Confessions of a Multimodal "Teacher" (or Confessional of a Multimodal Facilitator of Learning) An Accompaniment to the Social Studies Guide to DV Integration The Great
Mystery of Good Teaching Keith J. Hughes www.hiphughes.blogspot.com
Early on in my career as a "teacher", I developed a pretty much sure fire way to evaluate the effectiveness of an educator, look at their students' desks. Rooms where kids were disengaged inevitably had vulgar words, gang symbols or other expressions of adolescent angst permanently marked into the aged wood. Occasionally a room with clean desks would occupy a less than effective teacher, those would be categorized easily by the straight rows, booming voice of authority that would spill into the halls and frightened gazes of student glances that one would catch passing by. On the other hand, some rooms would have desks that appeared to be recently purchased and would almost never carry the burden of student misbehavior or minute classroom management issues. If I was a betting man, I would throw down the farm, that it was these "teachers" whose kids would not only pass the state exams but would instill something more in their students. How can it be that children who can carve their initials into a desk at 1:30 can be engaged, active and have all of their attention invested in another class forty-five minutes later? While there is no magic bullet answer for good "teaching", there does exist a word which for me beings the conversation--multimodality. Gunther Kress offers a simple yet illuminating operation definition of mode, "..a regularised organised set of resources for meaning-making, including, image, gaze, gesture, movement, music, speech and sound effect." By examining my own experiences as they relate to my student successes, this definition will allow for the asking and, with all hope, answering of important questions relating to good "teaching". For the past nine years, I, Keith J. Hughes have engaged in the art of "teaching". I use quotations to signify my uneasiness to pretend to know what "teaching" means. I will continue to use "teacher" within this context until I discover a new word to replace it. For the moment there only exists some cluttered phrases which are not snazzy sounding enough to use permanently, they include; facilitator of learning, executive producer, orchestrator of meaningful learning experiences and classroom pilot. As you can see, they don't roll of the tongue nicely. "Teacher" however does not convey what I believe to be a central truth regarding education. In some regard "teacher" has become synonymous with telling.
Is telling teaching? If I tell you everything I know about the Cold War can you really know it? "Teacher" therefore presents problems for myself. One truth that I can hold to the fire is that everything that my students experience happens within the constrains of their own brains. Learning was not happening in the space between my voice and their ears, nor was it occurring on the paper the student used to write their four-paragraph thematic essay. The learning (if any at all was happening) was a process which played itself out in the child’s mind. I was really not "teaching" my students anything, I was only facilitating an experience they were having in order for them to make their own inner realizations. If the experience was powerful and my students became authentically engaged in it, there was a good chance the experience allowed for learning, if the experience was poorly set up, or mismanaged then learning was most likely not taking place. It was this paradigmal shift that has caused me to ask important questions relating to what it means to "teach".
��.1 How can a "teacher" use multimodality in order to increase the amount of student learning that occurs? ��.2 What does a classroom look like that allows for this type of "teaching"? ��.3 Will students who are exposed to this reorganization of classroom principles be academically successful? My travels have given me a broad and diverse sampling of age ranges and populations that I will be drawing upon in my reflections, including:
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9 years "teaching" Juniors and Seniors, United States History and Government and Advanced Placement American Government at McKinley High School , Buffalo, N.Y. 6 years as a lead instructor for City Voices, City Visions, a digital video integration program through the University at Buffalo. 4 years as an adjunct professor at the University of Buffalo, "teaching" LAI 536: Digital Literacy and LAI 576: Literacy and Technology. 3 years as a mentor and technology "teacher" for the Math Science Upward Bound Program, held at Buffalo State College 1 year as a third grade "teacher" at the International Institute, School #45, Buffalo, N.Y. 10 years as a parent to two daughters. 35 years of experiencing the multiple modes of life.
Foundation of Self
Posted on my McKinley High School website, www.hiphughes.blogspot.com, a scrolling banner reads, "Where attention goes, energy flows". Underneath that lies a humorous cartoon drawing of myself, my own slice of multimodal authenticity. (Diagram 1)
My light hearted animated character compiled with my message of attention is a good representation of who I am as a "teacher". One of the earliest lessons I learned about working with kids was something my father explained to me as a teenager when he was a scoutmaster for the local Boy Scouts troop. "Keith", he told me, "...kids can detect adult b.s. four miles away. Always be yourself and be honest and they will respect you". This innocent lesson in human relationships has allowed me the flexibility and sense of humor that is necessary for teaching in a large school in an urban setting. Absent the respect that students have "given" me, I am not sure if it would be possible to "teach", or facilitate their learning environment. Attention can only be useful and powerful if it is given by the student with a willingness to invest in what I am offering. Without a student giving their attention to the task at hand, there is no chance for success. A swimmer who is not interested in swimming who is tossed into the water may be able to paddle to the ladder and get out, but the odds of them breaking into an Olympic stride and exuberantly gliding across the water are slim to none. Everyday in America, hordes of children are doggy paddling and treading water, they have been tossed into the pools of public education as they daydream of the clock striking three o'clock so they can get back to their lives. Incredibly as it sounds we have made school something not of this world to many of our students. Students must first see your classroom as place of "realdom", meaning they need to know that you are going create an experience which is worth their time for a legitimate reason. Many teachers feel this phenomenon in early June with Seniors who need to pass your test to graduate. Their ability to focus and devote their attention to the task at hand become remarkable improved in comparison to their earlier classroom history. Your approach didn't change, the students intent and will did. Unfortunately many teenagers on planet Earth lack the ability to see long range goals and therefore automatically give their attention in order to pass the test. In order to convince my students to "go swimming" and jump in all by themselves, I must use all of the available control mechanisms that I have. I can only control three things: my physical classroom, my attitude and presentation of self, and how I "teach".
