Students Making Videos: Students Making Meaning

Students making videos, autonomously, was an idea I had recently. As I played with the notion, looking at it from all angles, it looked good. You know, an opportunity to get out of the students’ way, and let them learn independently. So I did. I got out of their way.

What guidance did I give them?

There were just two guiding principles.

One, every student must speak English in the video. Since I teach English, I felt that was reasonable, and made it clear. So I said, “Everyone must speak English”.

Two, I said the topics/themes they chose to work with should not, could not, must not, be inappropriate. No sex, no drugs. For the inclusion of any inappropriate content (sex & drugs), they would be held accountable.

After that, I got completely and totally, absolutely 100%, out of the way. What were the results? What happened?

Firstly, let me say I am surprised. Why? As I reflect, it became clear to me what the students did.

OK, what did they do?

Answer: They tried to make sense of their world.

In the tenth grade, there runs a common thread through the videos. There is no doubt that it was an unconscious one, not premeditated. It just happened, across the board.

What happened?

Crime. In three videos there are crimes committed. A robbery, a burglary, a kidnapping and a murder are shown. The only video that didn’t show a crime was the one that showed a beauty contest.

Now, if we stop and think about this, we realise that these topics are what we see every day on the news. On a daily basis, we see crime. We see murder. We see kidnapping. We see burglary, and we see robbery. Crime is a constant presence on the news.

Likewise, the values of society are present on the news every day. Think about the last time you saw a Miss America Beauty Contest, a Miss Universe Beauty Contest, a Miss Hollywood Beauty Contest, a Miss Chile Beauty Contest, a Miss Beach Bunny Contest, etc.

Our society is obsessed with physical beauty. Images of feminine perfection are held up as goals to strive for. The implications, however, often go unnoticed.

That is, until a celebrity or a model has serious health or emotional problems related to their attempt to achieve society’s approved images of feminine perfection.

Then, there is often a debate, lasting for about 5 minutes, before we go to the next beauty contest. That would be the current Miss Chile Beauty Contest, in progress as I write these lines…

OK. This is as far as I’m going today. You see, I’m reflecting on what I think came out of this project.

Critical thinking

This was a conscious, hands-off approach to letting students use technology, choose their topics independently, plan, collaborate, cooperate, and contribute to a group project. It was the most real thing we’ve done with English all year long.

You see, there were no language restrictions. There were no, “You must use the Present Perfect” directives. They used the language necessary to tell their stories, just as they would in real life.

My students did a wonderful job in their attempts to make sense of the world around them.

In my opinion, this happened unconsciously on their part. The topics they chose to deal with are the topics they see on TV, in prime time, every single day of their lives.

That’s what made this a really great project, and a great learning experience. In the end, it was real.

Congratulations to all my students in 10th grade! I’m very proud of what you accomplished, individually, and collectively. Well done!

About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
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