Digital video

If you thought that work with digital video needed fantastic equipment or that it was for some other subject, Reading Boys secondary school sets the record straight. Teacher Mary-Clare Maunder has been trying an unusual teaching strategy – editing video to raise issues in science. Given an assortment of video interviews about homeopathy, the year nine class assembles a short film. They sift through pre-filmed interviews and add a commentary. Could homeopathy cure people? Was there any science to it? And, if it worked anyway, did that matter? The boys have a question per group to answer: they have to assemble the evidence to support a case one way or the other.Keeping costs in check, they use Pinnacle’s Studio software in a regular network room. “It was an alternative way to teach ‘ideas and evidence’ – challenging, more interesting and very adaptable to any topic,” says Maunder.Designed by Tony Sherborne at Sheffield’s Centre for Science Education, video lessons offer a fresh approach. “We’ve aimed to make this manageable, time efficient and we now have a version using film clips on PowerPoint,” says Sherborne. “It’s superb to see students so engrossed.” As the computers you find in school gain power, you see more schools using them to communicate via video. It signals not the end of email, handwriting or PowerPoint but the start of new, and generally less explored, ways to learn.
Take Coed-y-lan primary school in Wales, whose short film about minibeasts won a Becta digital video award.Somebody simply suggested making a film about their current topic. Deputy head Robert James had some very affordable technology: an Apple iMac, a digital microscope and a Sony camcorder. The class had followed a David Attenborough TV series, and they were ready to parallel his example. What followed was a journey through a variety of skills, techniques and pupil research. “They’d have highly creative ideas and launch into much discussion on the best ways to shoot things,” says James. “There was collaborative learning all through as they assembled the clips, or used animation in one sequence. It worked in different ways for different children and showed us all a new way of working.”You can view this short film at www.becta.org.uk although only a little of what you see conveys the attention to detail, the enjoyment of science inquiry or the thorough application of the group that produced it.

Reading boys School – resources
Staff: science department;
Non-timetabled hours: one plus two to three in class;
Kit:Pinnacle Studio – video-editing software and school network;
Cost: variable depending on video-editing software of choice;
Support (external): lesson designed by Tony Sherborne.