Ben Kalb, Instructional Technology Coordinator and recently named Apple Distinguished Educator, reflects on the power of technology to help tell a story. Video is a tool widely used in SVVS, not only in the classroom, but as a tool for professional growth and development district-wide.
The smell of hot plastic permeated the air as the hypnotizing hum of processors and internal computer fans ricocheted off the concrete walls of my college computer lab. I was a frequent patron to this place, although my visits normally entailed printing term papers from a copy machine that ate my coins as eagerly as I ate from the unlimited meal plan. But this was no ordinary trip to the computer lab, because this voyage empowered me! Rather than demonstrating my knowledge in something that could be printed from a 64mb flash drive, this particular assignment entailed telling a story through film. It was my first time editing a video and I’ll never forget how it made me feel! I had the power to tell my story and my canvas could be beautiful. I wasn’t in an over-priced production studio in Hollywood, I did not have an advanced degree in video production, but I was crafting a story a few feet from my door room…what a world. I was so excited about the opportunity that I wasn’t even bothered by the hour I spent waiting for my raw video to to be captured to the hard drive. After cutting up and splicing my video together, another hour under the flickering florescent lights flashed by as I waited for my final video to render. Walking back to my dorm room that evening with a freshly burned DVD in my coat pocket, I felt like I was living in the future! If you had told me on the walk back to my dorm room that some day I could do all of that and more from a personal laptop, I might have believed you.
In 2010, iMovie became available for iPhone and iPad. With minimal technical skill, you could take footage using the built-in camera on your device and cut, splice, and edit the footage right on the device! In subsequent years the iMovie App has become a free standard on all iOS devices and has improved countless features including advanced titles, voice overs, picture in picture, b-roll footage…etc. As a high school teacher in Illinois I would often have my students demonstrate their knowledge through video, and iMovie was a critical tool. For three years in St. Vrain I’ve seen countless teachers leverage video to amplify student voice and to empower students to take control of their learning. Creating an iMovie does take technical time to compile and while this time has been extraordinarily reduced since my days in the computer lab, students still log time tapping, swiping, and embellishing.
This year, a new iPad app called Clips makes creating and editing amazing videos easier than it’s ever been. I’ve seen 5th graders create an awesome looking video in less than 2 minutes of editing! I’ve seen families who create these Clips together to commemorate a special event. If you are curious how schools or teachers around the country are using Clips, search #classroomclips on twitter to see thousands of examples. It is unbelievable and exciting to know that every student every day has access to a more powerful and more efficient machine than the one I felt so empowered by in the computer lab fourteen years ago!