Why "Movie Magic"?
Curriculum Innovation Award Winner: 2006 Victorian Education Excellence Awards
Enhancing the Engagement of students in the Middle Years through ICT and Learning through the Arts
A two-year project was developed on research around the need for increasing the motivation, engagement and improving student learning outcomes for students in the Middle Years. In 2004, a student CD was created with the then Year 6s and in 2005 the project was extended to include Year 5 and centred on developing a series of short films (19 in all) that would be ultimately screened at Hoyts Theatre Complex, Eastland in late November. Ringwood North Primary School's project took on the challenge of enhancing student learning through the incorporation of ICT and The Arts in our Middle Years program - an inquiry based learning stratagem, the key aspects of which include but are by no means exhaustive- team work; developing resilience; self confidence; organisational skills, problem solving; active listening skills and providing opportunities to develop leadership capacity. The aim was at all times to provide challenge and engagement to allow all students, regardless of intellectual strength, socio-economic background and behavioural issues, to realise the shared belief in what can be achieved for all. A further aim of a new look at curriculum delivery was to achieve higher student achievements for all students. Encompassing this approach was the need to utilise ICT more effectively in every day classroom practice and in doing so build new skills for all teachers to enable them to work in a challenging and different learning environment. The project developed by the Middle Years team at Ringwood North effectively embraced the key elements of Flagship Strategy I in the Blueprint for Government Schools and covered the aspects in the Effective Schools Model of professional leadership, the heightened focus on new teaching and learning pedagogy, purposeful teaching, shared belief of vision and common goals with high expectations of success and accountability all in a stimulating environment.
In 2004 the Year 6 staff experimented with the idea of a group inquiry-based learning experience for all students by creating a CD of original music compositions. The educational merit of our work was published in an early 2005 edition of “Snapshots” the International Innovations and Excellence Journal published in the United Kingdom for a world-wide distribution.
Following the significant gains and acknowledged success of this approach the teaching team in Year 5 and 6 in 2005 designed an innovative multi-media program in which 120 students were to be fully immersed in the new project-based approach to learning. Once word had spread beyond the school community by teachers children and parents about the work being done by the school’s Middle Years teachers, interest was fed back to the school from other schools, the Region, teachers and the business sector wanting to know what we were doing and how it was feasible that we could cater for the learning needs of so many children in a format.
The project devised at Ringwood North had never been used previously. The concept evolved from the commitment of key personal with administrative support and the willingness of staff, teaching as part of the team to take risks in both planning, program delivery and in working in a changed physical learning environment.
The attached plan highlights the school’s commitment to create a new learning environment from its own resources to stimulate children to want to work in the Middle Years area of the school. Corridors were changed into meaningful work space with classroom walls altered to create enhanced access to the very latest IMac computers and other digital equipment such as video cameras, sound equipment, keyboards and computer software. These resources were acquired through financial arrangements the school made to properly equip the area with the technology necessary to achieve success, quite apart from the school’s computer laboratory. The physical change to classrooms and the acquisition of new ICT tools that are readily accessible has changed the way teachers teach and more effectively how they incorporate ICT multimedia equipment in their classrooms and learning teams.
After the successes achieved in the first year (2004) there was a firm commitment, enshrined in the new charter, to press forward to support teachers who demonstrated their commitment to educational change in the very best interests of improving student learning and teacher growth. A new budget was established for the Middle Years to provide funds and all necessary resources for the project to succeed. A Leading Teacher position was created to lead the school’s innovation and excellence program in the Middle Years. The creation of a Middle Years budget was a new feature on the school’s budgeting protocol and indicated to all that the school was committed and prepared to back teachers with new ideas. Previously, limited access to new technology would have severely prevented the development of our program. We realised that whilst the Ringwood Cluster had purchased a mobile computer lab which was used extensively in the first year of our project, once the lab ‘moved on’ to other schools our students and staff would be left “in limbo” wanting to press forward with their new learning but unable to do so. Hence the school’s proactive stance.
It will be of no surprise to point out the overwhelming response to our successes coming from our school community, the excitement generated by both the sale of the CD in 2004 and the glow experienced by all who attended the Short Film Festival. The production of a two DVD set of all 19 short films was then made available to students, school families and others who made genuine inquiries. What better way to demonstrate and celebrate the worth of high quality teaching and learning programming.
