The Langley School, an independent preschool through grade 8 school located in McLean, Virginia, emphasizes that students know how to learn, think critically, form hypotheses, craft an argument, and analyze the world around them. Bradley Lands, Director of Technology and Innovation at The Langley School, collaborates with teachers at all grade levels on inquiry and project-based learning units that maximize the personalized learning experiences for students.
According to Lands, an important criterion for edtech is ease of use. “I think it is really important that tools make it easy for a user to go in and figure things out for themselves,” says Lands. “We’re using WeVideo with students as young as third grade and we don’t want unnecessary complexity to get in their way.”
Technology and innovation teacher at The Langley School, Laura Dixon, adds, “When choosing an app for my classroom, I ask, ‘Does it work on a Chromebook, is it free, and can students use it from any device including their phone if they wanted to?’ I want them to have easy access outside the classroom. If their parents allow it, WeVideo is amazing because students can do so much creative work on their phones.”
WeVideo’s integration with the Google environment is a significant advantage. According to Lands, “A lot of photo and video resources for projects are created by students outside of school. WeVideo’s integration with Google means students can add assets to Google Photos, then at school they can seamlessly access them in WeVideo through Google Drive.”
That flexibility is a vital component of the process. “Agency is very important,” says Dixon. “It may be frustrating for students to have to figure things out, but it is a vital step. I teach design as both a noun and a verb, something students both learn and do. When students make a video, I would always prefer they use their own artwork, photos, and design ideas, rather than take prepared materials.”
When it comes to project-based learning, success is measured by much more than just a flashy video. “Everything starts with a well-defined rubric that aligns with the standards we want Langley students to measure and demonstrate,” says Lands. “Video creation is special in that it offers students a lot of opportunities to identify their learning and highlight understanding as they progress. Teachers check in with students to have them reflect as they go. WeVideo enables teachers to see what students are doing and provide feedback to encourage progress. The rubric is reflective of a process. Students need to put in the time and effort from beginning to end, and that is how we need to assess them.”
Of course, these days even the youngest kids are heavy consumers of video. As a result, they tend to take video for granted. “Kids gravitate toward video creation thinking that it’s easy,” explains Dixon.
“Through the process of storyboarding, script writing, editorial decision-making, and even choosing the right music, they gain an appreciation for the work that goes into becoming an effective storyteller. It’s a very sophisticated, intentional process.”
Interestingly, that realization doesn’t put students off at all. In fact, the opposite is true. Dixon knows success when she sees it. “For me, it’s simply that they won’t stop doing it. Their passion is a measure of their involvement, their intrinsic desire to do this, and their enthusiasm to share something. When one of our third-graders came to me overflowing with enthusiasm and said, ‘Ms. Dixon, there’s this thing called WeVideo and..,’ well, that tells me everything. Every teacher wants to see that sparkle. That’s what we see with WeVideo projects.”
Want to see what success looks like? Dixon captured it in this beautiful video:
Naturally, students (and teachers) look to Lands and Dixon as their resident WeVideo experts. Both agree, however, that project-based learning is also an opportunity for students to teach each other. Dixon says, “The kids have to help each other. I find that with any project-based learning experience, but especially video creation, you have to let them talk and have that opportunity to share how they made a transition or where they found good music that’s free to reuse. That engagement is critical.”
Speaking of free music and other assets, Lands adds, “I applaud WeVideo for adding Essentials to its product. We think a lot about respecting rights correctly. Having all those resources for them to use without conflict or worry is helpful for our students.”
Video creation is part of a broader focus on the design process, which for middle school-aged students at The Langley School includes everything from engineering to website design. “The notion of the 4Cs may be very buzzy right now,” says Lands, referring to creation, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication, “but they are at the core of what we want students to do.”
Dixon adds, “By high school, it will be assumed that they have video creation and storytelling skills. They need practice and we’re hoping to expose them to it. Even a relatively simple-looking video is, actually, a tremendous achievement. You need to appreciate that the student figured out how to use the application on their own and put all the pieces together. It’s a foundation and they will continue to build on their story writing, video creation, editing, and other skills.”
Lands says, “Today’s students are communicating via pictures and video. I think it is essential for schools to help them develop in those areas, learning to do it respectfully and thoughtfully, both professionally and personally. Whether the subject is something personal or content-specific to the classroom, being able to tell a story and communicate a message are valuable skills these days. Persuasive argument is a critical life skill. Making videos is an excellent vehicle for learning to convince someone, to show a particular angle on a topic, or to even shed light on something that someone else hasn’t been exposed to. Video is a great way to develop communication skills.”