Wednesday, April 17, 2019

These Documentaries Are KILLER!

We are led by example. 

Think about it: Have you ever... Put together a puzzle without first looking at the cover to see what it's supposed to look like once complete? Made a craft or home improvement project without first looking up inspiration or instructions on Google or Pinterest? Saw a movie without watching the trailer or reading the synopsis? The answer is mostly likely no, as we are driven by seeing something that we can connect with.

Because of this need for inspiration to draw from and even deviate from, it is often challenging to ask our students to create - the highest level of Bloom's - without giving them any sort of frame of reference. Couple that with asking students to use a new tech tool, conduct a research project on an unknown individual, and apply taught curricular concepts to a new creation may feel daunting for even our traditionally higher performing students. 

Recognizing all of these factors, Becky Ainsworth - Forensics Science teacher at Byron Nelson High School, created multiple resources to set her students up for success. Students in this upper level class were tasked with creating a mini-documentary that detailed the forensic psychology of an infamous serial killer, and were to present the information in a video format using Adobe Spark to make it view like a true documentary. 

Click to view Mrs. Ainsworth's Spark Project Instructions.
In previous years, students presented this content in a traditional format by standing in front of the class and retelling their information. This type of presentation lacked student engagement, was time consuming, and the success of a exemplar product was confined to that class periods' limited audience. To elevate this experience, Becky then replaced the traditional presentation format with the documentary style project requirement. With any first year project, there aren't a bank of examples to pull from, so it was a genius idea that Mrs. Ainsworth created and delivered the project instructions using the exact tool, Adobe Spark Video, she was asking students to use. Additional relevant information, including required content and the grading rubric, were showcased on a traditional document project outline.

Next, students were empowered with full creative freedom to add content from any reliable source (with a minimum of at least 3) as they conducted their own research. The documentary is a visual, video presentation, so the main premise requires a series of photos and videos that have a voice-over to tell the story using very little, if any, text on screen. Students used sites such as Pixabay to find free stock photo and video clips, as well as truly realistic clips that depicted the actual serial killer in photo or video. Check out these top two mini-documentary creations:

Ian Brady: As told by Lauren
Jeffrey Dahmer: As told by Kai and Tony

Once video creation was complete within Adobe Spark, students downloaded their videos and then uploaded them onto a collaborative YouTube Playlist that would house projects for all Forensic Science students at BNHS. By uploading to this platform, students were able to share their creation beyond the walls of their class period and could in turn view documentaries created by students studying the same content in a completely different class period. Publishing to YouTube allowed students to have a broader audience, made the presentation format more engaging as students got to watch multiple mini-documentaries, and created a wealth of examples to draw from for the following school year. Since Mrs. Ainsworth's classes in all had 57 videos on their Playlist, Mrs. Ainsworth plans to pick the top exemplars, as well as non-examples, from this collaborative playlist to make a new, shortened, and focused playlist to support next year's students as they, too, begin this exciting creative project.

This project meets ISTE Student Standard of being a Knowledge Constructor (3) in which students
  • 3a: Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.
  • 3b: Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources.
  • 3c: Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.

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