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Saturday, 16 November, 2002, 00:15 GMT
Using digital video to enhance learning
school computer room
Schools have invested heavily in digital technology
A pilot project indicates that the use of digital video can raise pupils' enthusiasm for what they are studying.

It can also motivate a wider range of pupils than traditional teaching methods, according to a study by the British Film Institute for the government's computer agency, Becta.

Schools increasingly are using digital video to enhance teaching and learning.

Fifty from across the UK took part in the evaluation between October last year and March 2002.

This was too short a period to assess whether the technology would eventually affect test results.

The evidence was that high quality teaching was still the main factor in raising achievement.

Understanding the medium

But the study says teachers believe digital video (DV) stimulates the development of other skills such as problem solving, negotiation, thinking, reasoning and risk-taking.

The best work involved an understanding of what the institute calls the "language" of the moving image.

Understanding that, rather than simply the technology, was the key to pupils' expressing themselves.

Special effects

One of the schools involved in the pilot was Mere Oaks near Wigan, which has 120 children aged between two and 19 who have physical or learning difficulties.

Art and drama teacher Bob Overton is a fan of movie-making as an extra expressive medium for those who cannot readily paint or act on stage.

He says the children get a lot out of using digital video.

"It's motivating, it's encouraging them to work together and take decisions," he said.

Lengthy project

Their film, Space Oddity, shows what happens when the crew of a space craft receive a strange signal and are sucked into a time warp and visit an alien - it comes as no surprise that their teacher is a fan of the Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The film institute team whom who visited the school described it as "a very accomplished and beautiful piece of work".

Although it is only a few minutes long it took eight months to make - with an hour of work each week as part of an expressive arts course translating into just five or 10 seconds of finished film.

"Our kids' access to learning is limited," Mr Overton said. "They are capable on the computer, but it takes them much longer."

'Sheer brilliance'

The children were involved in editing, making the special effects and the highly atmospheric music as well as appearing in the film.

"They get a lot of fun from it, but also it does give them a real sense of achievement without having to be as skilled or active as they would if it were a live stage performance."

The head of promoting effective practice at Becta, Helen Walker, said: "The evaluation confirmed some of our suspicions about how teachers and learners are really getting to grips with this technology in the classroom.

"It also reiterated one of our key beliefs - that high quality teaching underpinned by good subject knowledge forms a sound basis for creative learning with ICT.

"Some of the examples of pupils' work from the pilot have shown sheer brilliance in terms of their creativity.

"Our task now is to make sure that all teachers have access to good quality advice about what works with digital video and in the classroom."


Some of the short films schools have made.

Mere Oaks School
Pupils were told they were on a space station when they received a strange signal - and to imagine what happened next.

Robin Hood School
An imaginative series of clips with a simple theme.

St Austin's Catholic Primary School
Pupils getting obvious enjoyment while exploring some serious scientific concepts.

City of Norwich School
Use of stop frame animation shows digital techniques can be used simply without the need even for a digital video camera.

Stocksbridge High School
A film tracking two students as they walk through their school - made with just one camera, to show continuity in editing.

See also:

13 Nov 02 | Education
01 Nov 02 | Education
31 Aug 02 | Technology
06 Aug 02 | Education
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