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June 24, 2010

Using Adobe Youth Voices to Reach Teachers

Today’s Web 2.0 digital media is encouraging teachers to prepare their students to become video producers. But how do we, as teacher educators, first motivate and then prepare both our students and ourselves for this new world of digital video? At Western Michigan University, we are exploring ways to combine newly emerging video digital technologies with the ancient art of storytelling to motivate and prepare pre-service students and veteran teachers to help their students use reflective experiences and share digital media share their stories.
Given ever-expanding content and technology choices, from video to multimedia to Web 2.0, there is an extraordinary need to understand how to involve the learner, the teacher, curriculum, and school environment (Marshall, 2002). Bransford, Brown, and Cocking (2000) emphasize the importance of technology tools as an integral part of education, not merely classroom equipment. According to a DOE report on teacher quality, only 52% of the four million teachers working in public schools feel comfortable using the technologies available to them (NCES, 2007). Since over half of public school teachers feel uncomfortable with technology (NCES, 2007), and many teachers report moderately low levels of computer competence, we’ll need new ways to improve teachers’ confidence and competence.
One of the best ways to build confidence and competence in computer skills is to provide examples. Well-produced and explained models can both inspire and inform. In a study of how students are now teaching their teachers to use technology, Jonathan Milines, (2007) clams that, “teachers will never be as computer savvy as their students.” He rejects the idea of sending teachers to regular cram courses, but says instead they “should allow their pupils to take the lead in using technology.” He adds, “Teachers can evaluate students’ use of new technologies, and can teach about how those technologies fit into life and learning.”
Adobe provided photo- and video-editing software and online training for teachers at selected schools where students are producing videos for the Adobe Youth Voices (AYV) Project. In these videos, many Adobe Youth Voices students blend their own life stories with a relevant social issue. I recently conducted a workshop for teachers focused on better ways to provide their students with 21st century digital communication skills, encouraging collaboration to use technologies to express their students’ unique life and learning. This approach puts much of the burden of learning new software skills on the students. I asked each of the 35 teachers enrolled in two different emerging technology seminar graduate courses to view and report upon at least three different Adobe Youth Video (AYV) clips. They were given the following instructions:

Adobe Youth Voices is a program that encourages the use of video, multimedia, digital art, web, animation, and audio tools that enable youth to explore and comment on their world. Please review at least three videos from the Adobe Youth Voices program, and write one to three paragraphs on your reaction to the use of these tools by students and how they might be used in your classroom. Links to these videos can be found at
The degree of reaction and expressed motivation to use the AYV model was unexpected. Here is a sampling of the results:

“Wow! I want the software and media devices that will allow me to create videos in my classroom. I’m seriously considering trying to get my hands on some more video cameras and software. The videos that the students made were fun to watch. I could tell that they enjoyed making them and I can see how much pride a student could feel over developing a video project like some of the ones that I saw. I don’t know many teenagers who don’t enjoy seeing themselves on camera and hearing their own voices. The finished projects looked and sounded so professional. Even students who normally don’t like to express themselves in front of other people seemed to enjoy the projects.”

Here are links to the three Adobe Youth Voices videos that this teacher selected: Could you call this home? Be the Difference What has this World Come to?
Adobe also provides details on how teachers can use the model. A free download of the curriculum used by average classroom teachers for these summer AYV workshops can be found at Another teacher summarized well what many of the teachers had to say:

“The videos on this web site showed powerful messages from today’s youth. These videos are very well done and show that our student population has something to say. The videos would connect well with our students because they were made by other students who are just like them. I would recommend this site to anyone looking for videos on social issues. These videos really inspired me. Not only to be able and see how other lives can really affect people in so many good ways, but also how it changes others from top to bottom and inside and out. I thank everyone involved in this site for helping the world. I watched five videos and each affected me. I have been around so many different people in my life and through so many difficult situations, but they still do not seem to compare to what others are enduring. It helps me work to better myself and quit complaining – even about little things. ….. Life is short, but feelings, memories, and love last forever. These video stories are the proof of that.”

These detailed responses from the teachers in this seminar course may also be helpful to other teachers looking to use the AYV model to teach in various curriculum subject areas.

The videos that have been presented on Adobe Youth Voices tend to be more about social issues, but I could see students in my science class using them to talk more about environmental issues. I have a unit where students learn about the environment and how changes in the environment, whether by humans or other organisms, can drastically alter the ecosystems as a whole. I can imagine students creating a video about a particular ecosystem showing the different organisms living within it and how humans have affected it, or how humans can help restore the ecosystem to its original state.”

“The AYV Model has focused primarily on working with inner city kids during summer workshops. Teachers from non-urban schools could also think about using the AYV model during the regular school year.” Here is what another teacher said:

“The students could post videos that were made for the whole world to see. This type of site would have a great impact on students who were making these types of videos. Not only would they be able to see other students work, but they would know that their work could be seen. If I had these tools in my classroom, the students could make these incredible videos. The impact on education would be great due to the amount of cross curricular projects your students could do.
I can see how making these videos would be extremely motivating to students. Not only is there a world audience, but many of the videos are real works of art. Because the target students for the Youth Voices initiative seem to be the at-risk population, these students have been given a unique opportunity to share their world. Having said this, I know making videos would also be motivating to my students, only an extremely small percentage of whom could be considered “at risk.” I have several ideas for videos that my students could produce (I just have to take the plunge and try it.)”

