Content Learning through Digital Media, Oral Language and Shared Writing

Digital Video News Broadcast: Discovering Language Through Media Play Presentation
Stephen Luca

Stephen Luca

Stephen Louca has his Master’s of Science in Education from Medaille College in Buffalo and as of September 2010 will be a Computer Resource Teacher for the York Region District School Board.  He believes that teaching critical thinking should be a priority in the classroom and sees technology integration as a powerful tool in that regard.

Table of Contents


The digital video news broadcast project is a unit that provides students with an engaging and meaningful context through which they can enhance their skills in all four strands of the language arts curriculum.

The project acts as a foundation for creating rich, cross-curricular connections in other strands of the curriculum as well. It can be modified to meet the curriculum requirements of any grade and/or ability level. However, due to the multi-step, long-term approach and the technical requirements, it may work best with junior/intermediate students.

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Purpose of Learning Object

Students will…

  • analyze the elements of both print and video news media.
  • synthesize their knowledge to create a plan of how to replicate their findings.
  • create their own media broadcast that demonstrates knowledge and understanding of the studied elements, and incorporates their creative input.
  • reflect upon the process, their role, strengths, and areas for improvement.

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Description of Learning Tasks

Due to its use of technology and focus on current events and issues, this project succeeds in engaging even the most reluctant learners.

Accommodations and modifications will depend on the specific students involved and should be determined prior to commencing this project.

By utilizing digital video editing equipment, students will be challenged to examine the nuances of the news media and then replicate them in a personal and creative manner.

Students can create full-length news broadcasts or shorter segments of a broadcast. The content may vary from fictional news stories on a topic of interest or one that is being studied in class, or real situations occurring in the classroom or the school that are deemed “newsworthy.”

The final product can be completed as a whole-class broadcast or as short news segments completed by small groups of students. The latter allows better assessment for learning and increased creative freedom for students, although it can be more complicated to manage through the implementation and editing phases.

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Curriculum Connections

*As this may be applied to several grades, the specific expectations will vary, I have focused on the Overall Expectations. These vary only slightly between grades on the language continuum. The specific wording below is taken from grade 4 expectations to provide a middle point by which they may be altered for both higher and lower grades.

Oral Communication

OE 2 - use speaking skills and strategies appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

OE 3 - reflect on and identify their strengths as listeners and speakers, areas for improvement, and the strategies they found most helpful in oral communication situations.


OE 1 - read and demonstrate an understanding of a variety of literary, graphic, and informational texts, using a range of strategies to construct meaning.

OE 2 - recognize a variety of text forms, text features, and stylistic elements and demonstrate understanding of how they help communicate meaning.

OE 3 - use knowledge of words and cueing systems to read fluently.


OE 1 - generate, gather, and organize ideas and information to write for an intended purpose and audience.

OE 2 - draft and revise their writing, using a variety of informational, literary, and graphic forms and stylistic elements appropriate for the purpose and audience.

OE 3 - use editing, proofreading, and publishing skills and strategies, and knowledge of language conventions, to correct errors, refine expression, and present their work effectively.


OE 1 - demonstrate an understanding of a variety of media texts.

OE 2 - identify some media forms and explain how the conventions and techniques associated with them are used to create meaning.

OE 3 - create a variety of media texts for different purposes and audiences, using appropriate forms, conventions, and techniques.

OE 4 - reflect on and identify their strengths as media interpreters and creators, areas for improvement, and the strategies they found most helpful in understanding and creating media texts.

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Required Technology

  • Digital video camera (1 is adequate, 2 or more is ideal).
  • Computer with digital video editing software. (Mac computers with iMovie or iMovie HD are ideal, but PCs with Windows Movie Maker also work well.)
  • Firewire cable (depending on the type of camera used, this may not be necessary).
  • Wireless lavalier or handheld microphones (optional, but handy).
  • External hard drive for storage and transfer of raw footage and video files.

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The process for developing the unit takes on several phases as outlined below:

  • Phase 1 – Research and Development
  • Phase 2 – Planning (Pre-production)
  • Phase 3 – Implementation (Production)
  • Phase 4 – Editing (Post-production)
  • Phase 5 – Reflection

Each phase offers opportunity for assessment. Listed below is a general outline of how each phase can be assessed to maximize learning.

