Teacher Showcase: Student Video Production with Tracy Donnelly and Kristen Ireland

Our new digital playground makes student video easier than ever before. Check out how two Northview teachers are doing it!

This post is rich with links for extra help and examples. Check ‘em out!

If you want your students to explore a topic through research, fully examining the issue from a number of perspectives and addressing diverse questions, you assign a research report, right? Or maybe, a presentation? Sure, those approaches are straightforward and familiar. They’ve also become a bit outdated. The research report, as traditionally assigned, lacks multimedia components. The presentation, as traditionally executed, lacks audience engagement. Neither takes advantage of the tools available to students in our current technological landscape.

That’s why Health teacher Tracy Donnelly and Zoology teacher Kristen Ireland, both teaching at Northview High School, have opted out of the traditional approach and opted into student video production. Their students have presented research on topics within the curricula through short video documentaries that make use of interviews, narration, titles and images, clipped YouTube content, dramatic re-enactments, and more to mimic a television documentary style. That style has been developed and refined over generations, but the tools at the students’ disposal are pretty new. Students use WeVideo, a free, web-based video editor, to assemble and arrange content produced by themselves and/or captured from the Internet. They use their smartphones to stage and record interviews and dramatizations. They capture images in simple manners and rip YouTube content with more sophisticated approaches. They use WeVideo tools to create captions, titles, and more.

Health Research  P8 School Lunches   YouTube.png
A playful video exploring nutrition pits a student against “Darth Diabeetus” in single combat.

The result? Let’s look at Tracy Donnelly’s health class first. Here, students gather into groups to explore a chosen topic in the curriculum, such as nutrition or bullying. They conduct research to develop a written script. The script then leads them in the creation and cultivation of video content (as well as a formal research paper that Tracy requires). Some students come to the task with more experience and lead the group in the video execution; others learn fast from their guidance. All work on their smartphones and Chromebooks, discussing the content and the video development as they go. The result? Some videos are whimsical and inject their topic with a dose of humor. Many, such as this one, feature students exploring the issue in the context of their own school community. Others go for serious inspection of emotional issues. Often, students mix fact-bearing title images with dramatizations of those facts. The execution is varied, but each video showcases the play of students in a medium that they enjoy playing with.

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The beauty of the jewel anemone shines forth through the title screen.

The same goes for Kristen Ireland’s students in Zoology. This year, Kristen assigned a video project in lieu of a final exam. Make no mistake, the assignment was rigorous, but like Tracy’s Health project, students explore video development as their means of expression. Through documentaries on octopi, red scorpions, sea anemones, and more, students record voice-over narration, create titles, edit video, and insert images to answer the research questions asked in the assignment. Each video is an effort to address each requirement of the grading rubric and demonstrate the ability to engage in scientific discourse on animals.

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Interviews with peers exhibit the student producers’ exploration of their immediate community.

Students have been recording videos to satisfy class project requirements since video cameras became inexpensive enough for schools to buy. So, in a sense, nothing is new here. And, when examining these videos, you may see that students are a bit rough in their video production skills. But step back a check this out in perspective. Now, each student has access to video camera technology at virtually every moment, and all of the footage from that equipment is incredibly portable and flexible. Now, a library of unimaginable hours of video content lie at students fingertips, ready for cutting and integration. Now, cloud technology enables portable collaboration and presentation. None of those current qualities was true even five years ago in our schools. As teachers begin to understand these facts and encourage their students to play with the possibilities, new media of expression will emerge to complement traditional approaches to assessment. As students increasingly face these challenges, their ability to communicate with the semantics and syntax of video will blossom. It’s a colorful, dynamic world of sound and vision. And it’s just ahead.

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Captions merge with audio to express researched information.

Teacher Showcase: Real World Art with Bethany Cooper

Join Bethany Cooper as she turns her eighth grade art class into a graphic design firm.

On a late-October afternoon, Bethany Cooper transforms her McCord art classroom into a graphic design firm, and each eighth grade student that enters takes the role of a professional designer. These young designers have been tasked with producing engaging and enlightening video biographies of famous people for junior high teachers to use as learning material. Each designer will succeed or fail based on their ability to engage a junior high audience while educating them. The thirteen year-old becomes a twentysomething professional.

This day is little different from Bethany’s frequent projects designed to make art relevant to her students. Last year, she unleashed her students on the world of social media by teaching them how to design and market t-shirts through the modern online producer teespring (Many actually made money; one, hundreds of dollars). Rather than merely hoping her students will have fun with art, Bethany hopes they will learn how it has both personal and functional value. Today, that means her students have entered a video editing lab in a graphic design firm.

Bethany works on the model example at her Mac while students watch the work on the SmartBoard.