We found that for students who experienced lack of success in every day curriculum delivery, the opportunity to use a variety of “intelligences” enabled them to thrive!
To share the satisfaction and pride in their demonstrable achievement of completing both the CD in 2004 and Short Film Festival (2005) and viewing their film on “the big screen” students made significant long-term gains in self esteem, confidence and better prospects for their futures.
· Describe how the innovative approach is being implemented, including the length of time required, the method of implementation and evaluation strategies.
Year 1 2004 CD Developed/Acquisition of new digital media;refurbish and adapt the Middle School to bring about innovative teaching and learning opportunities.
Year 2 2005 Short Filim festival Project
The challenges faced by Ringwood North Primary School (RNPS) at the outset of the project included: How to manage 60 students to work on this project (2004); How to provide a program with somewhat limited access to the technology required; How to divide access to the mobile computer facility equitably among the students; How to create and maintain enthusiasm; How to cover the cost of consumable items such as blank CD’s, paper, and whether it was possible to produce a product of high quality that the community would actually acknowledge as innovative. The mobile computer facility was supplemented by: Pro Tools Mbox software and hardware, a Rode condenser microphone, speakers and headphones for monitoring provided by the school and the expertise of teachers. ‘Real’ instruments such as guitars and keyboards were also used. The goals for 2004 were to: setup and trial the implementation of a ‘multimedia’ program with Year 6 students, assess the ‘mobile facility’ to gain insight into appropriate technologies for purchase by RNPS, assess the ‘mobile facility’ to gain insight into best teaching practice so as to determine the most effective physical setup for an ongoing program at RNPS, continue to develop knowledge and skills with the use of specific software programs and technologies (iPhoto, iMovie, iTunes, iDVD, Garageband, wireless networks, Fire wire, digital cameras and movie cameras, etc), focus on using the ‘mobile facility’ as a tool to create an original music CD, Radio show and DVD for Year 6 graduation – a DVD was also produced and included slideshows and movies from the year.
Given these challenges, the project commenced with the Grade 6 students forming groups to work on various aspects of the project. The groups included: a rehearsal group who rehearsed material for recording the following week, a recording group who recorded the song they had previously rehearsed, a business group who looked at costing, developing timelines and liaising with the Principal, a graphic design group who were responsible for designing the CD cover and promotion posters, an advertising group who promoted the CD through activities such as scripting and organising a radio show and an engineers’ group who was responsible for burning the CDs and organising the use of photocopiers and paper slicers required for the CD cover. Many students belonged to more than one group. For example students recording their pieces one week could still be part of another such as the graphic designers group, and were expected to fulfil the roles of both. Each group, apart from the rehearsal and recording groups, had two student leaders who were responsible for delegating jobs and ensuring that everyone had both something to do and remained on task.
Each week, the students were allocated a 2 hour block on Thursday morning during which they were asked to meet in their groups to discuss plans for the work session, managers would allocate tasks, and tasks would be completed. Towards the end of each session, the Project Managers would conduct a meeting comprising the managers from each group. The Project Managers and team managers would then report back to the year level outlining progress, successes and setbacks. This project was carried out over two terms of work. The project managers developed a timeline of goals in order to meet the completion date set by the teachers. As the completion date neared, some additional time was allocated.
In order to attempt this demanding and challenging project, several changes were made to the school’s regular timetable. Units of work were integrated efficiently to meet required outcomes, and some timetabling changes were made to maximise the use of the ICT facilities already at school, as well as the cluster mobile facility. The program was also planned to accommodate the use of several different teaching spaces for each different group. While the initial plans to put aside a full 2 hour session each week was daunting to begin with, the results and enthusiasm for this project justified this decision.
In 2005 the project diversified further, involving all Year 5 and 6 students. Teaching and Learning knowledge gained from the first year of the project was brought forward into discussions with 2005 teaching staff in the Middle Year’s team. The decision to expand the program so that 120 students would participate in multi-media opportunities posed many new challenges. The issues were the size of the learning group; access to technology; teacher skills and training requirements; timetabling; 2005 program needs to support the making of short films.