Phase 1 – Research and Development – Getting Familiar with a News Broadcast

  1. Assessment as it pertains to the broadcast is mostly diagnostic and formative and can take many forms at the teacher’s discretion.
  2. Assessment opportunities for reading, writing and oral/visual communication are evident here as well.

Phase 2 – Planning (Pre-production) – Writing Story Boards and Scripts

  1. Assessment can take many forms including summative assessment (especially in terms of student writing and planning skills).
  2. Formative assessment can be provided in regards to all areas, especially with respect to oral/visual communication skills. Conferencing with individual students and small groups is an effective and essential form of assessment during this phase, as are both self and peer assessment.
  3. Teacher reflection: Are the students on task and engaged? Are they sharing in the leadership of this process? Do they have a clear grasp of the objectives and are they being provided with the resources to meet them? What is working? What needs to be changed or dismissed altogether? Am I accommodating for all students? Success during the implementation phase depends on the effectiveness of the planning phase. Therefore, progression should not occur if the teacher does not feel that students are adequately prepared.

Phase 3 – Implementation (Production) – “Lights, Camera, Action!”

  1. During this phase, a large portion of the assessment continues to be formative however, there is a shift towards more summative assessment since much of the final product is beginning to take form.
  2. Self and peer assessment continue to be integral to success. Rubrics, questionnaires and surveys (teacher and student created) are some of the forms of assessment that can be used.

Phase 4 – Editing (Post-Production) – The Cutting Room Floor

  1. Much of the assessment is summative since students are now demonstrating their knowledge and understanding to this point.
  2. Self and peer assessment continue to be integral parts of the learning process and should also be used.

Phase 5 – Reflection – Where do we go from here (Self-Assessment)

  1. Student reflectionStudents will …
    • reflect on the various roles that they performed and whether or not they were successful in fulfilling the responsibility of those roles. What did they do well? What could be improved? What goals will they set for themselves?
    • reflect on how their final product met the expectations. What changes in the future would have the greatest impact upon the final product, thus helping them better meet the expectations?
    • be guided to reflect upon what skills were necessary for success during this process. As well, they should ask themselves how these skills may be transferable to other areas of their lives, both at present and in the future.
  2. Teacher reflection
    • Did students meet the expectations? From an instructional standpoint, what worked and what requires improvement? Were students engaged? Why or why not?

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Scope and Sequence

The process for developing the unit takes on several phases as outlined below. The length of each phase will vary, but to use this unit effectively, the teacher should plan for an entire term.

My recommendation is to begin the research and development toward the end of first term and carry out the remaining phases in second term.

  • Phase 1 – Research and Development
  • Phase 2 – Planning (Pre-production)
  • Phase 3 – Implementation (Production)
  • Phase 4 – Editing (Post-production)
  • Phase 5 – Reflection

*These are general guidelines that should be changed to meet the specific needs of students in a particular class.

Phase 1 – Research and Development

This acts as a foundation for the project and should therefore be given ample time to develop. It can include, but is not limited to, the ideas below:


  1. Students can be exposed to examples of news media by viewing on-line clips (found by the teacher) of news broadcasts and bringing in various newspapers. (Including newspapers is essential to the writing portion of this project and allows students to find correlations between print and broadcast news.) Alternatively, a homework assignment could be to watch (with parents) a portion of a news broadcast. Students should sample broadcasts from various networks to gain a broad base for creating their own segments.
  2. Since advertising (and the revenue it generates) are an integral element of the news media, there is an opportunity to introduce students to the art of advertising, in both print and video form. This allows for another layer of learning and assessment.
  3. Students are introduced to the technology (hardware and software) that they will be using during the project. Manuals can be printed and read in small groups (guided reading) or independently, as well tutorials may be watched on-line where available.
  4. Students are made aware of the expectations for this project through a review of the rubrics, checklists and curriculum expectations. Where possible, students should also participate in the creation of the expectations for this project, as well as the assessment tools.
  5. Shared and/or Independent
    • Students and teacher will use various graphic organizers and diagrams to analyze the elements of effective news broadcasts.
    • During this stage, students and teacher will also share in the process of analyzing writing samples from the news media.
    • Students will write short news stories on a topic of their choice (possibly from another subject) following the form and style of the samples they analyzed. They can then also turn these into a script for the broadcast.
    • Students will then use the technology to create short segments simply to gain a working knowledge of the equipment and software. This is an opportunity for a cross-curricular link as students can make a mock broadcast about a topic they are studying in another subject, such as science or social studies.

