Moving Voices: Digital Filmmaking in the Global Classroom

Slowly but surely, digital video technology has made its presence felt in education. One has only to look at the various Websites of schools and universities to find one or more pages offering a downloadable or streamed video about a program, event, conference, classroom activity, lecture highlights, graduation ceremonies, etc.

This is not surprising, now that digital video technology has become easier to use and more affordable. As James Martin, noted computer education stalwart and Pulitzer Prize nominee, declared in his speech before the International Education and Resource Network — or iEARN annual conference in Slovakia last July, the technology is here, it will just keep on getting better and cheaper.

iEARN recognizes the potential and impact of digital video technology in its international network of about 20,000 schools in over 110 countries worldwide. Thus, in March 2004 it launched “Moving Voices,†a pioneering project integrating digital filmmaking into the curriculum. The program involves classrooms from New Hampshire and New York in the United States as well as those in Argentina, Botswana, Canada, Egypt, India, Japan, Morocco, Slovakia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

Focused on the theme “What I want the world to know about my school,†teacher participants from these countries, and their students, explored, experimented and reflected, all with the goal of producing a 2-minute digital movie.

Although Moving Voices integrates digital filmmaking into the classroom, it consciously avoids becoming a mere crash course on filmmaking. The course is crafted so that it can be easily incorporated into social studies, language learning, geography, civics and community building and other disciplines taught by a community of international learners interacting and collaborating online.

Backed by a solid theoretical grounding, Moving Voices has very practical and timely goals. It aims to impart 21st century skills such as collaborative online teaching and learning; to teach technical skills such as video production and editing, file uploading and downloading; digital media literacy; to foster second language acquisition plus cross cultural teaching and learning engagement; and to develop soft skills such as time management, decision-making and team work.

Curriculum Application: Lessons Learned from Argentina to Zimbabwe The impact of Moving Voices in the teaching-learning experience of the participants and their students is best measured by what some of the teachers and their students say of the project.

Notes from the teachers:

Silvina — Colegio San martin de Tours. Argentina I could integrate the teaching of English as a foreign language to this project. The course helped me to integrate the project with content standards, to develop comfort and confidence using online forums, to meet other teachers, to develop technology skills and to obtain new ideas for teaching.

Ahmed — Mansoura Secondary School for Girls, Egypt

This was one of the most challenging learning experiences of my career as I had to integrate teaching English with the use of technology for a real purpose. It not only taught me and my students new skills and attitudes but it also empowered us and made us more aware of our potentials and the necessity of developing them.

The support given by the facilitators and the other participants was unprecedented. The cooperation that was taking place, I think, helped open our eyes wide to the fact that we need to understand ourselves and others better. Among the merits or the things learned in the course are team work, cooperation, improved English language skills, translation, and writing, speaking, learning about others, self esteem and promoting democracy!!!….

Roopalatha — Government Girls High School, India

Students participated with full enthusiasm in making the video film. All the participants were first acquainted about the working of a mini digital-video camera. They then went through rehearsal. Selection of the characters was made after collecting everybody’s views. Finally, the shooting was done in the school premises after arranging all the settings required. The entire school and parent committee members were invited for the shooting. One of the parent committee members was also involved in the making of the film. The girl filmed during the felicitation ceremony is the actual character. The girl has secured high rank in the Public Examination. When we planned to shoot award distribution function in the school premises, we received an invitation from the Government officials stating that the prize distribution ceremony would be actually held in a different location. Instantly my students came up with the idea of shooting the original function. As a result, all the MV participants along with the girl, my Principal and myself went to the function and shot the entire scene…. So the story that my students have written has become a real story with real character acting in it…

Juda — Marondera High School, Zimbabwe

Our experience with Moving Voices made us learn that:

  • Determination, perseverance and optimism are the cornerstones to success
  • Proper planning is vital for project-based learning
  • Power of collaboration and communication through the use of Internet and email
  • Good inter-personal relations with others within an organization and in the community where one lives is vital for project management
  • Ability to negotiate is a necessity
  • Students can do wonders if given the right motivation, necessary technical support and skills and opportunities

Notes From the Students:

Maha — Mansoura Secondary School for Girls, Egypt … my research skills became better than before, i was searching for data about those who graduated from our school... .sometimes I've to make interviews with some of them to complete the data so that taught me to prepare for the interview, how to talk with people and respect them and finally how to form the story of the character in short as you know the film's period is 2 min and this is only one part of its parts... on the social side, how to communicate with people, co-operation u know the most interesting thing i liked that Mr. Ahmed taught me how to film with the camera and gave me the chance to do it.. I hope u like our film ensha' allah.

Srilatha — Government Girls High School, India I am Srilatha from India. I am 15 years old. By participating in this collaborative project I learned how collaboration work. When we discuss about the project in the class all my friends mingle so nicely that we don't find any differences among us. We share our ideas and give respect to each other’s views. We all became like one family and our writing skills have improved. As our school has local language as the medium of instruction we have some difficulty in speaking and writing English. But after this project has started, we are continuously reading and posting the messages in his forum, and this has helped to improve our language. I liked the project very much. I am really enjoying it. Thanks to iEARN for taking up such a beautiful project.

Kathleen — Robert Wagner High School, New York I just wanted to say that I am happy that I worked on this project with my classmates. That this was a lot of fun. I learned how to work with cameras, the computers, how to upload film, sound. But the most fun was to talk to people and learn about their cultures, the way they are working how everyone is learning a lot. And I really enjoyed the storyboards and getting to know everyone's ideas. It would be nice if we could all talk together and be online and even after this program is over. Because everything we did was a lot of fun. Hopefully we can all talk after this program is over. Well this is all I wanted to say. Thanks for listening. Talk to ya'll real soon.

Maria and Valentina — Colegio San MartÃn de Tours, Argentina We are Maria and Valentina from San Martin de Tours school and we want you to know what we learned in making this project. We learned how to work in groups, how to use a video camera and how to edit a video. We also learned how to develop our ideas and how to work in groups. It was interesting to get to know other children from different countries, it was very exciting. New girls learned more about the school and its Patron Saint Martin of Tours. To sum up we think this project helped us to improve our English as school subjects are taught in Spanish

Manal — Reference High School-Meknes, Morocco I loved this project because we learned a lot from it, we worked in a group which is very important thing. As you know we are speaking Arabic all the time so this project makes us speak English. The idea of filming is also great and funny too specially the repetitions it's like if we are filming a true film.

What do these testimonials mean?

If the above testimonials are any indication at all on the impact of digital video and filmmaking in a global classroom, one could safely say that infusing digital video filmmaking in the classroom is a powerful way of achieving specific curricular goals such as English writing skills and expressing one’s self in an online forum. By enabling teachers and students to plan, research, write and produce the films, it provides both of them the unique opportunity to actually collaborate and “learn by doing.†Elevating this to an international level through iEARN’s online global network adds an exciting dimension of transcending national boundaries resulting to a virtual community of learners who share experiences and help one another achieve the course’s learning goals while learning each other’s culture.

Moving Voices has shown that the purposive integration of digital video in the classroom is a pedagogical intervention whose time has come.

Visit iEarn’s .movingVoices.

Mercedes del Rosario