Linking to learning

Video projects made simple

Video projects made simple

The first student video project I did eight years ago in my high school English classroom required considerable resources and time.

Before we began, I secured a video camera, Mac computers, editing software and external hard drives, all courtesy of a grant. I spent a significant amount of time teaching students how to use the technology, copying video back and forth, and helping them edit the footage.

When the monthlong project was done, we were proud of our work, which was professional and polished. Our videos were even shown at a regional tech fair.

Despite this success, I didn’t work with video again for several years after switching schools and taking on new responsibilities, which made longer projects impossible. When I next took it up two years ago, I began using tools that made the process easier and faster while still producing exemplary results.

If you are looking for the simplest way to create a video project, Animoto ( is the place to start. Students upload images and music — then Animoto does the hard part. The site automatically designs a video piece from your images that matches the tempo and style of your music.

My high school English class has recently used Animoto for creating movie trailers of novels and for designing their own commercials. Educators can sign up for a free “plus” account, which allows you to download finished projects and sets no limit on video length.

There really is no learning curve. After a brief explanation, students can start working immediately — my students have completed short videos in only two class periods.

If you want to record original video, working with the camera and iMovie on the iPad is the best solution I’ve found. On the iPad, you can film video with the built-in camera and then easily import that video into iMovie for editing. The iMovie app is fairly intuitive, but a quick tutorial for the class — possibly led by another student with prior experience — usually does the trick.

For our iPads, my school has purchased a few iRig Mics, which pick up sound at a distance. The iMovie app lets you edit videos with a few swipes of your finger, but also allows for precision. You can easily add background music, transitions and titles.

My students recently filmed “interviews” with characters from literature, and students in our economics class re-created boycotts from U.S. history. The iMovie app for the iPad costs $4.99.

Puppet Pals is an iPad app that builds a video story using animated characters. The app comes with characters (ranging from Oprah to Obama), or you can take your own picture and become a character yourself.

Once you choose your characters and settings, you hit record and the app captures character movements and voice, and a video story is created. Teachers at my school have used Puppet Pals for retelling, teaching story structure and writing memoirs.

Puppet Pals is a free app, but for $2.99, you can purchase a “Director’s Pass,” which allows for custom characters and settings.

Making videos can be a powerful method to demonstrate learning. Video projects are fun and motivating for students and teach valuable skills like planning, analyzing, scripting and collaborating.

Because these video resources make the process easier, even upper elementary students can tackle this work. Without these new tools, it’s doubtful I’d be creating video in my classroom myself; these resources have made student video projects not only possible, but painless.

Sandy Scragg is an English teacher and instructional technology specialist at Emma Lazarus HS in Manhattan.

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