Saturday, 19 November 2011

Photo journalism

clapperboardRegular readers of this blog will know that the school I teach in – St Felix Middle in Newmarket -  is closing at the end of this academic year. Staff from St Felix, Scaltback Middle and Newmarket College are planning a series of collaborative activities  prior to Middle School students transferring to the  College in 2012/13.
The first was an activity day this week about Recycling and I was asked to make a video with a mixed team of students from each of the schools. I decided that this would be tricky enough without the further complication of using video. Not having enough equipment to issue shared kit and only having MS Movie Maker for editing, meant that video could well end up being recorded in a range of incompatible formats, necessitating time-consuming file conversions and all manner of headaches. I chose instead to use still cameras and digital voice recorders alongside good old analogue reporters’ notepads.
I set up a Google Apps Site with filing cabinet pages where digital assets could be uploaded from any computer with internet access. This meant I could see the material on my phone as it was uploaded and while travelling between schools. More significantly it also meant that when the journalists arrived to edit their stories at St Felix today,  no vital files were left behind on cameras, voice recorders or USB drives. I had a strict rule of “Don’t upload rubbish” which required them to evaluate their assets as they went along. The students had no problems uploading or downloading files and I’d certainly use this approach again.
Apart from the Activity day itself I had a preliminary training lesson with the team, where we discussed the key journalistic “Ws” (Who, What, When, Where, Why/How) I wanted them to think how each of their three tools might be used to record this information. I issued teams with a large sheet of paper and pens and asked them to create a matrix with the each “W” as a row and with columns headed Images, Sound and Notes. I collected ideas from the groups, added them with a few of my own to a master matrix on the Google Site. Their homework was to look the site over the evening before the Activity day - though I rather doubt they did! I’ve collated the matrices into a Google Doc which you can see here. On the training day I mentioned the “Rule of Thirds” and added a link to this video on our Google Site.
Today each team edited their videos. We adopted a “house style” to create some continuity, and the music from the excellent incompetech.com serves a similar purpose. How successfully each team worked I’ll leave you to judge for yourself…
Apart from a few (possibly inevitable) communication and equipment glitches, it went well. I personally wish the final edit was half its current length, but my rule of thumb “one minute of video takes one hour to edit well” would suggest me burning the midnight oil editing (not blogging) or preferably more time spent by students planning and evaluating their edits.


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