Three years after implementing a laptop initiative in the district in which I worked I came to realize my students could create a video for a class in an hour. They were so skilled at using technology to create original products that they could do them quickly but the quality started to dwindle. Two things typically happened, first, students submitted crappy videos, or second, I would share an example of a student video from the previous year and that is what they then created, a close replica of the example I provided.
Calling upon my literacy roots, I decided to approach videos and other multimodal products students created as I did in reading and writing, with a mentor example. I wanted to students to show mastery in both content and product, and this turned out to be the best approach for my classroom.
Mentor Text (Example) – A piece of text (or video, infographic, meme, blog post, etc.) that the teacher and students know inside and out and can be approached from many different angles based on purpose.
A mentor example is not necessarily specific to the unit or content, instead, it is a stellar example that students reference and try to mimic in their own writing or creating. It is not a piece that does only one thing well, and it should definitely not be a large collection of examples. Instead, a teacher might have a few mentor examples that are used time and time again throughout the year. For student-created videos, I had one – only one.
Students watched this video more than a hundred times. We discussed it as a class, they used it independently, in small groups, while giving feedback to a partner, What is Moonshot Thinking is a perfect Mentor Example to boost student video creations up to the next level. It can be approached from multiple avenues and reinforced the 4 Components of a quality video that I wanted my students to remember as they were filming, editing, and posting.
After viewing the video as a whole class, I would have students jot down short answers to the following question:
What makes this a good video?
Inevitably, most of the answers centered around the message and emotions that they felt during the viewing. But then I would push them a bit further by asking:
What else? How were images and audio used to enhance the message?
From there, a lengthy discussion and analysis of video creation ensued. While I stressed the importance of content and product, I had never provided skills or opportunities to think, discuss, and reflect upon what makes a video good and how can I make mine better.
4 Components of a Mentor Video Example
- Visual – How does the vidoeographer use images, video, lighting, angles, etc. to enhance and contribute to the message being communicated.
- Audio – How does the videoographer use audio, music, sound effects, silence, volume, etc. to enhance and contribute to the message being communicated?
- Structural – Just as in reading, videos have a structural component to help the viewer understand their message. Is there a familiar form being used? How are video and audio used to show transitions, show sequencing, or even hook the viewer?
- Message – If there is a breakdown in the video message, more than likely little time was used to construct and plan. When a student grabs the camera and starts filming without planning we see this happening. Just as in the writing process, students need to brainstorm, plan, write, revise, discuss, etc. before filming takes place. Storyboards and graphic organizers help students think about message, purpose, and communication and lead to a better product.
While each of the 4 Components above can be broken down into skills and taught in the classroom, the same mentor video can be used for all. Having a mentor video changed the way I taught multimedia creation and the way my students learned how to share their understanding through multiple modes. It also helped to differentiate instruction based on student needs. Before publishing, if a student had poor audio in their video, I simply asked them How was music used in the Moonshot Video Mentor to enhance their message. We would talk about it, then I would suggest for them to try it in their own video. It worked far better than I could expect and two things happened, less crappy videos and more learning on communicating digitally one’s message! #Winning