Creating films for learning is not new in K-12 education nor has the strategy been limited to magnet programs or exclusive schools that offer high-level technology classes and/or broadcasting. Teachers have used filmmaking as a way to help students learn about historic events, scientific concepts, social issues, different cultures, and literary works. Students have acted, used claymation or just videotaped pages from books or original pictures to tell a story.
I recently saw a group of high school students setting up items from their old toy boxes and dressing up in costumes to depict a modern interpretation of Shakespeare. The strategy required reading and research, script writing (including a dialogue), story-boarding, interpreting ideas, collaboration, problem solving, creative thinking, a sense of humor, and some basic technical skills like using a video camera, adding a musical score and editing in iMovie. As a result of the activity the students learned the curriculum concepts in a particular unit, used higher order thinking and had some fun. The difficulties in developing and filming were things like crowds of people, outdoor scenes and weather elements, architecture, costumes, animals, and dangerous scenarios like explosions or fires. It is these difficult parts that Machinima handles well. In their book Machinima for Dummies, Hancock and Ingram explain that “…if there’s nothing that you can’t easily do in real life in your script, then we heartily recommend pulling up the Real Life Engine.” Machinima should be used for what you cannot easily film in real life.
The Machinima Toolkit 4 Teachers is a site that describes the equipment needed and steps necessary for student created machinima.
The learning happens in the doing, it is the process rather than the product that is most important. The final products, however, can be shared with a wider audiences adding value to the strategy. The sharing of student work is probably best done through video sharing sites like Vimeo, Teachertube Vodpod or bliptv rather than Youtube, which is blocked in many school districts.
Take a look at some student made machinima