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5.2.5 Case Study 13. ‘Teaching Sheffield’: Exploring Professional Development through Digital Video

525 Screen still from student filmThis case study was undertaken by Mick Connell and Andrey Rosowsky, tutors on the Secondary PGCE English programme at The University of Sheffield. It focuses on student involvement with the ‘Teaching Sheffield’ project in collaboration with Rawmarsh City Learning Centre (CLC). The aim of the project was for students to develop their digital-literacy skills to produce digital videos about different themes around Sheffield.

5.2.5 Case Study 13.... Tags COMMENTS (public) ANNOTATIONS (private) Context

5251 students editing filmsThe University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s leading Universities.  The Secondary PGCE English course at The University of Sheffield is a research-led, reflective course, presenting a balanced approach to language and literacy development. The overall aim of the course is to encourage critical reflection which will enable teachers to develop their own rationale for English in school as well as prepares student teachers for working with the National curriculum at Key Stages 3 and 4 and in post-16 English provision. Students are encouraged to respond critically and creatively to curricular and other legislation. The course is open to whose degrees are predominantly English based, either in Language or Literature or possibly Linguistics or Language.

The case study looked at the potential for developing students’ confidence and capability with digital and moving image and examined their understanding of digital literacy in the context of using digital video as a tool for professional development. It focused on the involvement of PGCE students in the Teaching Sheffield project where, as part of their course assessment, they collaborated with a local city learning centreto produce digital videos based on the theme of Sheffield.

The aim was to:

  • Explore the use of a range of digital and media resources with an English subject focus
  • Develop capacity and confidence with digital technology and resources
  • Devise, compose, produce and present a digital, still or moving image product that has value in its own right and potential for use in the classroom
  • Exploit the resources available in and around Sheffield through collaboration with the Rawmarsh City Learning Centre. Context Tags COMMENTS (public) ANNOTATIONS (private) Digital Literacy Practice

Teaching Sheffield was conceived as a way of extending and improving the provision of digital literacy and technology in the PGCE English course at The University of Sheffield. It comprised two separate phases.

5252 students editing filmIn December 2011, the students and tutors spent a day at Rawmarsh City Learning Centre (CLC), working with the staff there to produce a still or moving image presentation of a short poem inspired by a visit to a nearby Victorian cemetery. During the day, the students experienced the challenge and the satisfaction of working collaboratively and creatively with state-of-the-art technologies to a tight timescale. This was helpful in terms of establishing a relationship with the CLC, especially for students who would later undertake placements and/or employment in the area. Students also had a chance to reflect on ways in which the digital context may provide opportunities for engaging with and responding creatively to literary texts – of paramount importance in the context of teaching English. The tutors involved in the case study noted:

The first day demonstrated that capability and confidence with digital technologies were widespread but variable. It was evident that some students were both more confident and more adventurous and creative with the software than others. It’s quite hard to decide when and how to intervene to ensure that all the students took some responsibility for and had opportunity to employ the software. Perhaps we as tutors would be more explicit and insistent on this in future initiatives.

The main Teaching Sheffield’ exercise took place during May to June 2012, when students worked in five teams of five or six to create a three-minute film about an aspect of Sheffield that interested them. At an initial briefing session, the tutors outlined the scope of the assignments to the students and explained that the final product should demonstrate that they had explored and engaged with a range of digital media applications and technologies. The project was a joint, collaborative enterprise with an emphasis on process and project management.

The theme of the movie encouraged originality and was deliberately broad, with students invited to focus on Sheffield or use Sheffield and the surrounding region as a setting. During the briefing session, the students also took part in a tutorial with Rawmarsh CLC staff, which focused on the basics of digital video such as recording, editing and handling equipment. They then had three days together for group work and planning, followed by an editing and production day at Rawmarsh CLC and a presentation of the movies at the university at the end of June at the University.

The students presented five short films focusing on different aspects of Sheffield:

  • Negative and positive sides of Sheffield
  • Urban re-generation
  • The north/south divide
  • A vox pop collage of reflections
  • Memories of favourite books among shopkeepers and pedestrians


They used archive clips of the city available through the Yorkshire Film Archive and soundtracks of popular music from their own collections or the internet. The session was attended by project researchers, who used it as an opportunity to elicit student reflections on the process and ways in which the experience had impacted on their understanding of digital literacy in the context of professional practice.

