Cycle 2 Report

Student Provocateurs
Cycle 2 Reflection and Future Plans
Bradford Davey
March 26th, 2007

Cycle 2 brought it's own unique challenges while providing great excitement and energy and moving Student Provocateurs forward. A valuable insight that I had at the end of cycle one was that my personal emphasis had drifted toward thinking of this project as a film project instead of the original focus of students utilizing the power of their voices to create dialogue among adults. I have refocused and made a conscious effort to emphasize the provocateur goal to the students, encouraging them to explore ways to achieve though their film.

It turns out that determining a point that represented a natural division for reflection for this cycle was more about it finding me than me finding it. As the project continued forward from the end of cycle 1, students began working on writing a script that incorporated their ideas and brainstorms into a working script. The research they had done was crafted into their stories and became an integral part of the message. The students built on their visions and were able to successfully create scripts and storyboards ready for shooting. The reflection point for cycle 2 is at the end of the preparation and before the filming.

What did you want to change and why?
Cycle 2 of my action research project, Student Provocateurs, was to examine whether the project philosophy and concept were powerful enough to motivate students to create a film that would ultimately provoke dialogue among adults. Often, projects are presented to students with great excitement and anticipation but soon falter and lose their momentum because of limited interest and commitment. Student Provocateurs was designed to empower students to engage with the topic and the media. Cycle 2 reveals whether or not they are now self-motivated enough to continue developing the idea to the point of filming.

Cycle 2 Question
Once implemented, can the project sustain itself and be internally motivating enough to get kids to continue their actions to prepare for filming? My hypothesis is that, if genuinely interested in the project, committed to learning, and motivated by the concept, the students will successfully develop a viable film script ready for shooting. Their teacher will help to facilitate the process and have a shared vision with the students.

What I did
During the cycle 2 time period, roughly January 15th, 2007 until March 27th, 2007, I actively worked with the kids much more than during cycle 1. My time spent with them focused on scripting and storyboarding. These were the two areas that emerged as needing the most attention and were critical to getting ready for filming. They worked in small groups, individually, and had large group discussions. Themes ranged from camera use to lighting and scripting and storyboarding. The teacher and I served as a resource and coach on the issues during these activities.

My role continues to be primarily one of “expert.” I bring a unique tool-set to the process for the students and offer advice and suggestions, contribute to conversations, and help them shape meaning through being a trial audience. While the students are the primary driving force behind the film and it’s ideas, I am a constructive voice that the students seem very responsive to and willing to accept support from in developing their ideas.

Some of my activities as an “expert:”
• Answering questions about film “flow” by having the students discuss story ideas in terms of following a story line and progressing towards a common theme
• Focusing students attentions onto creating a clear beginning, “present” scenes, and ending scene to help develop the clarity of ideas and connection
• Giving students the opportunity to use cameras to film my discussions and actions with other groups to allow for guided learning for the film crew and camera specialists
• Challenging ideas that reached into areas that were impractical and would ultimately lead to difficulties in completing the film project
• Continued to bring ideas and suggestions back to the time line for the project to help the group maintain focus and continue their progression towards the first day of filming
• Helping students face the challenges of making group decisions by helping them to stay focused on the bigger picture and remember that the project was a reflection of shared ideas

Reflections from Deb Barone: Assessing Student Attitudes and Activities
A questionnaire was sent to Lawn Avenue school teacher Deb Barone to gather additional information about the project and the student's activities and attitudes. The Lawn Avenue School in Jamestown, RI is a 5-8 middle school with a dedicated parent population and smaller classes. Getting students interested in the program has not been hard. They are very willing to try new things. It is believed that increasing student interest will increase attendance. This is not practical to test at The Lawn Ave School because attendance is already high (near 95% daily).

Student attitude is an area I am studying and looking for changes. The students are described as “very excited” while having periods of lower excitement when demands from other classes are higher. Some group dynamics have gone through changes since the beginning of the project; most notably leadership among the groups has evolved, “Their groups have changed dynamics a few times...the people that started out as strong leaders have backed off a bit and others have stepped forward (as they have learned they do have things to offer).” Deb reports that the “original leaders” have learned that everyone in the group has a value and can contribute in a unique way. There have been struggles and changes in mood. On a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest level of interest, the students are described as being an 8 at the start of the project, a 5 when the work level increased (research, scripting, storyboarding) and is now at a 10. Deb additionally shares that consistently the students are “laughing, sharing, discussing and growing while having a good time.”