The Physical Classroom as an Expression of Multimodality
My classroom is a variable which I do have control over, therefore, I have always exercised my control over that variable to entrap student attention. By making the environment one which itself is a layered piece of deconstructed meaning, I try to give the students multiple opportunities to begin to authentically give over their attention. As a student walks into the room from the jungle-like world of high school hallways, they are automatically confronted by Sam Cooke, Elvis, Mozart, Public Enemy, Neil Young or any one of ten thousand songs. Whether they know or not, on most days the music is correlated to the lesson. When teaching the 1950's concept of suburbia and conformity they may hear Malvina Reynolds, 'Little Boxes", or if the lesson is on the Radicalization of the late 1960's they be confronted with Gil Scott Heron's, "The Revolution Will not be Televised". Using the audio mode, students attention is captured as they enter the room even before they sit down for "the lesson". I splash the walls with vibrant colors, even pasting up colored construction paper, hanging up vibrant posters, student work, puppets, plants, origami.
The physical set up is another variable that I can control in order to facilitate the students' experience. Diagram 2 is a visual representation of my physical classroom. This will become an important multimodal element in order to put into context many of the other methods I will be discussing, including digital video instruction, direct instruction, mnemonic/analogical instruction, as well as activities steeped more heavily in traditional modes of meaning such as reading and writing. Students pick up their work when they walk in and sit around what I like to call, the electric campfire. My lecture stand is set up with a Mac for LCD use with stereo sound. Thirteen aging Macintosh G3's grace the outskirts of the room, leaving a comfortable amount of space for up to three students to be working on one computer. The first one-third of classroom when you enter is open, allowing for student filming and other classroom activities. In front of the room white space has become my digital blackboard with my trust mini mac sending its contents through the LCD. As students enter the room
they are met with a five foot by five foot image of classroom messages, historical. (Diagram 3)
Finding my Wings through CVCV
City Voices, City Visions (CVCV) is a digital video integration program created and run by Dr. Suzanne Miller, through the University at Buffalo. With the premise that Digital Video offered students a unique platform to express meaning in a deep and layered way, CVCV embraces the very same philosophy in how it implements Professional Development. According to Dr. Suzanne Miller, one of CVCV's primary beliefs is that, "Teachers need to engage in design-based performances so that they have the embodied experience of engaging in purposeful orchestration of modes to create meaning. Digital video composing provides that experience." Over the past ten years I have been to countless teacher professional development seminars; cooperative learning, word walls, reading strategies, "active" learning, etc., CVCV was the only one I felt engaged in. For six weeks in the summer of 2000, I learned how to express my curriculum content through the use of digital video editing software. Rather than concentrating on button pressing and long winded theoretical conversations on the New Literacy model, we practiced it. In order to understand the deep connections made through digital video, CVCV provided the framework where I became the engaged student. Without even really knowing how, I learned the software and became skilled at the art of cinematography. I engaged in the medium with "flow".
The idea of a ‘flow’ state was popularised in the book ‘Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience’ by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in 1990. Csikszentmihalyi explains that flow, "...is the optimal human state when we are being absorbed by the experience we are immersed in." Whether it be basketball, painting a mural, reading a riveting book, watching a movie or making one, anytime we are completely invested in the activity at hand, we are engaged in "flow". This what I wanted to offer my students, the opportunity to be engaged at school, producing expression of meaning in a medium that heir "millennial" generation was good at. The concept of "flow" has become one of my bedrock foundational anchors, as the "teacher" one of my primary jobs was to facilitate the environmental factors as to create an opportunity for flow. By embracing multimodality as my palette, I would reflect daily on the multiple modes to my advantage and ultimately to the students' advantage. This self reflective behavior concerning the multimodal nature of facilitating learning did not fit into a lesson plan. There was no book explaining how to deliver the Social Studies using your body. Visualizing history was something reserved for a VHS Library documentary narrated by a voice which would drive the sanest person to the edge of insanity. My job, as I saw it then and to this day, was to help students paint a digital story which would allow them access to the learning concept I was charged with "teaching". What I did not know then that I do now, is how digital video production can be, according to Miller, "a super tool" in accomplishing my objective. In the Fall of 2001, I began my second year teaching Social Studies at McKinley High School anxious to find a way to bring the digital video experience to kids in a powerful and meaningful way. As my thought process became occupied with a pragmatic way to marry my class with video, the calendar found its way to September 11th, 2001. The students and myself spent those first hours after the attack together, our collective attention focused on the television set, marinating ourselves with every image