5252 students getting helpOverall, the students rated their experience as positive; in particular, those who were previously unfamiliar with digital video found that the project increased their confidence. However, they were unsure whether they would be able to transfer the skills they had gained to the classroom. They acknowledged the support they had received on the course and were doubtful that they would have the same level of access to equipment and technical expertise once they started working in schools: most if not all the students were due to begin work as newly qualified teachers in the autumn.

The other pertinent issue that arose in the conversation with researchers was that of sharing resources and copyright. While students were prepared to share the teaching resources they had produced, including the short movies, they assumed that copyright was irrelevant, as illustrated by the following:

Student 1: We just literally picked out the soundtracks that thought best suited. We knew it was only going to be used for showing here – I would never think about that.

Anna: Why not? What if you want to ever use it in your teaching?

Student 2: Who would bring it up though? They are not going to go back to someone, and say …

Student 3: I didn’t really have to (think about copyright issues). It’s only for private use.

Student 2: That’s the one thing that I have not really thought about, I mean the images that I use. I think if they are freely available to get online, and if you can to listen to it online, that might sound really bad, but that’s my impression, then surely they are free to use.

Student 1: If ours was going to be a technical project, then that’s different, but ours is just creative. That was the main motivation.

The above exchange illustrates a number of misconceptions related to copyright and the sharing of open educational resources (OER), for example, that copyright is irrelevant if resources are intended for private and/or educational use. These misconceptions need to be addressed so that trainee teachers can model good practice and take full advantage of benefits offered by OER.

5252 students editing their filmsThe outcomes of this work include better understanding of the possibilities offered by digital video for professional development of PGCE students and an insight into student perceptions of sharing resources openly. The case study required considerable resources but also demonstrated that the resources did not necessarily have to be available within the university as the collaboration with CLC turned out to be very successful. Similarly, we would encourage the use of free materials available via local archives such as the Yorkshire Film Archive.

This work is shared on the project blog, Creative Space. Digital Literacy... Tags COMMENTS (public) ANNOTATIONS (private) Reflections on Teaching

The tutors felt that they could identify five key positive outcomes from the Teaching Sheffield project:

1.  An improvement in the students’ digital capability regardless of their starting point.

The students had experienced and started to understand the ways in which the collaborative use of digital technology can enhance the teaching and learning of English – in reading, writing and speaking and listening – and these possibilities are now more open to them in terms of their own confidence, access and skills.

2.  By working collaboratively with Rawmarsh CLC, links have been established that will enhance our course and add value for our students.

5253 student filmThe opportunities to access and deploy a variety of industry-standard digital technology and equipment, to work with and learn from expert and specialist tutors in Rawmarsh and to understand the potential and the role of a CLC in supporting teaching and learning were invaluable aspects of the project.

3.  Our students experienced the enjoyment and satisfaction of learning in the task by hey co-operate and collaborate effectively in order to plan/devise, film, edit and produce a finished product in.

The demands of the project have helped them experience and appreciate the value and demands of creative collaboration in the English classroom, and there have been other gains in terms of learning from the task. The tasks themselves have helped students understand the tensions inherent in collaboration, the demands of independent learning, the challenges of inclusion and the dynamics of decision-making and compromise.In terms of English teaching outcomes, students have been able to reflect on the nature and value of talk in small-group learning, planning and drafting in a creative context and the ways in which interpretation and meaning-making through digital technologies can enhance and invigorate reading and writing.

5253 student film4.  We have learned, from student evaluations and external examiner reports, that the project was overwhelmingly enjoyed and valued by the PGCE trainees and this has added to our own knowledge and will influence our planning and practice as tutors on the course.

5.  The project provided us with the context for demonstrating that effective teaching and learning in English are, and should be, active and creative, not wholly sedentary and cognitive, i.e. classroom based.

We learned something about the development of digital and IT skills and capabilities. The skills that the students were acquiring and extending were being learned and practised at the point of need. They were not being taught through decontextualised instruction, exercise and routine. The students learned new skills when they sought a particular effect or outcome, when new or extended skills were actually needed.

