from Educators' eZine
One of the more difficult aspects of teaching Automotive Technology courses is to find enough time and resources to instruct and evaluate students thoroughly. I am sure all teachers have tried to combine different objectives into one assignment to fulfill their time and resource constraints. My problems were many: assessing students' mastery of lab equipment, creating visual teaching aids, and allowing students to try a new auto-related job skill. Having my Advanced Auto Tech students use video and PowerPoint to create visual presentations solved my problems.
Three reasons for the project
First—I believe one way to tell if someone has mastered a task is if that person can teach the task correctly to others. For my Advanced Auto Tech class this would mean that the student has had the proper instruction for a particular piece of lab equipment, has performed a task with that piece of equipment a number of times, and has worked through potential problems that might arise when using the equipment.
Second—my program is certified by NATEF, the National Automotive Education Foundation. This certification requires me to introduce students to other automotive related careers choices. Normally, I discussed other types of career choices three ways: (1) during classroom lectures, (2) by showing videos about automotive career choices, and (3) having various auto technology college representatives discuss career options when they visit my room.
Third—I need alternative ways to show my beginning students how to use various pieces of equipment in the lab. Generally I go out in the lab, have the students gather around a piece of equipment, and then show them how to use it. The students then practice with the equipment. This works O.K. except when a student missed that day or when the student wasn't paying attention during the instruction. When this occurs I then need to stop other students from using that particular piece of equipment and show him/her how to use it. This, of course, prevents others from practicing with the equipment.
What I needed was a form of visual communication specific to the piece of lab equipment in my class so the students could watch, on their own time, freeing me up for lab instruction and evaluation.
The light bulb over my head lit up and an idea was born. Why not have my advanced students make training videos to show my beginning students? This solves a number of problems. First, I can be assured that the student has mastered the equipment, they will be introduced to a career (technical writer) that is related to the automotive field, and as a bonus I will have training videos specific to the equipment in my classroom.
I had to find out if the students had access to any recording and editing devices they would need for this project. The equipment at school plus what the students had at home proved adequate, and besides the students were familiar with all of this. I did not want to teach new software sin order to begin the project.
Students used a variety of recording devices, including digital still cameras, camera phones, Mini DV tapes, and mini 8mm tapes. Software for video editing was Windows Movie Maker and Adobe Premier Pro along with iTunes for the audio. Windows Power Point was used with the still pictures.
Setting up the project
After a brief explanation and discussion, my students were very enthusiastic and eager to do the project. One reason Is that they knew they would be immortalized for years to come as I showed their training videos to successive groups of beginning students. They also thought it was a good way to evaluate their abilities.
First I showed the advanced students some of the videos and Power Points I had on hand detailing the operation of some of the lab equipment. We discussed the pros and cons of my presentations and what could be done to improve them. This laid the foundation for what I was looking for and what was expected from me for their projects.
I wanted my students to conscientiously think about how to use various pieces of machinery in the lab. I reinforced that they were going to use some form of visual communication to show beginning students how to safely use lab equipment and thus should take themselves seriously. Because this is my advanced class and the students have been with each other for three or four years I allowed them to choose their partners. Selecting the task for each group was a little more complicated. As this project helped me check for the student's mastery of the equipment I wanted to make sure that the students had a good understanding of the piece of equipment they were assigned. This was accomplished in several different ways. First, by personal observation, had I seen this student use this piece of equipment multiple times? Next was to examine student-kept records documenting what tasks each had performed repeatedly. Finally through class discussions, we elicited what equipment each had mastered to guarantee that each would choose a piece of equipment with which he or she was comfortable.
I felt it was best to have two formal checks on the students' progress along with informal checks before the final presentations. We set a time line of six class periods for the project, which could be modified as needed. The kids were told that they will need to work at home and use their class time wisely. I wanted them to focus in-class time on the things they could only do at school such as photographing the equipment. Editing should be done at home. Students were reminded that time for re-shooting and further editing needed to be built into their schedule.
Grading for the project would come from three sources: their peers, a self evaluation, and my evaluation. I informed the students that we would use my standard Power Point rubric, with which they were familiar, and apply it to any videos. I created a peer evaluation sheet they would use to grade each other's presentations. The peer evaluation was scored on a point system with a maximum of five points in each category. Some categories were:
Was the information easy to understand?
Would you be able to do the required task after seeing the movie/power point, even without any prior knowledge?
Rate the overall emphasis of safety information/practices used in the making of the presentation.
I talked to each group individually about certain key points I wanted in their presentations and explained that they must focus on any safety procedures associated with the equipment.
Getting to work
Their first task was to come up with storyboards before filming started. Once I approved each storyboard, the students began taking videos, pictures, and gathering any other bits of information they needed.
One of the really nice things about my advanced class is that they assist each other when problems arise. The main problem was converting some of the video equipment media to our available editing programs. Students experienced with this software helped out the others, and as a result of this cooperation all their projects came together nicely.
It was Important to monitor each group's progress during this project due to the time constraints for using the school's video editing equipment and to make sure they followed safety procedures. During the production and post-production process many students helped each other evaluate their progress. This peer evaluation greatly improved the overall quality of the presentations and helped me to concentrate on any larger issues. On presentation day the class gathered around the monitor and we all watched, discussed, and then graded the projects.
Three come to mind:
In the early stages one of the groups, of course the class comedians, decided to not only make a comedy but also to document the making of their comedy. As anyone who teaches high school can attest, 'high school students say the darnedest things!' In this case it was all recorded on high quality digital media - much to their chagrin. After discussing the importance to stay on task and then having a class meeting about this, later projects all went fairly smoothly.
The students needed to be reminded of missing bits of information sometimes leading to shooting more footage.
Timing of some of the scenes. For example, they would zoom in for a close-up, but then stay on the close-up only briefly. The viewer had little or no time to understand what they saw, which led to confusion.
Things to do differently
I cannot understate the value of spending as much time possible in planning the presentations. Before filming Inform the students of all the details to be included in the final presentation. Do not assume that your students will remember to include all the little steps and safety procedures.
Overall I was happy with the work performed. I was impressed with the overall seriousness and focused attention of the groups towards the project. Out of twelve presentations, I can use three in my beginning classes and six more could be used as refreshers for my intermediate classes. Of the last three: one was not very good at all and would need a complete redo to make it usable, and the other two would need a lot of work to make them ready for classroom use.
The students enjoyed the project. Students commented on how it helped them to remember basic procedural details when using the equipment. Advanced students commented on how they picked up new skills to use the equipment more efficiently after seeing how students who mastered the equipment used the equipment.
I feel that the project accomplished the goals I set from the outset. It allowed me to evaluate student's performance with equipment, reinforced safety in the lab, showed the students an exciting career opportunity, and as my bonus I have some instructional videos specific to my lab.