Reexamining Digital Filmmaking Literacies: They May Just Get You In to College

Have You Recorded Your College Admissions Video yet?
Thank you to my friend, Andrew Pass, for sharing this article in Newsweek about how some students are being asked to create videos for college admissions instead of essays.  In their article, Applying to College on Youtube, Newsweek says:

“These aren’t your typical college applications, but the newest way admissions teams are encouraging students to showcase their talents. As a supplement to the regular forms, schools like George Mason University, outside Washington, D.C., Tufts University, outside Boston, and the College of William & Mary, in Virginia, are giving students the option to stray from the traditional essay and advertise their best qualities on YouTube. “Say something about you,” reads the Tufts application. “Anything goes,” prompts William & Mary. The bottom line? It’s a welcome break from the norm. “Kids feel so much pressure when applying to college today that a lot of them are scared to death to just be themselves,” says Kevin McMullin, the president of Collegewise, a private-counseling company. YouTube “coaxes kids to relax—and maybe even have a little fun.””

A Case Study in YouTube Shaping the Future of a Student
Many students (including mine) now have full websites and a portfolio of videos representing their work. Many of the opportunities for my students have happened through video, most notably, Virginia, a student of mine who created a video in ninth grade that led to a film crew from George Lucas‘ Edutopia coming on campus, and then a featureette in Edutopia Editor Milton Chen's new book, Education Nation.

Virginia's Youtube Video

It all started with a Youtube video in ninth grade. Videos are the new essay. No doubt, this is a pivotal point in Virginia's life.

Do Essays Go Viral?

In older times it was words that went viral – the pamphlets that were printed. Now, video servers can pump out video streams faster than a printing press could ever zip out paper. How many essays have you heard of that have gone viral in the last month?

Sure, blog posts seem to go viral, but not quite at the volume of videos on Youtube.

Videos Are Game Changers
The game changers are videos both in society and in the lives of our children. Learning how to effectively craft a digital story is not just a twenty first century literacy, but instead one of the keys to the future success and prosperity of those who embrace and understand that telling a digital story is different from writing essays and even blogging, it is an art form.

This is only the beginning, but for those who start this race early, there are many awards awaiting.

Don't Drop the Essay
Don't think that this is a matter of essay OR video. Or even essay or blog or video.  Really, we're at the point of essay, blog, podcast, video, wiki, and so many forms of digital literacies that we need all of them – not just one. Fundamentally, a child who can speak and read and write is prepared to learn to create video. However, just being ready isn't enough.

Getting Ready for More Digital Stories
For now, I'm totally pumped about the largest Flat Classroom project ever – a whopping 651 students on two wikis researching and creating videos.  For those who might wonder “where Vicki's been” it is there amidst the bits and bytes of Flat Classroom working to make it ready for the students and teachers to collaborate.

More digital stories waiting to be told and crafted. Oh, to get better at teaching this amazing, exciting art!

What are you doing to teach digital stories? Please share.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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online-dissertation-help September 16, 2010 - 4:38 am

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Priscilla Stratton September 16, 2010 - 9:10 pm

I think this post is a great start to a commentary that should be started with not only teacher colleagues, but with our students! Digital storytelling used to just be program based (i.e. Voicethread or some other application), but it really has evolved into so much more. A video essay is a great idea – and I am glad to see that colleges are starting to get on board with this type of multi-genre application process. Even in the format that Virginia started with would work, but oh how the students could just take off with that idea and build their video essay to be this huge compilation of their life’s work (up to that point). How exciting!!! I wish that would have been available to me when I went through college!
I have only just began the process of digital storytelling in my classroom but plan this year to bring it to a whole new higher level. I started last year by using to record the audio and screen video of a “photo essay” that my students did using It worked great. That is my idea – and of course since that was the first time I tried it with my students, I know all the things I could improve on this time around.
Thanks for the post – I took a lot away from it!

Gipi Gopinath September 17, 2010 - 10:02 am

Like the fact that video’s do good but I got some educational toys for the kids as they are too much into the internet.
It’s a desperate call from a mom…

Jabrons199 September 18, 2010 - 9:05 pm

I’m glad the video let us see the children learning about internet safety. If we’re going to give the students these tools we’d better make sure they know how to use them without hurting themselves.
I do wonder though, how many kids realize, like Virginia did, that hours and hours spent on facebook or myspace is unhealthy? What about things like Nintendo or even texting?
Should we be addressing these kinds of issues too?

Caroline Jacks September 22, 2010 - 12:57 am

Thank you for sharing this reflection on the new way of submitting essays into some colleges. I believe that this idea is great! I had no idea that this was possible! Like the article said, it can be so intimidating for students to try and truly express themselves through a written essay. By posting a video, it can show their creativity and help express themselves a bit more. With nerves and pressure, sometimes a simple essay can’t really do that. Because we all know how stressful the application process can be!
However, I loved how you mentioned “don’t drop the essays”. Just like you said, it shouldn’t have to be one way or another. Simply using ALL these tools that are available to us will help students be prepared for anything.

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