One of the ways I ended the year with my seventh graders was to have them work to produce a media project about an extreme weather phenomenon. I have assigned media projects before, but this year I think I gathered the best way to frame the assignment and I was very proud and pleased with the students' work. Here are some tips I can share from whatt I have learned:
1. Don't worry about the tech parts right away.
I do explain the assignment by telling the students that the end result is media project. I generated a list of possible Web 2.0 media formats they might use and put it on my class site. I didn't worry about the production. My experience has taught me that this generally works out, and, that I don't need to know very much--or even anything at all, about how to used the media program. Once students have an idea, they are willing to work with a program to get the project to to look and sound right. With so many choices, students can even change the media along the way. If you look at my class site you will see that I even recommended programs I had never tried before!
2. Start with sources.
Even I used to be so excited about the media production that I didn't enforce the research stage very effectively. This year I asked students to find five sources, annotate and post them to a Wikispace so they could serve as a reference for future years. Having the students evaluate sources made them slow down, and read carefully and responsibly.
3. Don't skimp on the script.
I get much better products when I focus the students on the writing. I asked every production team to write a script in two column format--the first with the words the "narrator" will say and the second column describing the visuals the audience will see as they listen. Sometimes students are so excited about the media they can be a bit light on the science. By not letting teams go into production until the script was edited, I more often avoid having to tell students with a glitzy production that they haven't included enough content. Students were so eager to start production that they worked diligently to improve their scripts.
4. Don't worry that some projects take more time.
I gave class time to productions, but this didn't mean everyone finished in school. I turned the responsibility for finishing over to the teams. In some cases they divided up work. In other cases they figured out a way to collaborate virtually (my favorite solution to the finishing problem.) I also realize that in some cases the work load was not divided evenly. I worry about that less now than I used to. Now I find that as long as the hardest working, most productive students feel acknowledged for their work, they are happy and even proud to carry out their vision of the project.
Many of these project can be viewed on my class site. I intend to write about a couple of the Web 2.0 media sites my students use in a future post. You are welcome to take a look.