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The Page Turner

Media Literacy

Both Eyes Open

Learning by Doing

Brainstorming Topic Ideas

The Two-Eyed Teacher and the Video Camera

by Steven Goodman

Put a video camera and microphone in the middle of a room and invariably kids will draw near. Most likely they will pick up the equipment and play with it. Their energy and excitement will be palpable. The same is true of a computer editing system. As video cameras and editing systems have become increasingly affordable, growing numbers of out-of-school programs are offering video production as an activity for the young people they serve. Besides being highly engaging, video production also can connect even the most disaffected youth to their community as they investigate an issue of concern and express their ideas for a public audience.

However, itís not enough simply to put cameras in young peopleís hands. The essential ingredient isnít the technology but the strategies you use to foster studentsí intellectual, artistic, and social development. If youíre going to give students cameras, you need to be intentional about the learning goals you set and the activities you structure to help learners reach those goals.

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Both Eyes Open

In order to guide your students, you need to become what Highlander Center founder Myles Horton called "the two-eyed teacher." You have to constantly "read" your students, keeping one eye on the skills, needs, and interests they bring to class and the other eye on their future, more skilled and knowledgeable, selves. For example, you may have a student who is struggling to learn English but can be a great asset to the group by conducting interviews in Spanish. You may have a non-verbal, visual learner who can express herself beautifully with the camera, capturing just the right images. You use and build on those skills, but you also keep in mind the goals of helping the Spanish-speaking student practice till he can record a narration in English and helping the reluctant speaker gain the confidence to step out from behind the camera to conduct an interview.

When the teaching strategy is video production, you also have to keep one eye on the process and the other on what the product will look like when the youth put the pieces together. Assume the youth have never made a video before. They donít come to the project with the foresight to go through the steps in the process. They depend on you to know that scheduling and planning is essential; that everything always takes longer than expected; that the equipment will occasionally malfunction but the group can solve problems as they come up; that everyone will make mistakes but will have enough support and practice to learn from them; and that all the hopelessly disconnected bits of footage will eventually come together to tell a story through the magic of editing. Knowing the project will be shown to an audience gives added value and importance to the work.

Learning by Doing

So to teach using video, you have to pay attention both to each studentís individual process of learning and social development and to the video product that the group is creating. The best way to gain this two-eyed fluency is to experience what your students will experience—to be a learner and producer yourself. Before you can teach others how to make a mini-documentary or public service announcement, you have to become comfortable with the technology and the production process.

At the Educational Video Center (EVC), we offer professional development institutes in which instructors collaboratively plan, shoot, and edit their own short video documentaries. Each participant receives EVCís DVD curriculum Youth Powered Video, which includes detailed lessons with DVDs that guide instructors through the process. Each day, participants work on their project in small groups and then reflect on their experience and discuss how they will apply what they learned to their teaching. Below is a summary of a sample activity instructors would experience to start off their projects; you might also check out our lesson on interviewing.

Brainstorming Topic Ideas

Objectives

Equipment/Materials

Handout

Lesson

1. Brainstorm Topics (15-25 min)

2. Graffiti Board Topic Development (20-25 min)

Note: Participants should be writing, not talking, during the Graffiti Board activity. Encourage them to dialogue with each other through writing, responding to each otherís notes with additional comments or questions on the newsprint.

Summary/Share

Bring the group back together and ask for volunteers to read aloud the various postings on each of the graffiti sheets.

Journaling Topic

Which topic are you most interested in pursuing for the documentary? Why do you think this would make a good documentary? Who would want to watch it?


The Page Turner, published electronically by The Robert Bowne Foundation, focuses on literacy development in afterschool programs. Contents copyright © 2006 by the Robert Bowne Foundation.

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