Video in the Hands of Learners (Jamie Keddie)

David Dodgson's picture

So, on the last day of the conference it all comes first circle. I wrote my first report of the Conference on Mike Harrison’s short form video session and now my last one focuses on video too, this time with Jamie Keddie at the helm.

This was the last session before the final plenary and, anticipating an audience running low on energy after almost 4 days of sessions, talks, and discussions, Jamie did a great job of perking everyone up with his humour and verve. He began by introducing us to some ‘YouTubers’ (people who have become famous through their YouTube videos) and then showed a video he had shot on the morning of the session asking some teenagers on the streets of Manchester to explain who these YouTubers are. 
The session was full of real examples of video like this, both videos that Jamie had recorded himself and, as the session title suggests, those that his students had made. One compilation of clips from student videos showed the various ways in which the ‘talking head’ medium could be used. We saw language learners as critics of art, as storytellers, as narrators, and as social commentators. What is more, we saw young learners, teens, and adults from different backgrounds doing this.

Jamie got us to think about the various advantages of using student videos in class. These included the effort that students will put into getting it right. The video camera gives a sense of audience, and this means that students script their language carefully and practice until they get it right. They pay more attention to how they present themselves, both in terms of physical appearance and their tone of voice. They shoot, reshoot, and reshoot again until they have produced something they feel happy with.
This was perfectly illustrated by an example of Jamie’s own father telling a joke in Spanish. We saw a behind the scenes video in which he read and reread from the script until he felt he was ready to record. This was then edited to make a short but productive 30 second clip.

Of course there are problem areas to consider too. Many students say they find it difficult to talk for extended periods without making some kind of error. The process described above –of shooting a longer clip or several clips and then editing it down– was offered as one solution. Jamie also discussed the issues of obtaining permission to use students on video and I will present his suggested solution amongst the ten tips he presented for students making videos:

  1. Put the camera in the students’ hands, thus giving them creative control and a chance to go beyond the classroom space while filming.
  2. Offer a choice of medium for doing a task. Do not insist on film, but simply offer it as an optional alternative to writing or producing a project.
  3. Let the students retain ownership of their work, in order to increase their feeling of control and to avoid issues of permission and privacy.
  4. Open the learning space and let the students take their video projects out of class. After all, what matters when filming is location, location, location.
  5. Provide models of what you expect from the students, either by finding a suitable example video on YouTube or by making one yourself.
  6. Restrict commentary tasks to those that that involve only images (still or moving) without the speaker present. This allows for a personalised piece of work but helps avoid privacy issues.
  7. Encourage students to share their videos (privately if necessary) with the class through an online service. This helps avoid a whole class of students handing you memory sticks and potentially allows everyone in the class to view them, not just the teacher.
  8. Related to the above is the matter of feedback. If everyone in the class can view the video it allows for peer feedback on both the language content and the techniques used to make the video.
  9. Encourage your students to create scripts, which allow them to practice (as with Jamie’s father) and also affords a chance for the teacher to give some linguistic input before filming begins.
  10. Finally, it is a good idea to give students some technical training on the use of videos, such as how to get the best sound quality, how to avoid too much or too little light, and how to edit.  We should never just assume that our students know about tech and will automatically use it in the best way possible!

This was a great way to end the conference, with lots of practical tips and useful examples of video in action. After all, just like video cameras, learning is put to best use when in the hands of the students themselves.