digital learning tasks require as much critical thinking as digital storytelling. As proverb asserts, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Throughout every stage of production, particularly during the actual filming and during the editing stage, innovation is key. Finding new uses for old resources, resolving lighting issues, actively revising scripts to better communicate themes, and adapting on location – all of these are examples of the type of on-the-spot problem solving that is inherent in student film.
My students are middle school kids, and I have to say that after nine years of working with this age group – they are very poignant people with a distinct point of view and plenty to say. Giving students the chance to author their own digital content increases the ownership kids feel over their work. When students are invested, they are successful. And success – even a little of it – tends to increase exponentially.
Students who tell digital stories develop a transferable lexicon that can apply to more than one subject. For example, students must be able to understand and articulate how both writing and film utilize “transitions” as part of effective communication. Placing emphasis on the vocabulary of filmmaking gives students a common language to use as engage in the process of digital storytelling.
Ultimately, we seek to redefine learning in our classrooms. According to the SAMR scale of technology implementation, a task “redefines learning” when it would be inconceivable to complete without the use of technology. Helping our students shift from consumers to producers of media means that we are literally giving them the opportunity to redefine how they learn.
Student film making requires both flexibility and thoughtfulness on the part of the teacher. Video production with students is an activity that builds momentum over time; each year, I find myself wondering, “How far beyond consumption can this group of students go?” As a result, I strive to give them limitless possibilities by utilizing my favorite word: YES.
-Can we build a miniature set and film our scene like that? (Yes.)
-Can we stay after school to film when the campus is quieter? (Yes.)
-Can we shoot on location at the Salton Sea on a Saturday? (Yes.)
-Can I use influences of slam poetry in my finished film? (Yes.)
Student Film is Student Voice in Action
Perhaps most importantly, video production provides students with the opportunity to stretch their own voice out into the world. As I read Common Core, it sanctions the idea that students must learn to live, think, and work “out of the box.” To that end, the core of movie making is really giving students the chance to do so authentically.