and sound. I don't remember how long after 9/11, perhaps two weeks, a couple of students in my Advanced Placement American Government course approached me about the idea of producing a video related to what had happened on 9/11. That spark of student interest began to snowball into a four students and then 8 and then 15 until we had over 20 students who decided that they wanted to make a video. Meeting before school, during lunch times and after school, the gang of us worked on what we would call, "Wings of Hope" for almost three months. The cinematography skills that I learned through my own CVCV embodied experience now became part of my student's visual grammar. Using angles, lighting, creative filming ideas as well as advanced editing techniques such as the use of slow motion, transitions and special effects, the students poured themselves into the project. The final product is truly amazing, reflecting an authentic expression of how students' viewed the tragedy
Wings of Hope
The "Wings of Hope" experience led me to some conclusions regarding DV in the classroom. I observed students who volunteered as well as the general student population get excited and engaged whenever we were filming. Word traveled fast around school regarding our mission and students who I didn't know would approach and ask if they could be in a shot or hold the camera. The project took on a life of its own and became an endeavor unto itself. The reason for doing it was to do it, not unlike my own experience the previous summer in the CVCV institute. Students, across the educational canvass, seemed to quickly adopt to the technologies, exhibiting a type of primordial instinct about the various modes of video. Filming became an activity with a minimum of three directors. "Over to the right", Jesse would bark out. Melissa the camera operator would shuffle off to the right two or three steps. Standing behind her, Jason would lean in behind her shoulder and whisper, "Stop, now a little lower". The collaboration was something you could just as easily witness on a Hollywood set. They
weren't acting like directors, they were directors. CVCV had tricked me, too. During the previous summer had convinced myself that I was a director, rolling out what I thought were three impressive films. When I was collaborating with my partner Jon Geiger, we took on the roles of Spielberg and Kubric. We forgot we were teachers. The kids were forgetting they were students. During the editing process, three students would form a triad of creativity as they would lean into the glowing monitor sharing headphones, discussing choices and at times breaking up in order for one member to go get a quick shot. In an educational atmosphere that lacked juice, video and CVCV provided high octane juice. The "Wings of Hope" experience taught me that video production was a necessity for my classroom. Like a genie in a magic lantern, its power needed to be coaxed. Two major questions for myself emerged; How could DV be harnessed in order to be pragmatic for a classroom setting? and what role did the "teacher" need to embrace in order to facilitate successful projects?
Thinking back to the summer of 2002, I am not quite sure where the idea of using genre to facilitate DV integration came from, but it came. I can remember being online and finding a group of spoof ads on adbusters.org, they were called "uncommercials". The concept was simple--they would use the familiarity of the commercial genre of video to promote ideas rather than products. What if, students could use this framework, the commercial genre, to create similar framed expressions of meaning in the Social Studies. Genre offers students a platform in which they can use what they already know as a vehicle to learn and express meaning in the academic curriculum. Gee, in What is Literacy, defines literacy as the control of secondary uses of language. Our students bring to our classrooms a broad range of experiences and knowledge about the world around them; they have control of these secondary forms of our language. Media, culture, socialization, the Internet, all of these have made our students experienced in the world of genres. Standing in front of the room, I will start the project with, "Coming to a .....", and the class calls out, "theater near you". The framework of genre is already in place. Students then can use this framework in order to create new expression of meaning, one
embedded with the N.Y. state Social Studies curriculum. What began as uncommercials, quickly grew with the advice and input from numerous CVCV teachers. Each year we learn from new and experienced CVCV teachers alike (180 and counting) new innovative genres that allow students to express meaning. A short list would include; movie trailers, music videos, reality shows, PSA's, how to videos, comedy sketches, inquiry based genres such as investigative and documentaries. Recently I have overheard talk of the mockumentary genre (Spinal Tap) and the Part II genre, "Holden Cauldfield: After the Rye". Genre became the vehicle that I would offer up to my kids, they would know how to drive before they got in.
Digital Video Meets the Classroom
I-Movie in a Day
Beginning in the 2002-2003 school year to the present day I have made digital video a constant presence in my methodology. After "Wings of Hope" I devoted myself to the idea that DV was not a far away idea but something that I needed to implement. If I were to take myself seriously as a professional then I required myself to make it work. If I were a surgeon and I found out that a new life saving device was being made available, I would be negligent to ignore it. As a general rule I run three major DV genre projects for each of my academic classes, layering them in what I believe to be the logical manner. The first digital video experience my kids have occurs in the first few days of school. I have no qualms of exploiting one of digital videos most obvious attribute, it is cool. Taking a camera out on day one and facilitating a video in the course of an hour can carry a pretty big wow factor.