The development of short films (“Movie Magic Units”) incorporated three school terms of study. Two hours each week, again on a Thursday morning, were set aside when the Year 5 and 6 area were able to meet plan the day’s activities and rotate through a variety of key elements relating the making of film. Students were introduced at the beginning of second term to the different genres of film which embraced comedy, suspense, documentaries, advertising, music video and current affairs. Teachers worked in teams to present one genre each and students rotated through these groups each week. Teachers were responsible for researching and presenting examples and activities in the genre they were leading.
Upon completion of these rotations students formed work groups of no more than six in which they were to work for the remainder of the year. Each group was responsible for creating a “production company”, name and logo. Staff led discussion which focussed on the various roles carried out by film crews: director, script writers; costume design; editing; camera technique, sound recording; music composition and performance technique. Each group had to discuss and allocate roles for each member. Students were informed that the following weeks would include specialist training in one of these areas. Teachers then conducted a series of lessons over 5 weeks in each of the disciplines working closely with students who had nominated their individual preferences.
By the commencement of Term 3 each “production company” was responsible for presenting a summary of their concept for a short film to teachers. It was conducted in the form of “My Movie Rules” akin to the TV program “My Restaurant Rules” where teams were required to present a detailed plan. Students were required to present a title, synopsis of their idea, script, a sketched storyboard, details of filming locations and roles to be managed by each member of the group. Once approval was given for their ideas students then borrowed digital cameras to compose a digital storyboard of photos on location. Students commenced filming once these requirements had been met. A booking sheet was set up in the learning area to enable them to book equipment dependent upon the stage of filming they were at. Teachers worked across all groups (19 in all) and in a variety of support roles. Their support included assisting groups during filming, rehearsing scripts and performance, editing music and film.
Art and Music specialist staff were introduced to support the program with technical expertise. The Art specialist guided all students through the use of “iStop Motion”, an animation software package. The short film using this technique “After Dark” admirably demonstrates the level of excellence that was achieved with the collaboration of 120 students, the commitment and creativity of teachers prepared to take on new teaching approaches and the collective successes that flowed from productive, purposeful and creative endeavour. The Music teacher provided invaluable assistance with students recording their own compositions and performances.
Leadership opportunities prevailed at so many levels during the project as demonstrated in the diverse range of responsibilities needed to be addressed. For example, the role of director called for responsible coordination and management of each group. Two students applied for the roles of producers and were responsible for the overall organisation of the Short Film Festival.
The results of the 2005 project exceeded the expected outcomes for the 2004 project. By the end of 2005 the screening of the 19 Short Films was a major achievement in itself. The films received a standing ovation from the packed theatre. With the completion of the CD a semi-professional product was created. In both elements of the two-year project students displayed improved confidence and self-esteem together with a positive approach to the project and school - many students who had previously lacked confidence shared their talents. Students took on leadership challenges, responsibility for the project timeline and developed real life skills. Co-operative teamwork was evident throughout the project, not only amongst students but also teachers and students in a genuine demonstration of effective collaboration. The CD project raised over $1000 dollars which paid for all expenses associated with the ‘Big Day Out’ (an end-of-year outing for Year 6 students) and for a surprise graduation DVD. Outcomes achieved by the Short Film Festival centred not so much on sales or profits per se, but rather in the evidence of a great deal of industry, application, challenge, pride and success in the finished product. The two-year project brought into clear focus what can be achieved with imagination, creative effort and productive learning opportunity for both teachers and students. The Two-set DVD is provided as evidence of what has been recorded in this application. It does stand proudly on its own.
Subsequently a number of students entered a National Song Writing Competition and two student compositions received Encouragement Awards from the Australian Children’s Music Foundation. A feature article was published in a local newspaper on the CD. The students created a successful radio station which was pre-recorded and played at lunchtimes and included music from the CD, interviews and mock advertisements. A radio station host spoke to students on the differences between community and commercial radio and some of the songs from the CD were played on the radio station. The students received immediate feedback from whole school community – students were even asked for their autographs! A DVD was produced at the end of the project which provided a new and innovative way of presenting Graduation / student work. The Short Film Festival was reported in the Herald-Sun in the “Learn Editorial” section reporting on innovation in schools and also in local newspapers. Both projects provided many positive opportunities to celebrate student achievement and talent. The school’s project is published on the Department’s Knowledge Bank site under Student Learning in the Exemplary category.
