Thursday, April 29, 2010

With bated breath

For the last month, the students in the film class I'm team-teaching with a digital film graduate student have been working in teams to make short films for their final project. We've been gathering each week just to check in, touch base on logistics, and troubleshoot. Mostly the teams have been on their own -- shooting, editing, and finalizing their films.

I've also had a window on their team work through their blogs and through the minutes of their weekly team meetings posting on our course site. And I know by experience why many professors simply don't want to know what goes on inside those groups. Sometimes the reports don't reflect so well on the instructor's planning. In this case, I found that my careful schedule hadn't taken into account the necessity of digitizing each team's footage after it was shot -- a process that can only be done with the cameras. Meaning that the cameras were tied up and unavailable for team shooting for several hours each week. And since we have only two cameras, a glut of digitizing after the shooting was done made for a bottleneck, and it became difficult to get footage back to the team editors for them to use in constructing their films. I had thought that teams would have at a minimum three weeks to edit, but because of the bottleneck, most teams didn't get their footage until this week -- only one week before the deadline.

I'm perfectly able to take account of this in evaluating their work. The bigger worry is just the effect that this unforeseen difficulty has had on class morale. I would like for students not to feel as if I've set them an impossible task; I would like for them to have confidence in the instructional team, and by extension in the skills and insights we've tried to give them.

At tonight's brief meeting, though, the mood seemed upbeat. I asked students to fill out the course evaluation, and everyone was accommodating. I won't know what they think until after grades have been submitted, and I'm expecting some critique of the course structure and process. It certainly was an experiment, and it certainly wasn't perfect. I could use feedback. My hope is that the feedback will be constructive -- that the students will give us credit for our efforts. And my hope is that the experience of overcoming these obstacles will not only lead to good films at the final exam festival next week, but an appreciation for what they've learned and accomplished.

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