"Teachers" have the unique opportunity to recreate themselves with their "co-workers", the students, once a year. I developed I-Movie in a day originally as a way to begin the year with digital video. The concept has evolved as way to use digital video in short learning spurts between larger more traditional genre projects. On the first day of school with the kids, I will set up a camera to my LCD, so the students see themselves on the wall as they walk inside the I-Movie program. Part of the screen design is reserved for a welcoming message. The classroom is filled with the music, "Welcome Back Kotter"; recently I discovered a more modern rap version which I use. After some initial welcoming and overview of my educational philosophy, I challenge the students with their first DV assignment. I ask all of them to write a filming idea down on a scrap of paper in which they finish the sentence, "America is....". They may answer it in any way they want as long a they are not vulgar. They are also asked to come up with a filming concept that they can capture on video in front of the classroom. After showing the kids the beginning of the video, I will ask a couple of students to help me model a shot. The students not only get to see some basic ideas related to framing but they see the I-Movie program in action. Students quickly begin to identify with the screen design of the program (see figure 4).
Their eyes transfixed as the two volunteers set up the shot in which is being simultaneously broadcast on the wall. Kids at their desks begin to laugh and call out direction, "Steadier", "Walk back a step!". The atmosphere of the classroom changes and the kids know it, they remember it and in the mean time, I have taught them something important that they are going to use throughout the year. On the next scheduled class, the kids come in and are given credit in the electronic gradebook for preparing their ideas. I then give the class fifteen minutes to form small groups and prepare as many ideas as they can for filming. As a class we then organize ourselves and film the video and audio simultaneously into IMovie. Between shots, a student volunteer acts a editor-in-chef and is guided through cutting up the shots. With the students' attention transfixed on their work and images being manipulated I will introduce some basic layering effects such as a titles, special effects and motion manipulation, using
them only to increase the conceptual framework of the idea. After all of the groups have filmed their ideas, we are ready to screen the video, the turn around alone is an amazing feat that earns valuable wow points with kids. After the screening, as the last minutes of the period wind down, I will ask the students to record a short reflection as to what they though the video meant. By aligning traditional literacy with something that as I previously wrote about was in their primary discourse (video) then kids will write with the same authenticity and engagement as they used when filming their shots. Figure 5 is a walk through video of how to implement I-Movie in a Day. A sample "America Is" can be viewed in Figure 6.
(Figure 5) Click for "I-Movie in a Day"
(Figure 6) Click for "America Is"
"I-Movie in a Day" has become a wonderful ally in the classroom. Students anticipate digital video projects, and "I-Movie in a Day" allows for a more frequent exposure to digital video, as well as a framework where facilitation can be directed to the whole group. Recently our class produced an "IMovie in a Day" using the movie trailer genre. I wrote the script and the students brainstormed and filmed their assigned passage. Using the familiar reality show, "Survivor", I created an attractive and fluid framework using the principles of the Constitutional Convention as my curricular content. After showing the framework to the kids, there is little I have to do to foster their energy. Ideas began to emerge quickly. You can watch one of the class "Survivor" videos below in figure 7.
(figure 7) Click for "Survivor"
Coming to a Theater Near You
"Coming to a school near you, the movie trailer genre. Watch as previously disengaged students become engaged as they work with your curriculum to make meaningful expressions of understanding. You won't believe your eyes as they write with ease and fluidity about such topics as literature and the critical lens, historical thesis, scientific milestones, and even themselves. Grab your bag of popcorn as student attendance, attention and assessment all show signs of success. Be amazed as students use their tactical knowledge of TV and film to create authentic mutimodal web page that becomes abuzz with hits as kids enjoy their school made productions with family and friends. You'll never go back to
worksheets again!" Whenever I introduce the movie trailer genre to a class, be it high school students, Graduate students or City Voices, City Vision teachers, I create short "model" script in order to capture the attention of my audience and lay the framework of what they will be doing..
For the past five years, the movie trailer has been one of favorite genres to use in the classroom. In my United States and History class, the trailer genre has been the vehicle of choice for Progressive Reform. A typical project will involve a week of intensive direct instruction. Concepts from the NYS Regents (graduation) exam and important vocabulary are explained and made digestible by a constant barrage of analogies and mnemonic devices. The 18th and 21st amendment become associated with the two popular state law drinking ages, making the connection to prohibition an easy one to make. The concept of laissez fairre becomes a fast paced launching of both arms into the air, demonstrating the governments "hands-off" approach. I use the Internet to supplement the stories and analogies with shocking visuals. Lynching is given new meaning when student see smiling children, picnic baskets and street lamppost surround the haunting image of a murdered African American. As students come in to class they are met with the lyrics of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Malvina Reynolds and Utah Phillips. Using all of the modes that life provides makes the history palpable. As the week of lectures winds down, students are given the Digital Video Assignment sheet and rubric. A long list of essential questions is presented and students, forming their own groups, decide which topics they would like to address. Every attempt is made to make sure that the students have some natural inclination to the concepts of their historical content. Students choose three ranked choices from the compiled list, they are also told they can come with their own idea, which must be approved by myself. Student groups choose an order through random assignment and systematically go through the list. If a topic has depth and complexity I will sometimes allow up to three groups to research and produce a DV