After gathering her students at the front of the room for verbal and textual instructions and modeling, Bethany asks her students to go to their seats, log into their Chromebooks, and log into PIXLR, an online photo editing tool that provides a basic, free, web accessible alternative to Photoshop. Each student loads an image file of a famous person from some area relevant to a core junior high class. From the multitude of screens appear George Washington, John F. Kennedy, John Steinbeck, Walt Whitman, and a host of others. These images are .png-formatted avatars of the person students chose. At this stage of the process, each student is using PIXLR to “cut out” the avatar from its background with incredible precision. The separated avatar will feature in a full video with still images, video, visual effects, and sound to tell the biography. Imagine a cut-out picture of a person glued to a popsicle stick and used as a puppet. The same thing will happen, but through digital animation.

As the eighth graders work, the room becomes dark and quiet, with most students plugged into the music of their headphones and only a few quietly talking to one another. Bethany observes, “This is what real editing looks like, a bunch of people staring silently at screens.”

During the process, Bethany calls out guidance. Her advice sometimes reminds the students of their role playing in admonitions like “I’m telling you, as your boss in this graphic design firm, that this will not cut it,” referring to her model example’s roughness, and she continues with the word client to refer to the project’s audience. Each student understands that the process of art in this context is a relationship between a producer and a consumer.

As students work, Bethany offers assistance.

Bethany also helps her students understand the tools they use, especially the difference between the processing power of a Chromebook and her own Mac, suggesting best practices for dealing with the tools available to them. Bethany is an expert in digital art, so she made sure to test her project on a Chromebook to learn its limitations. Each student is not only learning design through this process, but they are also learning the important and sometimes challenging role of technology in that process.

Two weeks later, when I revisit the class, students are producing the video featuring the avatar that they created in those early days. But now that the avatar is complete, the work moves from PIXLR to WeVideo, a simple video editing tool liked by many. Bethany takes the same instructional approach: direction, modeling, workshopping. She shows students how to “rip” content from YouTube and import still pictures from Google Images to use in their productions. She shows them how to manipulate the different clips into a whole on the WeVideo timeline, inserting and modifying titles, music, and visual effects. As the students apply these techniques, short snippets of assembled video appear on their Chromebooks, providing glimpses of a finished project.

Students “plug in” and get to work on the sometimes painstaking work of digital photo editing.

The value of Bethany’s project comes not in her adoption of digital tools for video production, but in her career-oriented framework. No student in her class will forget that art is part of a process that involves business, aesthetics, teamwork, and stakeholder impact. And that message is not built because it will be “fun” for her students. In fact, one student explains that. “It’s not as fun [as traditional junior high art projects],” she says. “I understand the real world application, but it’s not what I thought visual design would be.”

Still, this young woman’s comments, made during the early stages of production, disappear into the background as completed videos begin to take shape. When students see the life of FDR expressed in a playful animation with rap narration and understand that the playfulness was their creation, the smiles and laughs take over. “Fun” is had, and Bethany has taught them a valuable and authentic lesson about the role of art in the real world.


Do you have questions? Contact Bethany at bcooper@sylvaniaschools.org or check out these helpful links!

SDL Resource Introduction: WeVideo

SDL Cool Trick: Turn Your Chromebook into a Movie Studio!




PD Session: Turn Every Chromebook into a Movie Studio

Come to this session and get introduced to three cool applications that can have a meaningful and beautiful presentation in minutes!

Presented by Laurie McCrary

Presenting last on October 19, 2015 as part of the Sylvania Fall Inservice Day. Next presentation to be announced!

“Tired of PowerPoint presentations? Video creation has become easier and easier with just a simple app! Come to this session and get introduced to three cool applications that can have a meaningful and beautiful presentation in minutes!”

In this session teachers will learn the varied possibilities of video recording in classrooms empowered by Chromebooks. Attention will be given to creating movies, video blogs, and recorded presentations. Apps demonstrated will include WeVideo, ClipChamp, and MoveNote.

Couldn’t make the session?  Check out this video from Anna Searcy on MoveNote!

Session Materials

Laurie’s Presentation Document


Google Classroom

Classroom Code: 3iqs8hv

WeVideo Home Page

SDL Resource Introduction on WeVideo


SDL Resource Introduction on ClipChamp

MoveNote Home Page

SDL Resource Introduction on MoveNote

SDL Cool Tricks Page on Chromebook Recording

Cool Trick: Turn Your Chromebook into a Movie Studio!

Access to Chromebooks empowers our students to record audio and video in exciting ways. Read here to learn five ways to harness this power!

Movies are cool. Television is cool. YouTube is cool. Let’s use that coolness in our projects!

Teachers have been asking students to make film and video a part of project-based learning for generations, especially when VHS formats increased accessibility. And now that digital technology has made those old tape formats archaic, the accessibility and flexibility have increased dramatically. Of course, you’ll need the right tool for the job, and determining which tool will work for the specific job you want can be difficult. Worry not! Read below for 5 tips on how you can use Chromebooks and other simple tools to turn each student into a master movie maker!

Most of these tips discuss apps and extensions that add directly into a Google account. Once added, they become part of the user’s account and will open each time the user opens the account. Becoming comfortable with adding these tools can help you add to your and your students’ digital toolboxes. But, do not feel overwhelmed. Just think about what you want to do and read the process!

