Integrating the Educational Relevance of

Video Composition and Production

Computers in Education

This essay provides ideas and examples of the educational relevance of learning another form of composition, video composition. Several categories of video use are discussed that provide a place to begin thinking about different video compositions that teachers and students could and should create. Links below lead to videoclips examples for many of these categories. However, there is more to this than digital video for the sake of video. Digital video should also be seen as the "headliner act" for a very wide range of multimedia composition formats. That is, video's other important role is to pave the way for the cultural and curriculum integration of the rest of the media that are now being used in cyberspace.

Teacher and Instructor Use of Video Composition

Reading and Writing and More

 Assigning students to work with video cameras and computers teaches some important concepts and skills relevant to all areas of study: reading, writing, and rhetoric (public speaking). The reading and writing comes from script development and on-camera reading. The public speaking development comes from being on-camera. Such activity  also demystifies a common and very important feature of our culture that has too long been viewed passively, television and film. Video composition further contributes to the multimedia skills of students, now a part of the computer literacy skills at every grade level in the North Carolina K-12 technology competencies. However, solid educational research on the relationship between video composition and those areas of curriculum that are heavily tested has not been completed.  Finally, video composition should be  just one element of an ongoing exploration of the larger palette of multimedia composition and comprehensive composition. This includes sound, music, animation, virtual reality and more. 

As video composers  work on the process of reading text as if looking directly into a camera lens, they will notice how much reading fluency improves after several tries. This aspect alone of the assignment makes it a worthwhile exercise for students of almost any age level. In addition, it leaves the instructor with a record of student capability. It is of course also a good example of a short writing assignment. If you continue to require students to add other pieces of varying length onto the same tape, over the year you have a good comparison of the degree of growth over time. This is as important to speech clinicians as to classroom teachers. Such videotaped work is also very useful to K-12 teachers when having parent conferences. When parents are asked to buy some items for the class at the beginning of the year, a used or new videotape could be added to the list of things they gather.

Professional Portfolios

Creating a short on-site video introduction to a unit or module of study provides a powerful way to introduce key concepts and build the learner's  interest and motivation. Educators  can also extend the value of an introduction unit plan introduction. From time to time during the teaching of the unit, the teacher can put the same tape in the camera and add more video of actual classroom unit activities. When the unit is over, one can attach a microphone to a VCR and add a voice-over narration to the video or add the voice over with with video editing software at the computer. When completed you have a fine movie of much longer length that documents the work of your students and can serve as an introduction to the unit next year. Students will benefit greatly from examples of the best work of the previous year. The tape also documents your growth in teaching skills. For K-12 educators, the tape could be used as a part of  National Board certification.

Categories of educator use could include: 1. professional growth (National Board certification documentation; self-evaluation; teaching highlights used to teach and motivate other teachers); 2. curriculum development (video material for classroom students; video used to review classroom activities in order to modify curriculum; role model on-camera techniques for students); 3. community outreach (promote future or past school events); and 4. student assessment (videoclips of a student's behavior selected by both the teacher and the student would be powerful in reaching parents). Below are links to actual examples of professional educator's use captured on video. However, these links to examples on the web are constantly changing their location and very existence (here today, gone tomorrow). You will probably need to do some searching on your own or your own personal composition to have reliable examples as needed.

Professional Growth

Also, many schools already have an in-building cable TV system. These systems are often under-utilized but they make an excellent place to share the best of student and teacher video composition work to every classroom in the building. Special times can be selected such as the first or last ten minutes of a school day for special showings.

Teaching Technique

 As you study your own video, observe how much you notice your own eye contact as you watch your taped presentation. It is motivational to know that someone is looking directly at you. Keep that in mind when you make any presentations to your students and others.

Video Composition

 In order to stop, start, rewind and record on the tape, your students will learn much about an important technology, camcorders and about a process commonly used by those actors they see so often on television and in film, reading a teleprompter script. Such assignments might also lead to experience with professional editing with dual videodecks. Some schools and districts also have editing suites or editing decks linking two VCRs through an electronic control panel to do analog video editing. Increasingly, though editing is done at a computer with special software.

