Guest Blog Daniel Spada: Pro TV Experience Changes the Classroom Experience

November 15, 2017 / By

Prior to becoming a middle school Language Arts Teacher, I had a career in marketing and television production at the WB Network.  So when I began teaching, it was only natural for me to include video production in my classes and embed video creating into my curriculum.  When I later became a Library Media Specialist, I looked at some of the major curricular units across the school and tried to find ways to use video to make students a more active part of the learning process, while giving them a creative way to demonstrate their learning.
Working closely with my fellow teachers, we’ve enhanced numerous lessons and projects using video production. Here is a selection of favorites that might inspire your own efforts:
8th Grade Science – Meiosis
Traditionally 8th-grade students learn how meiosis is responsible for the characteristics of an organism that are inherited, and are asked to demonstrate their understanding of this process.  In the past, students were asked to label and color the phases on a worksheet or diagram the phases on a whiteboard.  That’s fine, but far from engaging.
Knowing that we had a real chance to bring this lesson to life, our amazing 8th-grade science teachers and I developed a stop motion assignment that allowed the students to visually create each phase of the process.  Using some Wikki Stix, yarn, webcams, and WeVideo, the students worked in groups to create and label a visual representation of what the process of Meiosis looks like.  
One of the really wonderful things that we saw happen during the process was students would make mistakes while recording, but then take the opportunity to go back and learn by correcting those mistakes.  They were motivated because they wanted their final videos to be just right.  One of our 8th grade Science Teachers, Cindy Davis, said there was no doubt that the students understood the concept and process of Meiosis at a much higher level than in previous years.

7th Grade Social Studies – Human Rights Activist
For several weeks in November all of our 7th grade students are immersed in an African
colonization unit.  This is one of the year’s most powerful units and our teachers work hard to make it impactful.  Typically, they would tell several tales about inspiring individuals who risked everything to make Africa a better place.  
Rather than having students then write the usual, uninspired essays, our Social Studies teachers and I developed a new assignment.  Students worked in groups, each creating a short video that they would submit to the Robert Kennedy Foundation’s Speak Truth to Power competition.  
Not only did the students have a more active role in understanding these inspiring people’s lives, but they learned about fair use and copyright laws while looking for images and songs for their videos.  Social Studies Teacher, Matt Dobi, said that, “By creating these videos, I definitely noticed the students had a much stronger sense of empathy and what sacrifice for the greater good really means.”  Teachers also noted that the students seemed to have a better recognition of the power individuals have to make change.  As an incredible bonus, the first year we did this  project, one of our student groups actually came in 3rd place in this global competition.
Check out the winning video:  

Another great video here.
8th Grade Foreign Language – Speaking Proficiency
Nothing makes the average middle school student cringe more than speaking in front of a large group of people.  For decades, foreign language classes have forced students to stand-up in front of the room and demonstrate their proficiency in speaking the language they’re studying.  
Our 8th grade students are now using the webcams on their Chromebooks and WeVideo to privately and comfortably record themselves speaking sentences in these foreign languages.  With the element of fear removed, the foreign language teachers now have a more accurate representation of the students’ skill levels.  Not only are the students more excited to complete these assignments, but they also have a great digital portfolio, so they can see their own growth throughout the year.
Students were so excited about using video in their class, that some of  them decided to extend the techniques they learned to make video tours of the French dioramas that they created for National French Week.

Morning Announcements
As a former news person, there is perhaps no upgrade I am more proud of having introduced than converting our school’s morning announcements into a daily, student-produced video news show.  Gone are the days of students sitting in class and listening to announcements drone on over the loudspeaker.  
Students are now treated to a daily news show that is filmed and edited by students. Not only are students much more engaged in watching the news during homeroom, but we also now have the opportunity to teach students about writing news, studio production (camera work, lighting, reading from a teleprompter, and audio set-up), and post production (editing). The collaboration tools on WeVideo allows our students the opportunity to take the uploaded footage and edit it from home, and have it ready for the next morning.  

Watch more archived news here.
These projects are only a sample of some of the creative ways that the teachers and I have been able to incorporate video into the curriculum to bring learning to life.  I’ve found students much more engaged in the projects, and eager to collect the information they need for their videos.  I’m beginning to see a lot of enthusiasm by both teachers and students, particularly as teachers around the building see positive results from using videos in their classes.  Seeing the students excited to do these projects, and truly becoming engaged in the learning process has made it much easier for teachers to take their lessons to the next level.
Daniel Spada teaches at Suffield Middle School, Suffield, CT. His website is a rich resource of inspiration, techniques, and thoughtful discourse on the use of video and other EdTech in the classroom. He is also a passionate believer in how tools like WeVideo can impact classroom learning. Check out his video about WeVideo and follow him on Twitter @danspada

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