revolving around it. An example essential question would be, "How did Jim Crow effect Southern culture"? Having nine students researching and presenting visual interpretations of that era would be well worth it for me, as the teacher. How ever a DV on "Why is Andrew Jackson considered to be the hero of the War of 1812"? As an experienced Social Studies teacher my job as Executive Producer is to make sure the budget is being spent wisely. In this case the budget is the time being allotted for the project. I will explain to the students that their choices must be worth it. Students, now wild eyed and determined, are given the writing and research assignment. For two days students plow through online materials, text, online videos--as I do, too--to get a firm grasp on what their video needs to convey. In their groups students prepare a 60 second script in anticipation of the all important "pitch" meeting. Taking on the role of an Executive Producer, I meet with each group and review their script. I l then offer my unfettered advice, sometimes giving approval and in many cases sending the team back to the writing process in order for them to improve their rough drafts. Recently, as an 11th grade U.S. History student, "Patrick E." was pitching his idea for an ad he was producing for "Bombs Away" a new drink which explained the concept of Truman's decision to drop the atomic bomb. His initial idea went the route of including multiple explanations. A Pat began to explain his approach and his ideas relating to content specifics, I has to stop him. "Pat, your ideas are great", I would start off with. " I am impressed with the quality and quantity of research you have done" Pat smiled, showing me that he indeed did the research" "My concern", I would tell him "is that by trying to be overtly academic, he might miss the big idea" Pat responded, "So what's the big idea, is it that the Soviets were in secret negotiations with" "Stop. Pat, if you had to teach another student studying for the Regents on this question alone, what would you concentrate on" Pat looked a bit perplexed, "So you think I should stick to the test answer" Pat, seemed to be catching on. Pat went on to produce a very nice ad illustrating the idea that Truman dropped the bomb to save lives. The real
learning however occurred in that conversation. Pat followed up with questions regarding why that answer was the answer. For five minutes I explained the politics of testing and political and historical revisionism and its implications. While the movie is powerful and professional, the process had provided the vehicle for authentic learning. Students are anxious to get it "right", they instinctively know that the voice over will be one of the determining factors as to whether their video is powerful and will hold the crucial audience attention they so covet. Once the voice over is approved, teams are left to their own devices to accomplish the task at hand. Some groups will divide up responsibilities and work independently. One student may begin the voice over while another two begin to storyboard. Other groups will stick together and begin to plan for their visuals. Classes are 90 minutes, which is a length of time that many students complain is too long but ask any student after 90 minutes of DV production and you will hear the same answer, "Time flies". A typical video lab with say 7-8 groups of three student each planning, filming, editing, doing voice over work, negotiating content, scanning the Internet for video and visuals and fumbling with a wide variety of wires. My name becomes a repetitive loop in class as students seek answer and guidance. "Mr. Hughes, we need a camera". "Mr, Hughes the firewire isn't working". "Mr. Hughes can we fly an idea by you"? My mind is quickly evaluating the desperation in each voice deciding where I am most needed. While never telling a group where to go with an idea, like a good Executive Producer I will offer differing perspective and honest advice. Kids want to get DV right. I have seen groups do ten voice overs until they record the one where they collectively nod and smile, knowing "it's the one". Inevitably some groups begin to run out of time and as the due date approaches, my room begins to become occupied before school, during school and after school.
An Insiders View from The Outside Looking In
Digital production is much harder to facilitate than a traditional mode of methodology such as lecture or a guided writing lesson. There are no two ways about it, having seven or eight groups of three students hopscotching through the various stages structured presentations of meaning, DV does. However, truth is perception and in many cases, it is here where some teachers may fail to successful facilitate this chaos I have spoken about. Teachers in some respect have a pretty direct description of what they do. They "teach". Their perception of what that looks like, the "teaching", does not in some cases look like DV production. In the midst of DV production, I probably make a hundred decisions every five minutes, so it hard to see the critical "big" picture related to my job description in this process. Thanks to Merridy Knipps, a CVCV Graduate Assistant, I was able to exactly that. Ms. Knipps spent six weeks in my classroom, spending an average of 8 hours a week observing and at times participating in DV production. Ms. Knipps kept a detailed journal of what I did during the process, recording everything from my direct instruction techniques to the "nitty gritty" of digital video production. What I learned from reading her notes was my strength during production did not lie in my technological skills nor did it lie in my content based knowledge. Me knowing stuff, did not make me a better "teacher" during the midst of the classroom chaos, what did make me successful was my adoption of a different paradigm of "teaching". I was no longer the "teacher", I was the "conductor". When I compare what a conductor of an orchestra does and what I do during DV production, there a some remarkable similarities. Such as:
Facilitator of Learning
My voice becomes my baton. Students are constantly being made aware of how much time is left. When a group is given a Uses his/her baton to keep the orchestra in camera, they are told ten minutes. If a tempo. For the conductor its all about computer is taking too long to perform an keeping rhythm and timing. operation, I will make the critical decision to reboot. The class is constantly kept in forward motion. Encourages student strengths. Visual learners are quickly identified and encouraged to take on filming while another group member is gently nudged into the editing process. Students with attention deficit challenges are encourage to act as actors and camera operators during times of lull.
Uses different parts of the orchestra according to its strength. Brass is used to generate anger while flutes are used to provoke a whimsical feeling.
