Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Digital Storytelling readiness for 5th graders @ Zurich International School

I'm always thrilled to have the opportunity to work at one of the over 4000 International Schools in the world. I think these programs are an ideal way for learners of all ages to gain invaluable perspective on the world and people from other cultures. I’ve worked with teachers and students in Qatar and China as part of the Flat Classroom conferences and enjoyed getting to know the unique people who live and work on the international teaching circuit.

I jumped at the chance when Mike Boulanger, a colleague I met at Qatar Academy in Doha, reached out to say he's moved on to Switzerland and asked if I be interested in working with the 5th grade teachers and students at the Zurich International School Campus in Wädenswil, just outside of Zurich.

An International School is loosely defined as a school that promotes international education, in an international environment, either by adopting an international curriculum such as that of the International Baccalaureate or Cambridge International Examinations. With budget cuts and standardized testing pressure narrowing the breadth of student learning here in the States, I was heartened by the openness and enthusiasm for media literacy and production as a core 21st Century skill that I saw that reflected by the ZIS faculty and staff from the top down including the principal Viki Stiebert and the team of 5th grade teachers; Alice Sikora, Dan Allen, Drew Davis and Therese McKinley.

Fifth grade had just begun a unit of inquiry about how movies Entertain, Inform and Provoke and the plan was to get all 80 students in the 5th grade ready for a year of creating movies and digital stories with their new iPads. Although my experience with K-5 is not as deep as with middle or high school, I saw this as an ideal opportunity to see how well the AFI Door Scene would translate to an audience of international learners. Logistics posed an immediate challenge by simply trying to find available doors and moving production teams around this very busy school. What was not a problem was how skilled these students already were with both the iPad device and the basic functions of iMovie for iOS.

 The script interpretation, team building and storytelling challenge of the Door Scene what just what these learners needed to build on their emerging film making skills, knock them out of the wild "birthday party" documentary mode of shooting and into the mindset of using screen language by creating scenes made up of individual shots. The students understood right away how a shot can relate to a written sentence and how a scene is like a visual paragraph. I was thrilled to see in the peer reviews in the first round of rough scenes the students keyed right into the value of changing up shots to tell a richer story.

While the students started eagerly creating storyboarded versions of their improved scenes, I spent some time with the Team 5 teachers to debrief them on the entire Door Scene process including the critical next step, the Switcheroo! Everyone was excited to see the students' reaction to having their boards taken and interpreted another group. I've been doing Door Scenes for years and it's always my favorite moment. I'm happy to say what their reaction disappointingly lacked in pre-teen wailing and gnashing of teeth, they more than made up for it with some surprisingly faithful interpretations of their peers' surprisingly well rendered storyboards, not to mention some astute and respectful feedback of each others work.

Time flew by way too fast during my stay at ZIS. On my final day I watched as these 5th graders wandered the halls  and shot their final scenes and using Movie Industry language to communicate with their crew mates and other teams with strong, confident voices calling for; "Quiet On The Set", "Rolling!" and "Cut!". The teachers marveled at how far their students have progressed with their technical and storytelling skills and I could see wheels turning in the heads of these remarkable educators about where to go next. There is nothing more gratifying for me to see so much inspiration and excitement in the eyes of these teachers and students.

My time at ZIS ended with a gift of the largest chocolate truffle I've ever seen from the students and I was honored to have the rare opportunity to work even for a short time with such world-class educators in a world-class facility.

You can see some more of the videos from my week with the 5th graders at ZIS on the grade Vimeo Channel.

1 comment:

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