Phase 2 – Planning (Pre-production)

Students begin to synthesize and apply their knowledge. Much of the assessment for learning is done in this phase. The main role for the teacher now is to act as facilitator and to provide formative assessment to students.

Students will …

  1. Determine the style of broadcast they wish to create (traditional, casual, etc.).
  2. Determine their target audience.
  3. Determine what will be deemed “newsworthy”? What criteria will be used to make these decisions?
  4. Identify roles and assign team members. (i.e. reporters, anchors, sound equipment operators, lighting, etc.)
    • Write storyboards depicting scene-by-scene progressions of the broadcast.
    • Write scripts for the various on-camera roles (anchors, reporters, guests, interviewees, etc.)
    • Write articles, reviews, etc., that can be used in their broadcast.
    • Select costumes.
    • Make contact with other teachers and students of other classes where necessary in order to create and report on a segment occurring at the school level (where applicable).
    • Plan commercials using storyboards and scripts that will be used as breaks in their broadcasts.

Phase 3 – Implementation (Production)

The largest portion of summative assessment is completed as students now begin to create their final broadcasts, applying and demonstrating their knowledge to this point.

The teacher’s main role during this time is to be a facilitator, as well as to help organize and delegate since younger students may lack these skills.

A lack of organization during this phase can result in delays, and students should be made aware of how costly this could for a media business.

Students will …

  1. create schedules and sign-outs for equipment, thus managing their own production and as well as coordinating with others.
  2. gather footage for their news broadcasts, applying the various elements and adhering to the guidelines and timelines they established during the planning phase.
  3. establish an ultimate “deadline” since this is exactly what occurs in the real media world.
  4. take on several roles during this phase. At times they will be required to lead a segment (producer, director, etc.), and at others times to follow instructions established by other student leaders in order to fulfill a secondary role (camera operator, reporter, technician, etc.).

Phase 4 – Editing (Post-production)

Students use available computer software to compile their gathered footage into a polished piece.

Students act as editors, making decisions about what to leave in the broadcast and what to leave out. Students should be encouraged to remain aware of required length of broadcast and the deadline for delivery.

This phase requires a working knowledge of the editing software. A computer usage schedule should be created (by students where possible) to ensure equity of use and to mimic real-world scenarios.

Students will …

  1. unload footage onto the computer using firewire cable, or other method as required by specific hardware available.
  2. organize clips according to timeline.
  3. cut clips to include only necessary parts.
  4. create titles and subtitles where necessary.
  5. add transitions between clips.
  6. add other video effects where necessary.
  7. add music and sound effects to enhance product.

*Important note: Students may have a tendency to overload their projects with effects which can detract from the final product and make it difficult to meet deadlines.

It is important for students to be aware of the consequences for their choices (poor segments and missed timelines); however, ultimately the teacher should allow students to work through this stage since regardless of the outcome. The result will be an important learning experience.

Phase 5 – Reflection

Students will…

  1. reflect upon the various roles that they performed and whether or not they were successful in fulfilling the responsibility of those roles. What did they do well? What could be improved? What goals will they set for themselves?
  2. reflect on how their final product met the expectations. What changes in the future would have the greatest impact upon the final product, thus helping them better meet the expectations?
  3. be guided to reflect upon what skills were necessary for success during this process. How may these skills may be transferable to other areas of their lives both at present and in the future?

Teacher reflection

Did students meet the expectations? From an instructional standpoint, what worked and what requires improvement? Were students engaged? Why or why not?