Has to solve individual student problems. Perhaps the most difficult job, being there in the time of need. Getting caught up in a problem which students can solve themselves is a dangerous pitfall. Fairness can be negotiable as some groups may be Has to solve individual player problems. If told to "figure it out" in order to attack a a flute player is out of tune, a remedy must more pressing student problem. Rather be found or the orchestra does not play than giving answers, a multitude of properly. Cannot become consumed with possible solutions should be offered. individual difficulties as the orchestra Careful observation must be always be never stops playing. looking out for fatal errors. A student filming an interview against a window will be met with a yell across the room, "Light behind guys! Light behind!" The process is messy and at times loud but it necessary.
Shares a passion with the performers to create something larger than themselves.
Everyone in the room is devoted to producing works of excellence. There is sense of professionalism and shared determination to get the job done. This atmosphere of authenticity allows for me to brush off some students in order address more pressing needs. The students understand my actions and make the appropriate reaction.
An American Value John Kerry Does a Screening
When a student group finishes their movie they upload it to an online space, currently we are using a free online service called, Teacher Tube. Videos are not only viewable by the student in school and at home but they are embeddable as well, meaning students can take their videos and put them on their own websites or social networking page, giving them another avenue to share their creation. On screening day, students introduce and show their videos. We have lively discussions regarding the quality of the film as well as its historical message. In the fall of 2005, students were assigned the objective of creating a political ad to elect a candidate whom has lost a presidential election. Ads were made for Jimmy Carter in 1980, Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Michael Dukakis in 1988. but it was an ad for John Kerry which silenced the class and created a lively discussion. After watching the piece of work (figure 8), created by Derrick Gardner and Marisa Geiser, there was a good amount of time of quietness, I would estimate between 10 and 15 seconds. Having a classroom of adolescents in a large urban school silence themselves without any prompting is an accomplishment all by itself. I began the conversation in the way I always do, "What made that video rock your world, let's hear, tell me what you know inside". The beginnings of the conversation are usually undefined and a bit soft. Johnny might say, " I don't know it just made me feel something. It was done really well, it looked professional." This space is where we as educators need to mentally scramble, always in my mind I am thinking, here is my chance. "Johnny, which shot sticks out in your mind, which one looks professional?" Johnny rubs his chin and says, in a confident voice, "The kids picture, you know the soldier." "Why Johnny, why that one?" "I didn't expect it; it made it more real because he looked like he could be my age". Depending on your time you can continually escalate these questions, forcing kids to raise their level of reflectiveness. As interesting and valuable it can be discussing cinematic elements of the various modes used in a digital video, as a teacher the discussions regarding historical content are even more powerful and satisfying. I ask the all important question, "Would this ad have worked"? There are a few moments of silence, I fill in the empty space with a more directed question,
"Why did Kerry lose"? Knowing we examined this question in depth the answer comes from the back of the room, Paul responds, "Didn't he get swift boated"? Now the room noise increases, the conversation begins to move, hitting on 9/11, patriotism, McCarthyism and the all important yellow ribbon concept. As the conductor of the conversation, I make sure to steer my students into the curriculum realm. Derrick and Marisa, once the class has analyzed their ad, summarize the class conversation by explaining their rationale. After ten minutes, we give them a second round of applause and move on to the next film. The screening accomplished three major objectives, ��.1 Attention is placed on the aesthetics of film making; techniques that worked are shared and emphasized. While these techniques were employed by one group, other students will now have the ability to know they can employ the very same techniques in their future movies. ��.2 Content. Students who create a video experience the most powerful learning experiences regarding their historical content, however, the class conversation built around their digital video can also be powerful and a unique opportunity for "teaching" ��.3 With video serving as a catalyst for engaging students, the screening provides them with the attention and credit they deserve. The videos being put online also serves this function. Students need to know their work matters. That it exists outside the walls of the classroom. Weeks after a video project has been completed I have students coming up to me to tell me their video on TeacherTube has gotten 150 hits. The screening is as important as every other part of the video production experience. If a teacher decided to skip the process it would be akin to a movie company not releasing a director's film. Even bad films make it to the DVD rack.