Another high school teacher reported on inspired ideas for her English Literature classes:

“I can see endless possibilities for this in my own classroom. For example, right now we are discussing The Giver, a story about a world with no colors. I could see my students using some of the video effects, combined with some poetry or music to express their opinions on the topic. In my Teen Literature class we are reading The Outsiders. We have done a lot of self exploration in this class along the lines of friendships, relationships and making life-changing choices. Making an Adobe video would be a great way to allow the students to express themselves. I have several students who love to skateboard, play guitar, play basketball etc. We don’t have any official sports teams at our school for them to showcase these talents. Making a video would be such an awesome way for them to showcase these talents. I could see several of my students buying into my teen lit class, if they were allowed to make a video about skateboarding. I could tie in literacy standards by having them write a script and incorporate themes, poetry, literature, history etc. into their videos. Bravo! Adobe, Bravo! How do I get this stuff into my classroom?”

The largest concern for adapting the AYV model by these classroom teachers was the perceived high cost. As one teacher reported “The price of the Adobe software is much more of an expense than my school would ever approve!” This is a theme that I heard over and over again, that this would be great to use with classes, but for the high cost of the Adobe software. Here is an example from one of the teachers, “I did notice that on the side of the screen that you could see what software the students used to create their video. When I checked the price of the Adobe Creative Suite 4 Premium I about had a heart attack. $1,699 will never fly in a public school.”
Another teacher detailed her concern related to cost:

“Regarding the issue of school implementation, one thing that really stood out for me was the price of the software used in most of these videos (Adobe Creative Suite 4 Design Premium), it normally costs US$1,799, but it has also a special education price of just US$599, which, while being a pretty good discount, is still quite expensive, and that is just the software. There’s also the cost of the licensing for the use of the software in different computers, which depends on the version of the program and the number of computers, and while Abode gives many options to choose from and is certainly interested in supporting the education field, it’s hard no to think of trying to do something similar with a less expensive program or even with the free (and really basic) video tools that come bundled with most OS’s (Windows Movie Maker for Windows and iMovie for Macs: don’t know about Linux users).

A breakdown of this group of 34 educators, show that they included 4 administrators, 2 educational technology coordinators and 30 teachers, including 3 that were currently lay off from their teaching job. A further breakdown of the 30 teachers shows that 18 taught K-8 students and 12 taught high school while 8 were from high-risk schools. In many ways, they represented a typical population of educators. However, they differ in that they were all seeking a graduate degree in educational technology, and thus could be said to be more knowledgeable and interested in the use of technology in the classroom.
In a follow-up survey, 34 (100%) of these educators said that viewing the AYV samples had inspired them to think about using the AYV model in their schools. However, 32 of the 34 also said that cost was the greatest impediment. When asked if they knew the cost of Adobe volume licensing for their schools only two (6%) had the licensing information. When asked if they would consider using the Adobe Elements (Premiere Elements and/or Photoshop Elements) as a less expensive alternative for implementing an AYV-like project in their school, only three reported yes. No one said they would not use Elements, and 29 said they did not know differences between Premiere Pro and Premiere Elements for video editing. Two participants in the survey did not respond to the question. When ask to rank other alternatives, the most common response was the freely available Microsoft Movie Maker for PCs, followed by iMovie for Macs.
While it is not possible to generalize the results from this small sample of Michigan educators, this study does suggest that using AYV samples can inspire educators to think about using video and video editing software to create AYV-like videos in their schools and classrooms. However, the perceived high cost of Adobe software remains as serious impediment. To use AYV to inspire the general population of educators, Adobe may want to consider funding a separate group of students to use Elements for AYV projects. The results could also provide less expensive models that would more likely motivate teachers to include student video projects as part of in their curriculum.
In conclusion, AYV projects can provide classroom teachers with the inspiration and motivation to trust their students to teach them how to use video in classroom for meaningful, relevant, and engaging learning. As one of the teachers in this study said, “It would be great to try something meaningful (an AYV-like project) that related to the students lives while tackling a specific topic from class. It is not just using engaging technology, but using it for a purpose, with a reason that can support the time, effort, and money invested in technology for student learning and achievement.”
Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and
school. Washington, D.C.: National Research Council.
Marshall, J.M. (2002). Learning with technology: Evidence that technology can, and does, support learning. San Diego, CA: Cable in the Classroom.
Milne, J. (2007, April). Technology? Teachers can’t keep up. The Times Educational Supplement,(4734), 30. Retrieved April 16, 2010, from Research Library. (Document ID: 1271024301)
National Center for Educational Statistics (2007). Teacher quality: A report on teacher preparation and qualifications of public school teachers. Washington, DC.: NCES.

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