You can add further to the fun and motivation of this activity for students by buying a set of large posters and gluing them to foam board. Students would then choose the poster background that would sit behind them so that they would appear to be "on location" when doing their movie. The "on location" backgrounds are a common part of television and film design. Today, many news shows actually insert an "electronic background" superimposing the news commentator over this background in the same way that the weather announcer appears to be directly in front of the national map but in reality is only in front of a blue or white wall. The map is added electronically. Hollywood film production has made such special effects critical to many movies, especially science fiction. To further extend this activity, challenge the class to find and bring to the class short special effect scenes from other movies. Naturally, you will want to screen those clips for subject and age appropriateness before showing them to in class.

Categories of Student Use of Video

These categories of topics for student videos provides further ideas for video composition activities by your students in your classroom and were provided by a professional colleague. (Lynn McNally, Nov. 30, 2000 3mail <>] I've added in video examples from Apple Computer's iMovie showcase site and other locations. Please email me notice of the location of other videoclips that would fit these categories.
    1. Deliver Information - student news shows, book talks, "What we Learned on our Field field trip," yearbooks, public service announcements.
    • iMovie Yearbook Hawthorn Option School, IL "Second graders in Mrs. Mosnerís class of the Hawthorn Option School produced a digital yearbook showcasing their reflections, accomplishments, and community involvement."
    • AntiDrug Commercials (with lesson plan info)
    2. Tell a Story - Retelling a person or group's story especially stories centered around a common theme (a Stuts Turkle kind of idea - interviewing WWII vets for example).
    • [Still looking for a good one. Suggestions welcome.]

    3. Teach a Concept - Where students create a movie specifically designed to teach a curriculum-related concept.

    4. Document Research - movies created by students to document their primary research, for example, action research involving environmental issues.

    • Monarch Butterflies - Mesquite School District. "Shows one student's record of several Monarch butterflies from egg to butterfly."
    • Geometry in Town - This movie was created with still images taken in town. The students used this to illustrate geometry vocabulary. It serves as a good introduction to a geometry unit and is a motivating way to start or end a discussion on geometry. 

    5. Explain a Work - Having students create videos as a metacognition tool. For example, students can import their art work (graphic files can be imported into a movie editor) or their musical composition or their invention and talk about their thought processes as they created their work. In iMovie this can be as simple as plugging in a microphone and talking and thinking out loud about what is showing in the video.

    • [Still looking. This would be a perfect exercise for a teacher reflecting on a videoclip of one of their class teaching events.]

    6. Present a Drama - Characters actually acting out a scene.

    7. Integration of a Videoclip and/or Audioclip with Text and other Media
  • [Still looking. Suggestions welcome.]
  • 8. Teach reading, writing and rhetoric (speaking in public)
    • If properly taught, every video composition can teach many other communication skills. Though not every minute of a video needs to be scripted, requiring students to script some amount involves writing, and in particular the kind of writing that will be spoken. This means learning the difference between an audience of readers and an audience of listeners.
    • To read a script fluently on camera requires practice. Research shows that reading fluency is greatly enhanced by reading familiar passages over and over. Watching video of yourself makes it clear to the viewer where he or she needs to practice to sound more natural and fluent.
    • Rhetoric or public speaking is one of the lost school curriculums of this century. Speaking in practice to a camera builds confidence, teaches many speech skills. It also addresses some important television literacy issues. Further, some surveys have indicated that many Americans fear public speaking more than they fear death. Video composition can help to revitalize an essential skill for a democracy dependent on townhall discussion and debate.



Increasingly, schools are adding the capacity to digitize video, enabling a computer to facilitate much quicker editing of the video sequence. Once this video editing software is learned, cutting, copying, deleting and inserting video is as simple and fast as editing text in a word processor. Because video editing requires that the computer process large amounts of data as compared with text editing, older and slower computers make their video windows very small, around 1/16 of the computer monitor display area. Though such small displays make an excellent piece to put in an electronic slide show or web page, this looks much too small on a TV screen. However, currently sold computers now have the speed and computer memory to edit full size video, filling a television screen.

Such work prepares educators and their students for a not too distant future. The very nature of language arts is being extended and enhanced. The time is coming in which teachers will require video editing on a computer as often as they require text editing on a computer. Further, the video and text will be commonly integrated into one work. Also, other elements such as three-dimensional images, music and virtual reality scenes will also be linked to this work. Fluency with a camera will be a very important component of such teaching and learning. Finally, whatever value that video composition does provide, those values can be multiplied through integration with the rest of multimedia and its comprehensive composition: text; animation; still image; music; other audio; virtual reality; computer programming and more.

version 1.02: 1996; updated version 2.15.2011.

Comprehensive Composition