Digital Futures has provided us with a context for developing and evaluating the Teaching Sheffield project within our PGCE course. It has not only enhanced our course but has helped to equip and encourage the next generation of English teachers to explore the ways in which the use of digital technologies and capabilities can enrich, enliven and improve the teaching of English in the secondary school.

The basic format of the case study could be easily transferred to a different context. The tutors offer the following advice on how the project could be modified:

5253 student filmWe will do some things differently next time. We will provide less time for filming and more time for editing. We shall place a greater emphasis on initial collaborative research and planning, on thinking through the nature, content and style of the outcome before beginning the filming. We shall provide more explicit opportunity for students to identify and reflect on their achievements and their learning both within and beyond the task. Reflections on... Tags COMMENTS (public) ANNOTATIONS (private) Reflections on Learning

5254 student filmThe students particularly enjoyed the practical and collaborative aspects of the project and valued the development and extension of their IT knowledge and skills. We were reminded that, for many learners, the task matters and the product matters. It has become educationally fashionable perhaps to overvalue process and dismiss product. Skills, we contend, are vital; outcomes are incidental. Our students demonstrated that both are important. They cared hugely about the outcomes, working long and furiously to complete their films on time. In reflecting on those feelings, students learned a great deal about the nature of learning in a practical task.

The following reflections were collected during the presentation session at the University of Sheffield on 20 June 2012.

I don’t know if I would try to use this [digital video] with a class of 30 … I would be nervous. I would need a lot of support because I think your links with the technology department have to be seamless … if you are not confident in yourself, then how can you expect the students to be confident?

It [the project] made me think about whether the media studies at the school that I work in would use the programmes that we used. I am not technical, and I would like to have someone there with me as support.

Technology is not my thing, but I know a lot of kids use it. It is the way forward and a good way of engaging the students, but it would depend on what facilities the school had to offer.

The reflections that follow were submitted at the end of the project.

In the beginning At the start of the project we were unsure what was expected from the project, and how to use the cameras. As a group we felt that the brief should have been given before the tutorial from the Rawmarsh CLC team. However, once we had started discussing the focus of our project, things became clearer.
Use of ICT We were fairly confident with using ICT and digital technologies. Most of us had experience in using Mac computers and this familiarity took away some of the ‘mystery’ and anxiety of using new technology.We were less comfortable using the cameras as we had little experience of filming. However, we all recognise the importance of using ICT with our classes and are keen to develop our skills in this area. The project has been very useful in this respect.During the filming process we experienced many issues with the technology. Whilst being satisfied with the footage we had, we were frustrated that certain elements had not gone to plan. This included noise interference from traffic, interviews taking longer than expected, lighting, and the very wet weather. Practicality-wise we had few issues. Our camera ran out of battery on the first day of filming which stopped us completely, although we had come to a natural hiatus anyway. We all took it in turns to use the cameras, which were straightforward enough. Overall the general experience with the technology was positive, but filming isn’t something that came naturally to any of us.
Our understanding of digital literacy Digital literacy is not about always knowing where to look and what to click on, but about being able to navigate through unfamiliar programmes, problem solve and be able to complete the task you’ve been set, as independently as possible.
Collaboration All of the members of the group were keen to have a literature focus for our video. This led to encompassing the theme of the PGCE journey. Our concept was agreed very early in the process, and things progressed very well. We had lots of ideas, which in retrospect were quite ambitious. In the final editing day of the project, we had to significantly edit and cut the film.As a group we had an effective approach to making decisions and considering each other’s point of view. By working together we created an end product that we were all proud of and worked hard to achieve.Pupils would learn a lot about working as a group, structuring a narrative, working to deadlines and the end product would create a fantastic sense of achievement, providing all went to plan!
Issues We all have concerns about whether the ICT support in school would be available for issues beyond our ability to solve.Children are very intuitive with technology on the whole but we felt we would like to have an ‘expert’ on hand for more technical mishaps.

Reflecting on the Teaching Sheffield Activity:

The initial idea and practice footage:  the students intended to ask people for their views of Sheffield and create a video that reflected the positive and negative aspects of the city.