One: You and your students can use smartphones to record video footage.

clinton-phoneA surprising number of students carry smartphones with them to school every day, and that means each one of them carries a video camera with them. If you want your students to shoot footage without being limited to a desk and Chromebook, ask them to use their phones. They know how to use the video recorder on their phone, so recording is no problem. Once the recording is made into a file, they can share it with you or upload it into a video editor simply. They can either upload it to Google Drive using the Google Drive phone app or email it to their Gmail account. Both methods bring the file to the cloud, where they can do what you’d like them to do with it.

Advanced tip: Google Classroom now allows for students to submit photos taken on a phone straight to a Classroom assignment. Check out this video to see how.

Two: Students can use Chromebooks to record themselves.

ClipChampChromebooks can record audio and video through the webcam installed in the machine. This makes the Chromebook ideal for recording a single student or pair of students reading, opinionating, or discussing. Just aim and shoot. The best app for this is
ClipChamp. A student can download the ClipChamp app through their Chromebook Webstore. The app is then loaded any time they need it. Clicking it takes students to the ClipChamp web page, where a single click begins recording. Then, once the file has been completed, the student can upload it straight to their Google Drive. ClipChamp doesn’t even require an account. Simple!

Three: Students can use Chromebooks to record a presentation for practice or submission.

movenote1What about split screen? Some apps allow a student to record a window and their face at the same time. Cool, huh? One of the best applications for this is the recording of presentations. Let’s say you want a student to record a presentation for practice. Or, you want them to record a presentation to send to a peer for review. Or, you want them to record a presentation for you to grade from home. Easy. Use MoveNote. This app allows students to record two screens at once. One is their presentation file (Google Slides, PowerPoint, PDF); the other is their face in the webcam. The app is simplified in that it uses the student’s Google login to run, so they can use their student account for the work.

Advanced Tip: Using Prezi? MoveNote will not show a Prezi presentation as is with all animation, but it will take a PDF download of the presentation. The student can still use MoveNote for practice and review, even if the full presentation will require live delivery. Check this out to learn how to download a Prezi presentation into PDF format.

Four: Students can use Chromebooks to record their work online. You can use Chromebooks to record lessons and instructions.

snagitWhat if you want to record a lesson or a set of instructions for students? What if you want students to record their own work on the Chromebook as part of a project portfolio? You can do that through the Screencastify extension. Download it into your Google account and use its simplified recording controls to record audio and video from the screen. You can even see an image of the speaker from the webcam if you wish and turn it off if you do not. Better yet, Screencastify links to a Google account, so students can directly upload the recording to their Google Drive.

Five: Students can edit footage together into a full movie.

WeVideo2Your students recorded video. Now what? Well, they can submit what they have, of course, and that’s great for simple applications. But what if you want them to develop a multi-shot project? Students can produce a full movie with edits of multiple shots, imported still images, titles, transitions, and music with WeVideo. WeVideo is accessible for free through the student’s Google login. The free version lacks some of the power of the premium version, but with it, students can still upload up to 5GB of data and create videos up to 7:30. The app uses an efficient timeline format for importing and moving content to develop into a full movie.

Advanced Tip: Do you want to use professional music for your movie, but you’re afraid because of copyright issues? Check out this library of free songs for use in videomaking. As long as you attribute these users, they have no problem with your use of their song!

Our students are born and reared in a visually engaging and visually demanding world. If you give them the opportunity to explore the concepts of your class through video, you will not only access powerful skills they have, but also help them refine those skills for the next challenge. Have fun!

If you would like help with any of these applications, feel free to ask for help!

Would you like to add to this discussion? Share your experiences and expertise through the comment feature below.

Resource Introduction: WeVideo

Your students have recorded video. Now what? Use WeVideo to make that footage into stunning videos!

What is it?

WeVideo is a simplified video editor that is accessible through the Internet. Any user can upload video footage or other files to assemble into a short (or long) video of their own creation. The service runs on Chromebooks. What’s even better than this is the fact that WeVideo takes advantage of cloud collaboration, so one user could share work with another, or several others, to develop collaborative movies and show them to as many viewers as desired. The final awesome fact? WeVideo runs on a Google login, so you and your students can use Sylvania ID’s to build accounts.

How can I use it?

This is movie making software, so users should use it to make movies. This could mean students assemble others’ video content into a research presentation or that they record their own content to develop a movie story. Students could combine the two to merge their own recordings with content found online. Students could create music videos to merge sound and concept. Teachers could use the service to assemble footage from clubs or teams into dynamic retrospectives of work and collaboration.

Who is using it?

At Northview High School, John Word and Sarah Huey

At McCord Junior High School, Dave Budas and Bethany Cooper


At Stranahan, Amanda Sanderson

Are you or someone you know using this? Notify us, and we’ll post your or their name here as a building expert! Email to aclarkson@sylvaniaschools.org.

Check out these teacher tutorials about the educational benefits of movie making through WeVideo.

Resource Links

Home Page

Download on Web Store for Chromebooks

Download on Play Store for Android Phones

YouTube Channel

WeVideo Academy on YouTube (A playlist of videos that cover all instructional concepts)