School student achievement data reveals that attainment levels in the key areas of English and Mathematics show significant improvement. We will track progress over time to see if these trends continue as the multi-media project design concept continues to show sustained engagement in learning by all students and with attainment levels continuing or even exceeding expectation.
The highly successful implementation of innovative curriculum design for Middle Years students has demonstrated:
i. very high levels of student engagement in creating high quality CDs of original music and DVDs of original short films.
ii. Student/staff enthusiasm to work productively and with heightened interest in learning
iii. Evidence that students from two year levels can work collaboratively on projects designed to challenge, stimulate and interest all learners with impressive outcomes for all.
iv. Students and teachers working and learning together.
v. Increased knowledge and expertise of staff in the use of multimedia across the curriculum in the Middle Years.
vi. A structurally altered Middle Years environment which allows for collaborative work across the two year levels and which allows new learning to occur.
vii. An enthusiastic and motivated team of teachers following a unified approach.
viii. Widespread acknowledgement of the program's success across the community such that each successive Year 6 group will be in a position to lead/mentor the Year 5 students in the new learning ventures.
ix. Established 'higher order' teaching and learning outcomes, demonstrated by higher student achievement levels.
x. that the school has been invited to join the Network of Innovative Schools. (NIS)
xi. The significant impact a shared vision and a collaborative team approach has had in addressing the needs of Middle Years learners and their teachers.
At Ringwood North we have set the bar high by trialling and creating an ongoing and sustainable multimedia program in the school. We have refined the current program; we are continuing to explore and implement 'leading edge' multi-media projects to extend and will continue to challenge students and teachers as learners.The MiddleYears program at the school is now well embedded in the school community and will be sustained by 'up skilling' staff by providing ongoing access to emerging technologies and by utilising the skills of Middle Years teachers influencing others across the whole school.
Our experience is adaptable to other schools and classes regardless of demographic and socio-economic factors, age groups and subject areas due to the creative, open-ended nature of any planned task. Preparedness to develop new program delivery and to take risks are key elements in schools wanting to head down a similar path. Teacher allocation to a Middle Years program also needs to be considered. The number of groups and scale or outer limits of a planned project can be modified to suit different schools or particular focus groups in specific areas of the curriculum. Projects can be devised to suit any learning dimension.
The overall success of this initiative exemplifies the fact that it inspires both staff and students to perform well beyond everyday expectations and is a direct consequence arising from the excitement and challenge generated by new thinking. With the support of school leadership not only in funding such initiatives but in assisting teachers with changed management plans for example with timetabling/resourcing and any facilities needs and a commitment to support teachers eager to take risks and develop new pedagogical skills relevant to the current and future needs of students, there will be a quantum leap in changes to curriculum design and delivery. All too often teachers by vurtue of their conscientiousness with assessing learning outcomes can become too focussed on checking off assessment task lists rather than providing exciting learning experiences that achieve far greater results than with the immediacy of simply scoring an outcome. In delivering new learning opportunities to students in the manner we have outlined many asoects of creative learning can be “scored”. We want to know how far students can go or run with an idea. Schools in adapting multimedia project designs will generate a whole new way of developing an engaging curriculum where both teachers and children as learners will value the learning that evolves beyond mere busy work. Generalist and specialist teachers when committed to the success of a project will demonstrate a willingness to learn and grow with not only their colleagues, but with their students.
We know this will work as we have been approached by other schools and businesses willing to experiment and learn from our successes. In adapting our methodology schools will need to determine the best use of available resources, both physical and human, in order to have an inclusive and creative program relevant to their individual needs and circumstances. We are continuing to learn and where appropriate, modify our new understandings by :
i. building an enthusiastic and committed team willing to support each other in a new way of tackling curriculum delivery;
ii. training teachers with the skills they will require to work in a similar way;
iii. encouraging other teachers in the school by modelling what we want to achieve, supporting teachers willing to take up new ways of working and by
iv. Investigating/trialling the use of digital portfolios as a more authentic means of recording the learning achievements of students across the years.