5254 student filmAfter using the video to take a number of shots of contrast in the town -  disused buildings and the regenerated areas – we tried collect a wide range of opinions through interviews. Having looked at the footage, and discussed what we had filmed, we felt that the negative parts of the film we had recorded looked more effective and had more impact. Therefore, we decided to address the issue of homelessness in Sheffield, in order to highlight the day-to-day existence for many people in the city. The process of evaluating the video footage we had already recorded helped us to decide on the direction of the film.

Filming the main footage: the students planned to record images in different ways to capture precise shots; they used a camera for still shots and a recorded video footage using props to recreate the living conditions of a homeless person

We had specific shots in mind, which included shots from the perspective of the homeless person, such as over the shoulder shots and a shot whilst lying down on a bench.

The main difficulty we encountered during filming was keeping the video camera steady, as none of us had used this type of equipment before. However, we felt confident to experiment with different shots and angles. It was reassuring to feel this comfortable using such equipment as it is certainly something we would like to use, as teachers, in our classrooms.

When asked to summarise their experience all the students said they had found the project enjoyable and worthwhile. It had given them the experience of completing a project similar to one that they might ask our pupils to do. The end product, sharing the videos, served to create a good atmosphere in the group and a sense of camaraderie. Most of the students said they would be keen to try this with their own classes during our future careers. Reflections on... Tags COMMENTS (public) ANNOTATIONS (private) Reflections on Digital Literacy

5255 student film Sheffield in the RainThe ways in which students read, write, acquire and evaluate knowledge, and the way they communicate, are changing (Leu et al 2004). As noted by Kress (2010), these changes place new demands on the way meaning is made which require new skills and strategies. The shift from an overly linguistic focus to a multimodal one requires readers to navigate, design, interpret and analyse texts in new and more interactive ways (Serafini 2010). Fortuna (2007) states that multimodal texts are daily components of literacy experiences for young people; access to such texts in the classroom can help provide relevance and authenticity to the learning that takes place. Schools should incorporate social media, in particular, into the curriculum because these are technologies that most students already use and because they have the potential to create new spaces for learning and types of learning (Davies and Merchant 2009). On a related note, trainee teachers must be prepared to help their students develop the required literacies for using existing and future digital and print media, as they engage in meaningful literacy practices in a variety of social contexts (Lankshear and Knobel 2007).  Rosaen and Terpstra (2012) argue that it is important to engage teacher candidates in first-hand design experiences that enable them to discover for themselves what it is like to read and write in multimodal ways. Reflections on... Tags COMMENTS (public) ANNOTATIONS (private) References/Links to Further Information


Davies J and Merchant G (2009) Web 2.0 for Schools: Social Participation and Learning. New York: Peter Lang.

Fortuna C (2007). ‘Look! Johnny and Janey can read: enhancing the literate lives of teens through SMART board interactive whiteboard technology’. (accessed 1 August 2012).

Kress, G. (2010). ‘The profound shift in digital literacies’. In J Gillen and D Bardon (eds). Digital literacy. Available at: www.tlrp.org/docs/DigitalLiteracies.pdf (accessed 30 July 2012).

Lankshear, C., and Knobel, M. (2007). ‘Sampling “the new” in new literacies’. In M Knobel and C Lankshear (eds) A new literacies sampler. New York: Peter Lang, 1–24.

Leu, D.J. Jr, Kinzer, C.K., Coiro, J.L. and Cammack, D.W. (2004). ‘Toward a theory of new literacies emerging from the internet and other ICT’. In R Rudden and N Unrau (eds) Theoretical models and processes of reading (5th edn). (accessed 1/8/12)

Rosaen C and Terpstra M (2012). ‘Widening worlds: understanding and teaching new literacies’. Studying Teacher Education: A Journal of Self-study of Teacher Education Practices, 8(1): 35–49.

Serafini F (2010). ‘Reading multimodal texts: perceptual, structural and ideological perspectives’. Children’s Literature in Education, 41: 85–104.

Links to Further Resources

There are a number of openly available resources on video editing/production: References/Links to... Tags COMMENTS (public) ANNOTATIONS (private)