Video, apps and student-led learning a powerful formula, says physics teacher John Hudson
The cast of speakers at The Sunday Times Festival of Education was notable in many ways bar one specific voice, that of students. What this says about an event described by Sir Bob Geldof as a "Glastonbury for intellectuals" is hard to say, but it was a missed opportunity.
However, one corner of the festival was densely populated by learners. The O2 Learn space was taken over by students from my school, Burnham Grammar, working on a live student-led learning experiment where they piloted O2 Learn’s film-making app to create a develop a whole series of physics films.
The app is simple to understand and easy to use and students were up and running with it straight away. They didn’t need a lot of guidance and found out about the app’s features as they experimented and shared ideas with each other.
The films they created during the day were inspiring lessons written in their own words. They covered a range of subjects including: how to use positive and negative charges to create electrostatic Harry Potter style wands for mid-air duelling; the reasons why a green laser pen will explode a balloon and a red laser pen will fail to be as dramatic; and how 3D space dogs can help us to understand how our eyes work stereoscopically to measure distance and add depth!
Brilliant learning opportunity
The film making process was in itself a brilliant learning opportunity. It helped the students develop their planning and project management skills, technical abilities such as editing and sound engineering, and also their capacity for creative thinking. Most notably, the whole process helped to embed their learning around the concepts they’d chosen to focus on in their films. In order to prepare the film script, each student had to understand the concept fully and be able to explain it simply.
They are now planning to make more films and I’m encouraging them to take learning into their own hands. I’d certainly recommend trying out video-making as a classroom activity and as a way to help cement students’ learning. The O2 Learn app is very straightforward to use and being quite basic, it is an easy way to start creating videos. The only thorny issue is that you do require an iPhone or iPad.
Burnham's students loved using the iPhones at the festival, but as not all schools would be willing to adopt a ‘bring your own device’ approach, it does mean an investment for those interested in trying out the 02 Learn app. But three-quarters of the film-making process doesn’t actually need any equipment, instead it’s about idea development, scriptwriting and prop-making. With some careful planning just one iPhone (minus the SIM card) could be used by a whole class.
At Burnham mobile phones are banned in class but the school has been happy to give permission to use them in this way as teachers can see the potential for students to actively engage in their own learning. And students love sharing their videos on the O2 Learn website (they even have a chance to win the weekly £2,000 prize now the rules have changed). Any videos uploaded to the site need to be authorised by a teacher so the necessary checks and balances are in place to ensure that only appropriate films are added.
Next year I hope that students from Burnham Grammar will take the festival by storm to join the intellectual debate and to act as ambassadors for using video making in teaching – they might even be able to give Sir Bob Geldof a few film-making tips.
Watch the students’ videos on O2 Learn
Lasers and balloons: https://www.o2learn.co.uk/o2_video.php?vid=2233
Space dog and hollow face: https://www.o2learn.co.uk/o2_video.php?vid=2199
Electrostatic levitation: https://www.o2learn.co.uk/o2_video.php?vid=2189
Download the app from the iTunes app store
John Hudson's teaching resources on Teachable
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John Hudson is a physics teacher at Burnham Grammar School, Berkshire