Next Step

After completing the first news broadcast(s), it is important that students have the opportunity to attempt the entire process at least once more so that they have the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned through reflection to the next product. Their second broadcast could be shorter in length.

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Accommodations or Modifications

This project can be changed to accommodate various learners in each of the above phases. Accommodations and modifications could include the following:

  1. Reduce the overall scope of the project from media literacy to an emphasis on oral/visual communication.
  2. Pairing or partnering students according to a range of abilities may help to assist those with weaker language skills.
  3. Keeping to a specific focus. For example, everyone does a science report on Biodiversity. This will help those with organizational difficulties in particular, as the teacher will be more focused in his/her instruction. This would be a good approach for a community class since there tends to be a wide range of abilities, grade levels and subject matter.

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Research Base

Most of the research actually focuses on the general integration of information and communication technology into the classroom, rather than on digital video editing specifically.

The value of digital video editing may be too narrow a scope to research effectively. However, the following studies substantiate the benefits of using technology in the classroom to strengthen student engagement.

Splitting Clips and Telling Tales: Students Interactions with Digital Video

Matthew Pearson, Education and Social Research Institute, Manchester Metropolitan University, 799 Wilmslow Road, Didsbury,

Downes (1999) has argued that children should play a key role in evaluating the use of multimedia in schools. This project suggests that we should go even further and allow children every opportunity to feed into the process of deciding how a new technology like digital video could be used for educational purposes.

Children are sophisticated consumers of technology and if given a voice will be able to work with teachers to ?nd ways of using this technology to achieve authentic learning.

Literacy Instruction With Digital and Media Technologies

Diane Barone, Todd E. Wright, The Reading Teacher, Vol. 62, No. 4, (December 2008/January 2009)

“What makes today’s kids really sit up and fires their neural fibers? Technology. Kids don’t see laptops, MP3 players, cell phones, PDAs, DVD players, and video games as technology, it’s just life. Schools need to connect education to their students’ lives with technology.”

“Fundamental to any implementation are resources that include access to sufficient technology, time for teachers and students to learn the technological applications, and technological support.Internet to support new literacies (pp. 199–221).”

“Once teachers have training in using laptops and how to integrate technology with state standards there is greater student engagement in learning. Teachers will see that giving a laptop to a student results in greater engagement. Greater engagement equals higher achievement.”

Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Dunleavy, M., Dexter, S., & Heinecke, W.F., (2007)

“A second issue is teacher knowledge and attitude about new literacies (Hew & Brush, 2007). Fernley presents a case study of working with teacher knowledge and attitude through a gradual model of moving to new literacies.”

Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 52(1)

© 2008 International Reading Association, doi:10.1598/JAAL.52.1.7, (pp. 66–68), (September 2008)

An editorial in this journal insists that digital literacies are the new reality. “They are at the core of new literacies. It behooves each of us to seriously consider how best to weave together old, new, and future literacies so that young people leave school literate in the ways of school and in the ways of the world. We invite all of you to read the upcoming digital literacies columns and engage in ongoing con- versations on our blog ( – both media will no doubt provide additional insights and raise further questions.”

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Evidence of Innovation and/or Exemplary Practice

Modern teaching does not require us to reinvent the wheel, but rather to consider a more efficient and effective process by which to manufacture it. As such, the use of digital video editing software and hardware in the classroom is not intended to revolutionize the teaching profession, but to improve the connection between student and learning material.

As Marshall McLuhan’s age-old adage states, “The medium is the message.” To communicate with our students and conversely have them communicate their ideas to us more effectively, we need to speak the language they are speaking and, in the 21st century, that language is encoded in HTML.

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Other Applications (Extensions)

Educators will inevitably discover other ways to incorporate digital video into their programs. Some other ways that I have used it are as follows:

  1. Public Service Announcements.
  2. Recording presentations as an accommodation.
  3. Recording music videos.
  4. Creating anti-smoking commercials in health.
  5. Recording various sports movements in gym for the purpose of self-analysis.
  6. Stop motion videos using Windows Movie Maker.
  7. Digital story telling using still photos.