As the students have progressed, their group effort and listening has increased. A few of the quieter students have moved into leadership roles in their groups and seem to “be the solid rocks…the consistent ones which keep the group on task.” Deb continues to describe the variety of group dynamics with the spontaneous early group leaders given way to more steadfast students with better follow through. This could possible be a result of the realization that the project has many facets that demand attention and must be completed and built upon. The students are more accepting of one another and have increased their listening skills. As my experiences have shown, there is a great variety of skills that are necessary in a film project and this allows for a great variety of strengths to emerge among the student groups. Deb offers, “once they shifted leadership roles and ideas started to come they forgot to worry about being ‘cool’ which is fun to watch!”

Interest and initiative are also indicators of the program’s success and effectiveness. As their overall interest has ebbed and flowed, so to has their initiative. As the pieces of the project are starting to come together, the students are reportedly showing a greater level of initiative. Deb reports that the kids are often highly involved in projects and their work but the Student Provocateurs Program is “very different” because it is “unveiling” each child’s strong points. “While someone else may love to write vs. some one who wants to draw...and so on ...so they are happy in their places and are thriving.”

The goal of the Student Provocateur Program is to increase student voice and bring attention to important issues. I have asked Deb to comment on actions the students were taking to prepare to provoke dialogue among adults. She reports that they have considered it in the structure of the script. The story the students have come up with builds on being adults are reflecting back to when they were “young” at Lawn Avenue School. They revisit many childhood memories and have worked a great deal of powerful information into the story line. It seems they have kept their focus on provoking dialogue and have chosen a story line that would have maximum impact.

Time constraints remain the largest concern about the feasibility of the program. I have been asked to consider the amount of time it would take a teacher to move from start to finish. This is clearly an important feature of the program that will be critical to its success with other schools. Overall, faculty members and administration are excited about the program even if they seem to not fully grasp the finer points. Deb also adds that in her 26 years of teaching, it is easier to stay with what you know and are comfortable with. “What a gift...to be given time and space to be kids, to be creative and to be proud of what they have done...out of the normal school curriculum.”

Reflection
Personally, I am very pleased with the progression of the student's work and direction that they have decided to take their ideas. Looking back over the past two months, it is clear that this was a critical time for the film project. The transition from ideas to action has been challenging while being a valuable learning experience for us all. I have recognized the importance of momentum and the consistency necessary to bring the students from a place where they are learning about the topics and considering the script and storyboard to a place where they are ready to capture their ideas on film.

How I thought it would go…and where to now?
There were moments when I was not completely sure that the kids were getting the concept but after sitting down with them in individual groups, it became much more clear that they were working in the right direction and had a clear sense of how to create a dialogue and provoke the audience. My time with their individual groups made a big impression on me and helped me to realize that they were really grasping the ideas and value of the project. Having prior experience with facilitating film projects with middle school students, I am familiar with the pace and involvement the students are showing. I am very pleased with their progress and how dramatically they have progressed since their first visit to Casey Farm.

The project now moves into cycle 3 which will be called the filming stage. During this time, the students will be actively filming, capturing the ideas they have worked hard to script and storyboard. The filming cycle brings it own unique challenges for the kids and I am interested to see how they face them.

The time line for the Student Provocateurs has been altered slightly to better reflect our expected completion and showing. It can also be viewed at http://cadres.pepperdine.edu/ar/c9/davey/timeline.html.

Updated time-line for the Student Provocateurs Project
Activity Description Time Frame Item Completed
Purchase computer and camera First week of January X
Students watch “Making Your Movie” January 15th X
Visit Students for first time at Lane Avenue School January 18th X
Documentary footage capture January 18th – June 6th On-going
Student choose movie topic January 22nd X
Begin script writing January 23rd X
Begin story board February 5th X
Mid script review February 8th X
Mid story board review February 14th X
Camera practice February 14th X
Finish script February 21st X
Finish story board February 29th X
iMovie software practice February 29th X
Begin filming March 1st X
Trip 1 to Casey Farms March 14th X
Trip 2 to Casey Farms March 28th
Trip 3 to Casey Farms April 4th
Final filming and film review April 4th
Film download to computer April 5th
Begin film editing April 6th
Film editing April 13th
Film editing April 20th
Student mid film editing review April 30th
Student film editing review May 3rd
Student final editing week May 7th
Student final editing review May 14th
Student film review May 15th
Student final edits May 21st
Public showing advertising May 21st
Public showing advertising May 28th
Public showing June 1st or 2nd
Student film copies to students June 1st or 2nd
Public interviews June 1st or 2nd
Final Student Interviews June 4th
Documentary film production June 6th
Final Documentary film production June 11th
Documentary showing to students June 14th
Exhibitions June 20th – 22nd

Website created on the model
To prepare for the future of the project, to help generate interest, to support replication and sustainability, I have created a website dedicated to the Student Provocateurs Project. It can be viewed at http://www.studentprovocateurs.com. The website is designed to promote the current work among the student and to reveal the power and potential of film as a medium of change for student voices.

Screen capture from the Studentprovocateurs.com website.

 

 
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