Helping Students Find Identity Through Student Created Video

Today’s guest blogger is Matt Miller, who is a wonderfully talented and insightful teacher, author and blogger. His book, Ditch That Textbook, encourages teachers to abandon tired, old teaching practices and philosophies and rethink how education is done. He blogs regularly at about creative teaching and educational technology. Connect with him on Twitter, , or by email at matt (at) DitchThatTextbook (dot) com.

Matt MillerIdentity is an issue that children wrestle with throughout their entire academic lives. They’re grasping at finding what kind of person they are, what values are important to them and who they want to become.

For many kids, whether they realize it or not, they start recording their identities as soon as they get smartphone, tablet or other mobile device. They record video and snap pictures, and they swap them with friends by text message and social media.

In my experience, as a high school Spanish teacher for more than a decade, I’ve found that letting students explore their identities and share them with each other is inherently engaging. I’ve also found that expressing those identities through video is popular and a lot of fun.

One of my classes took this student created video project on as an end-of-the-year culminating activity. What we created was an 83-second portrait of what those students stood for. Plus, it was done in Spanish and all of the media was used responsibly without copyright violations.

Here were the major components of our project:

  • We brainstormed the icons that represented our school, our community and our class. No idea was a bad idea.
  • We then listed words we knew in Spanish that could represent those ideas.
  • We started collecting media, and students didn’t have to go further than their cell phones. Because we could all connect to the same school BYOD WiFi network, we used TechSmith Fuse to deliver media. Students downloaded Fuse on their phones and connected them to my computer. Then, through the WiFi, they were able to seamlessly send pictures and videos directly to my computer.
  • We storyboarded our ideas, deciding which written textual messages would go best with each picture and video that we wanted to use. We also talked about how we could arrange our media with timing and transitions.
  • We started designing our video using Camtasia Studio. We added media to the clip bin and then dragged it into place, where we trimmed it as necessary and added effects. We used some of the stock music in Camtasia as background so we didn’t infringe on any artists’ copyright.
  • We used Creative Commons photos to fill in the gaps of photos that we didn’t have. We used to find these photos that weren’t protected by a standard copyright.
  • We proofed our video after it was finished by making sure that text and video transitions matched up.
  • We published our final product to YouTube (see it below), where students were able to view it and share it with friends on social media.

Can’t see the video? Watch it on YouTube!

Another format for creating identity videos is the “Six Word Story,” where students shoot six short video clips (about 5 seconds each) and summarize their short stories in a six-word phrase embedded as text in the video. See more about this concept on Don Goble’s website or check out his ebook on the topic.

Creating a video was fun, but there were two parts of the process that made it extra special. One: I got to work with my students to create this project. Often, teachers assign work to students to complete independently. I could say that I did this with my students instead of assigning it to my students. Two: We were proud of our final product. It took some extra time to make it look right, but in the end, it wasn’t just something my students did because they had to. They made something they wanted to show others.