When digital media enters the classroom, it becomes limited only by the user’s creativity. Allowing students to come up with their own ideas of how digital media may be used opens up a world of opportunity that most people of our generation cannot even imagine.

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Impact Analysis

This project allows students the opportunity to express themselves through a medium with which they are comfortable, and which excites them. As well, the unit encourages teachers to take on a new role in their classroom, and challenges them to assess their practice, as well as student learning, from a different perspective.


In my experience, digital video editing is a powerful motivator for student learning. Students relish the opportunity to record themselves, add effects, and include the ever-popular blooper reel.

Boys, in particular, seem to gravitate towards this medium and where engagement in the past may have been an issue, it no longer is when video is present.

Since students are engaged and motivated, learning happens more naturally and independently as students take the initiative to seek further knowledge beyond what is presented. If ever the term “tricking students into learning” applied, it is here.

I observed the impact of this unit on some of my more reluctant male learners who previously struggled to understand the relevance of language skills for their personal life goals. In discovering they had the freedom to create content for a news segment, these boys gained new perspective on what they could achieve.

These reluctant learners chose to create a segment on school sports teams. The result was tremendous! It was nothing short of miraculous to observe the boys as they read their sample interviews, diligently wrote interview questions, created story boards, selected locations, shot footage, edited film, added music and video effects and, perhaps most importantly, debated and collaborated with each other.

The media component, combined with the obvious relevance of the task, prompted the boys to embrace learning and refining language skills. These boys have now progressed to become active members of the school technology team, described below.


The impact on teacher practices is profound.

For the most part, instruction happens at key points during the project, usually at the onset of each section. At other times, the teacher is unable to consistently serve as instructor given the sheer volume of activity in the classroom. Instead, the teacher acts as facilitator, helping students as they seek out learning opportunities to add depth and creativity to their work.

In a sense, the teacher becomes the director of the newsroom: delegating tasks, tracking progress, guiding learning, coaching students, determining next steps, and guiding students through conflicts.


The presentation of the final product to the school community has a profound influence on the learning of all students in the school. The work of one classroom can spark the creative interests of students in others, thus benefiting the entire study body.

My experience with this project has enlightened me to its true potential. The class received excellent feedback to our news broadcast at the school assemblies and at the community movie nights. Teachers, students, and parents alike had numerous questions on all aspects of the process.

Within a few months, many of our primary and intermediate teachers have been inspired to work on similar projects. While not all these teachers have created news broadcasts, they have incorporated digital video editing into their classroom practices with tremendous results.

As an added benefit, I have also had the opportunity to form a student-led technology team. Since students have become experts in the implementation of this software and hardware, they have been able to offer technical support to other teachers. In this way, they are playing a vital role in eliminating barriers for many technologically-challenged teachers.

The capacity built through the technology team is the true legacy of this exciting project.

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Additional Resources

Marco Antonio Torres, a teacher in the San Fernando Valley, California, inspired me to use video in the classroom.

At the York Region District School Board Quest Conference, students of Mr. Torres spoke of how they struggled with learning until he introduced them to the power of expressing themselves through video. They recounted how Mr. Torres learned alongside them, and guided them through the process.

I did not duplicate the teacher’s project, but his success motivated me to bring video into the classroom in a way that fit my practice and my students. I hope that you’ll do the same.


I recommend the official website of Mr. Torres.

Edutopia Interview with Marco Torres.

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Copyright/Paper Citation Considerations

Barone, D., & Wright, T. (2008, December). Literacy Instruction With Digital and Media Technologies. Reading Teacher, 62(4), 292-303. Retrieved June 3, 2009, from Education Research Complete database.

O’Brien, D., & Scharber, C. (2008, September). Digital Literacies: Digital Literacies Go to School: Potholes and Possibilities Digital Literacies. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 52(1), 66-68. Retrieved June 3, 2009, from Education Research Complete database.

Pearson, M. (2005, July). Splitting Clips and Telling Tales: Students Interactions with Digital Video. Education & Information Technologies, 10(3), 189-205. Retrieved June 3, 2009, doi:10.1007/s10639-005-3000-0.

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