"All Aboard" Facilitating In the Trenches
The building of the transcontinental railroad serves as a touchstone in the United States history curriculum touching upon immigration, industrialization, economic nationalism and manifest destiny. Two students in 2006 took up this complex problem as the basis for their digital video working in the trailer genre. Ardel, Darlene and Adriana were friends, always sitting near other, they decided to work together on this project. For the first few days of the project, Ardel could be found scanning through the various textbooks n my room , scribbling down notes as Adriana and Darlene brainstormed out their initial idea. My first crossing of paths with a student group comes during the "pitch". Time restraints gives me only a few minutes with each group to hear their ideas. The pitch therefore becomes a fast and furious facilitation. Students for a pitch need only to provide evidence of research and content knowledge and have a visual idea about their movie. Adriana, who in all honesty, was the guiding force behind the framework of the video, provided a short summary of their half dressed idea. They knew they wanted to name their move, "Stay Aboard" and they wanted to use the trailer genre in a traditional way. Adriana was a planner and it made sense for her to choose a safer path. Once I listened to her skeleton of idea and nodded my help and gave them the thumbs up as I hopscotched off to do another quick pitch. The pitch, although fast and furious, is a critical road stop that needs to be put in place to catch the unprepared. I have talked to other teachers who require a detailed outline of the idea or a complete storyboard, I however apt for a more informal meeting. The kids know that I will be there asking the hard questions and their desire for preparation. Once a pitch has been given the go ahead, students are given approximately six hours of production hours. Production hours are not scaffolded by me. At this point as the "Executive Producer" I have to trust my "Directors" to complete there task. Adriana, Ardel and Darlene were left to their own devices in order to complete their project. The group could be found at heir assigned computer during their study halls, lunches as well as early in the morning. As they broke up their script/voiceover, they would film simultaneously. Ardel became the designated "cameraman" and as Darlene and Adriana brainstormed and planned out their shots. Rather than being a guiding force in their video production, I would act as the "video whisperer", quietly encouraging groups where encouraging was needed, intervening where immediate attention was required and exposing students to an ever expanding palette of techniques. Exposing students to new practices is perhaps one of the most important roles I can take
on. By modeling new techniques I am allowing students to make choice they previously were unaware of. I make it a point to interject myself during the lab at least once every half hour usually with a quick warning, "In five minutes I want to share a really cool way you can incorporate historical video footage into your projects. Five minutes"! Early on in the production process, I modeled how a group could use archived footage from a web site, www.unitedstreaming.com. I reserved on computer in front of the room, that had a but more speed and memory, as the designated "archived footage computer". The very same computer is fully stocked with thousands of songs and sound effects. Soon after modeling how to download one of the historical clips and then how to move it onto their own machines, Adriana approached me. "Mr. Hughes, do you think we could get some footage of the transcontinental railroad". Inside I am shining, this is exactly what I wanted to happen, a student was initiating the learning process. "Absolutely Adriana, why don;t you go load the site up and search for it. Let me know when you find it if you have any problems downloading it and moving it" That was the last interaction I had with the group regarding the idea, I quickly became absorbed into a different scenario and forgot about Adriana. What I would later find out is she not only found, downloaded and imported the footage successfully. She effectively layered the clip using old age and black and white and further enhanced the shot by embedding a sound effect over it. I would assume for every one story I have about a group going through the process of building meaning into their movie there is ten more. Adriana, Ardel and Darlene made thousands of decisions in the production process and only involved me in a few major ones. Did I have to lean over their shoulders on occasion and whisper a command, "Turn off letterbox guys" I would whisper as I saw them hooking up their camera. Or a quick moment of eye contact as they appeared to be getting a little silly with camera would quickly jolt them back into the professional mode. The final product, while not a ,masterpiece is a strong representation of the industrialization era. The voiceover is laced with vocabulary words being used in unique and informative ways. The students had obviously tried their best to get good shots, use effective editing techniques and produce something that they could be proud of. What else would compel a group of normally inattentive adolescents spend hours and hours and hours creating a project that at the end of the day was about a period of history that has been known to put students to asleep? Ardel, who has remained a student of mine this year in AP Government has been caught on more than one occasion checking up on his video before class. To him it exists outside the walls of the classroom and is not only a creative and cool piece of work but is relevant to other students studying history.
"For Colored Only" Invisible Learning
Returning to the conductor analogy for a moment, I am certain that while the conductor can identify, acknowledge and address a multitude of incidents during a performance, he or she however could know what goes in the dressing room. Learning can have the same type of "hidden" or "invisible" learning. Dr. Ann Marie Lauricello became a constant observer and sometimes participant in a DV project implemented with my U.S. History class during the spring of the 2006 academic year. One of the groups that she tracked, interviewed and analyzed was responsible for a video in the trailer genre on the concepts of Jim Crow and the 14th amendment. If you asked me now about the experiences that the group went through during the construction of their powerful piece of literacy, "For Colored Only", I would have few words to mention. Like most of the DV projects that I facilitate most of my time is spend in two minute jam and slam help sessions, helping groups through the nitty gritty of production and content integration. Looking over their script for the first time, I directed Tia and Elizabeth, the two young ladies who were responsible for the film, to make sure to embed more vocabulary such as specific Jim Crow laws and verbiage. After revising their script, Tia and Elizabeth went through the steps to create their work. Included in their process were multiple computer failures, countless voice over re-dos, shooting and re-shooting and hours upon hours of editing and layering. Tia and Elizabeth both were what I would consider to be better than average film makers. They both had previously been involved in creating uncommercials for the Constitution and had been leaders in their groups. During the construction of their Jim Crow film they became self sufficient, asking for minimal help. Not only did they require low supervision but both Tia and Elisabeth became classroom rescuers of other classmate's projects. In many cases, such as this, the first time I see the entire film is on screening day. With over 30 films being finished close to the same time, being able to watch a complete film for revisions is next to impossible. Students are aware that when they export, their films are complete. Unlike essays, worksheets and question and answers homework assignments, kids doing DV do not want to turn in a "bad" copy. After watching "For Colored Only" there was a good ten seconds of silence before a steady drumbeat of clapping filled the room. The conversation that followed was something that every
