iMovie lets students focus on content, not videography

A group of students borrowed my MacBook today to edit and produce a newscast. They had filmed the video on a new hard drive-based digital video camera and neither the Macs in the journalism lab nor their own Windows XP Home machines were up to the task of importing the video.

A group of students borrowed my MacBook today to edit and produce a newscast. They had filmed the video on a new hard drive-based digital video camera and neither the Macs in the journalism lab nor their own Windows XP Home machines were up to the task of importing the video. Leopard came to the rescue, however, and iMovie launched immediately when we plugged in the USB 2.0 cable (this latest generation of video cameras doesn't use Firewire).

Within moments, all of the video had been imported, although it took almost 20 minutes for iMovie to create "thumbnails" of the video for editing. I guess that's one of the new features they were talking about in Leopard.

The most interesting piece of this, though, was that the students had all posted the occasional quick video to YouTube, but had never really pieced together scenes with titles, credits, music, voiceovers, etc. Since I was teaching a class, I didn't have time to give them much of a tutorial, so I pointed them to the video tutorials built into iMovie, answered the occasional question, and otherwise let them loose.

Within an hour, the students had not only mastered the interface, but had assembled a professional-looking video and automatically compressed it and exported it to YouTube for presentation to their class the next day. Because the interface was so straight-forward, the actual editing process became far less important than the creative process of stringing the scenes together in a cohesive production. All of the students involved were utterly focused on the message they were giving to their audience; the bells and whistles were secondary. As most of us know, the bells and whistles tend to be foremost in the minds of these digital natives.

Now if Apple can just create the moral equivalent of the calculator, maybe I can get my students to focus on the concepts I'm presenting and just use their calculators as tools. Anyone at Apple care to develop a better calculator? They certainly developed a better video editing package with iMovie.