What happens when you put five kids varying in age from 14-18 years-old with a range of skill sets– from different schools, different personalities, different backgrounds, different points-of-view, and you give them a media coach (along with a research assistant to document the process!), five hours to create a one-minute movie, and one prompt—It Sounds Like Poetry? On Saturday, May 7th I was lucky enough to serve as a research assistant at the GiveMe5 Youth Media Lab One-Minute Movie Challenge sponsored by the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts and the Rhode Island Film and Television Office in collaboration with our very own Media Education Lab at the Harrington School of Communication and Media at URI. Attended by 29 aspiring and enthusiastic teenage filmmakers who chose to spend their Saturday learning how to make movies– and participating in a research study– along with a cadre of research assistants and coaches ready to serve as “guide on the side” to their assigned team, the GiveMe5 Media Workshop felt like a small miracle.
To start the day, students were divided into teams of four or five and assigned to a coach. I had the good fortune to be paired up with Katie, a veteran GiveMe5 coach who might just be the perfect educator: passionate about film-making, knowledgeable, respectful, firm, with high-expectations and standards for all of the teen film-makers, and a keen, intuitive sense of when to interject an idea or provide encouragement to a young film-maker-to-be. As a research assistant, I had to document students’ prior knowledge and motivation for attending the workshop; after shooting the film, I asked students about what they liked about their production, and any changes or things they might do differently if they had to do it over again. I also filmed students as they worked their way through the process of brainstorming, filming, and editing, and I asked them questions to try and get them to explain the thinking behind the choices they were making as they put together their movie. For me, the challenge was to remain as unobtrusive as possible—I didn’t want my questions to be a chore or an interruption to the fun part of film-making. In the best-case scenario, my presence would be seamless, and some of the questions I asked would ultimately help students to clarify their thoughts, and take a moment to think about the process. Katie gave me permission to participate fully in the days’ activities, and I think this helped me feel comfortable.
Here is the part that seemed miraculous: at the beginning of the day, our team of students entered the classroom, and deposited themselves in all four corners of the room. They didn’t know each other and they were quiet: except for one student, who was dressed as The Joker from Batman, and cheerfully asked if he was the only nerd in the group. Two young women were seemingly hiding behind a pole in the center of the classroom. When one young man tried to draw one of these two young women out, the line of questioning went something like this:“What grade are you in?”
“I am a Junior.”
“Where do you go to school?”
“Where in Rhode Island?”
Somehow over the course of the day, these same students came together as a team and put together a beautiful, cohesive, one-minute movie with contributions from everybody—in five hours. Some of these same students did not even have any prior video-making experience. As soon as it is available, I will post the video from my team here. Just to give you an idea, check out this video from a previous workshop:
You can also browse some of the videos from previous GiveMe5 workshops at this link.
I wanted to be a research assistant at the GiveMe5 Youth Media Lab One-Minute Movie Challenge not only because I wanted to spend my day engaged and interacting with young people, but also to gain insight and observe the creative and collaborative process at work. As a future school librarian, I am aware of the AASL’s Standards for the 21st Century Learner, and particularly curious about Standard 3 and Standard 4—which deal with generating new knowledge, sharing ideas, creating information products (Standard 3), and becoming a lifelong learner (Standard 4). I suspect these two standards have a symbiotic relationship. To actively participate and see oneself as a valued and respected source of ideas and information is a powerful motivator. This dovetails with many of the things we have been talking about in LSC 531, such as the power of new media, and the role of choice in motivating students to learn. The young people who attended the GiveMe5 workshop chose to be there because they had a personal interest in film-making; invariably, these same young people expressed a desire to learn more about film-making. One young woman even told me she enjoyed the workshop because she wasn’t sitting in a classroom. This makes workshops like GiveMe5 a powerful tool for learning. In our debriefing after the workshop, one of the coaches said that in the end it didn’t matter if the students had created a great movie or not. What mattered was that each and every one of the students stood up in front of a room full of people during the screening of their movie, stood tall, and owned all of the choices they made on the journey toward putting together their movie. I couldn’t agree more.