Social Studies teacher wishes for. The kids began asking about the lynching photos and soon after we freeze framed one of the lynching shot and started to discuss the background of the image. Students were amazed to see children, smiling housewives and the backdrop of Main Street, USA. Their previous imagery of lynching had been smashed and when Tia informed them that they had stumbled upon a postcard series of lynching photographs, the class was both angered, disgusted and shocked. The era of Jim Crow had, even if for only a few minutes, become real to them. The conversation continued as we explored their film techniques and their historical content. Their team earned the highest grade in the class and their video (before being removed from Uth.tv) gathered up hundreds of hits in the matter of a month. Tia and Elisabeth had produced a piece of historical literacy that mattered. It mattered to them and it mattered to others. All of the "learning" that I could point to in a concrete way existed in their film and I was proud of what they accomplished. What I did not know was an incident that illustrated something even larger than the multiple choice question on Jim Crow and the Regents essay on the 14th amendment. The first spin off story of "For Colored Only" happened shortly after the girls completed their film. Tia and Elisabeth are both popular girls in school. Both girls played on sports teams, were cheerleaders and were friendly with student across "clique" lines. During lunch one day, two boys who sat at Tia's table began to argue about how one of them had stepped on and made a small mark on the other one's new sneaker. The incident quickly escalated to the point where the boys were approaching the no return zone into a physical altercation. At the height of the tension as other students began to look and form the deadly teenage fight circle, Tia spoke up. She scolded the boys and forcefully reminded them what "their" people had gone through. Had they not known that their ancestors had been strung up and hung from the tree in the town square, that their grandparents were kept from voting by law, didn't they get it? Tia, an African American student, had made a personal connection to the historical content during her DV production and that connection affected her own personal identity. She was now reacting to that change by standing up on her new principles and doing what a lot of kids are afraid to do, she stuck her neck out for truth. The cafeteria hushed as Tia spoke,the boys became embarrassed at how Tia made them look and the fight was diffused. While the "invisible learning" Tia exhibited in the cafeteria situation may not directly aid her on the Regents exam, it is the reason why I became a "teacher" and illustrates an intelligence that can not be measured by a bubble sheet.
The traditional concept of the role "teacher" does not cut it anymore. Not in a world where information is literally seconds away, not in a world where problem solving is replacing content knowledge. In the midst of an educational system where learning has become something to get through rather than an embodied meaningful learning experience, digital video offers a unique pathway to success. Multimodality, can best be viewed through the prism of life itself and video is the closest alternative to recreating life in the classroom. Armed with tacit knowledge regarding media and genre, the millennial generation can use video production as an opportunity to create new meaning through authentic, socially valued products. When video production is facilitated in correlation with curriculum concepts, the learning that occurs through the social and cognitive process of production is unavoidable. With traditional literacy supported through the writing process tudents can easily transfer their new knowledge and skills to success on the state assessments. Students who work on a Jim Crow video will inevitably write about the Jim Crow era on the Regents Essay. The critical evaluation skills they obtain through sorting through web sites and visuals gives them an advantage when they come to the question which asks them to evaluate a piece of historical imagery. Over the past seven years of doing digital video consistently, I have a pass rate of 95% on the New York State U.S. History test in a district which averages 65% (NYS Report Card, McKinley High School). Video Production cannot be taken out of context from my other methods of teaching, so attributing my student's success to their video projects is hard to do. What cannot be separated from video production is the energy and enthusiasm that it instills in students and into the classroom itself. While anecdotal in nature, I have seen a consistent pattern regarding students use of DV content in both the thematic and document based essays on the United States History and Government Regents exam. When asked to recall and analyze two pieces of a historical concept students time and time again bring in their learning experiences they gained as a result of a digital video project. DV has provided them with a multimodal experience, an experience which has allowed them to create a multimodal product. With a multitude of modes to refer to, students have a much greater chance of being able to reconnect with the historical content months after the video has been completed. I have reached a rather simplistic conclusion about what multimodal means. Multimodality is life. By harnessing all five senses (and I would argue six) everything I do and everything the students do, attempts to use a multiple of modes to express understanding. DV is multimodality by its very nature. Body language, voice tone, visualization, drawing, reading, writing, editing, researching, googling,
downloading, peer teaching, acting,--all of these skills must be employed, consciously or unconsciously, when creating a digital video. In turn, if I am to ask my students to be self reflective and cognitive about the different layers of video then I need to do the same thing when it comes to "teaching". Indeed, multimodality is a two way street, students need to harness its power as do "teachers". Students will adopt much faster to this new paradigm because the Millennial generation (those born from 1980 onward) has been marinating in it for their whole lives. The arising, sometimes uncomfortable situation for "teachers" is not as easy. To accept the foundations of multimodality is to question your very own role in your classroom. Being a multimodal teacher means that you not only have to plan for a lesson but you have to always be planning and thinking about how you are going to exploit as many modes as possible to reach students and connect them with a concept in a very real way. Its hard to be multimodal, both on the receiving end and on the giving end. However, once you come to the realization students are not thriving in today's environment of high stakes testing, as an educator you are required to seek out a new way. For the time being I will still respond to and accept the label of teacher, to be honest it is easier and avoids a complex theoretical argument, but as soon as I figure out a shorter version of "Facilitator of Learning Experiences" I will let the world know.