Friday, July 13, 2007

On Moving Images

I started to write up a comment to Dan's blog, and then it suddenly got really long. So I wondered if "bletiquette" (blog etiquette? I think it sounds funny...probably someone more of a dork than me has already invented a word for this...) would necessitate putting said long comment onto my own blog.

On Moving Images. You ought to read the background to this post - dan has posted a really interesting video here, and written a response to some of his comments here.

Now, I don't know about US English standards (only did my student teaching in the land of the free, left right after that), but in the UK moving images (media of any and all size / shape / form) is now a part of the national English curriculum. (However while I'm literally on the other side of the world, in Hong Kong, I work at a school that basically gets to make up whatever curriculum it wants. I think we're part of WASC: Western Accreditation? Something? Schools? Coalition? Company? beats me.)

This doesn't mean English teachers are supposed to show the film of "To Kill a Mockingbird" while reading the novel, and tell the kids how the movie is "wrong" because it isn't the same as the book. It means that films, television, commercials, even videos found on youtube, is a form of media to analyze as seriously as any other form of literature, like a novel or play or poem.

Dan makes a strong case for using the film because it helps him to "surprise" his students. And that's true. Since this film will seem cool to the students, since it is from youtube and humorous, that all helps a teacher in relation to the thin-slice (love that analogy dan) we could call "teacher understands students and their culture".

But using a film like this, using a different media, in any class, no matter the subject, isn't that just sound teaching? Information sticks in the brain when it arrives in multiple varieties, multiple forms. Giving the students some kind of anticipation guide, pausing the clip, asking them to talk to a neighbor, not showing the ending and watching it a second time - that would be a GREAT use of a period.

And...information sticks in the brain the MOST when you have to do something with it, so that makes Christian's idea of having students film their own clips a good one. In theory. But a film project is not something to be undertaken lightly, to be handled in anything less than a full-on unit. I'm thinking around four to six weeks to do it right. I had a fabulous set of students for a fifteen hour summer course, and we spent about a third of the time on how portrait photography - check out the amazing project we took part in, the 100 People Project - I'll post more later. If you take a decent skim through dan's posts, you'll become aware of how important tiny details can be when it comes to presentations / media design. Making a thirty-second short film involves an awful lot of specialized skills, all the way from storyboards to the camera work and ending with syncing up music & editing.


Dan - you wondered earlier why you got so many posts on a blog entry over a weekend? Well I am writing a lot more now because I am on holiday. During the school year, I have no energy to do this kind of thing, to read a lot of cool thoughts on teaching and write my own ideas down. But right now, just because my students are gone, doesn't mean I'm not thinking about teaching every day.

Guess next I'll write about...the 100 People Project. Jolly good show, that.