As the end draws near, as the next term begins, why not watch a movie?

We’re in the final count-down phase of the semester around here: final grad student projects, revisions in 328, nominal “finals” of sorts in both classes. This has been a term of a fair amount of experimentation in my teaching, and while I kind of feel bad for my guinea pig students who have had to endure experienced my first try at the movie making exercise in 328 and pretty much everything in 505, I think things went well for most of them and for the most part. It’s interesting, but when you have real and honest questions for students about teaching– as in “seriously, what do you think I should do differently the next time I give this assignment?”– you actually get some honest answers. Go figure.

In any event, the biggest (but far from only) experiment this last term in English 328 was the Collaborative Video/Individual Essay Assignment. The collaborative videos themselves are at a YouTube channel I set up specifically for the project, http://youtube.com/english328 The quality of the videos varies considerably of course, but for very amateurish productions that weren’t supposed to be that good, some of them aren’t bad.

There’s a lot more I could say/think about with this, but since I have a lot of other irons in the fire today, I’ll limit myself to three observations for now:

  • The essay part of things, where I ask students to reflect on how the “writing process” compares to the “video process” and to draw connections to current and past reading assignments, worked well. In fact, as video/visual savvy as many of my students are nowadays, I think it worked in a way where it might almost make sense to do things in the other order– that is, start with the video project, and then get them to write words in a row things, and then get them to reflect on how the “video process” compares to the “writing process.” Maybe later.
  • Students almost universally endorsed the collaborative aspect of the assignment, and when I had a “debriefing” class discussion with them about this the other day, most of them said I should try to make it a collaborative project for the online version of the course, even though that might present some unique challenges. Given that students generally hate “group work” like this, that was kind of surprising.
  • One student commented that one of the differences between making a movie and writing an essay was that in this class, we were expected to write good essays and not expected to make good movies. This was true since I really wanted students to think more about how multimedia projects informs/broadens other literacy skills. But it did get me to wonder a bit about how long that will remain the case. When I first started assigning web site projects long ago (like 14 years ago now!), all I was trying to get students to do was to make really simple pages. I did not care if they were “bad” or not. While I have given up on the web site part of the project in English 328 (at least for now), I did get to a point where I was clear that they had to create “good” web sites based on discussions we had in class about what constituted “good web style.” So my guess is that we’ll get to a point in this project where a “bad” movie won’t be enough….

Anyway, enjoy the goofiness of the movies and leave a comment or something if you get a chance.

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