The Media Center
The Evolution of a Curriculum: 
Yes, You Can Manage iMovie Projects with 170 Kids!
by Mary Alice  AndersonLead Media Specialist, Winona Middle School, Winona, Minnesota
MultiMedia Schools • September 2002 
We required the proper steps of planning, storyboarding, script writing, and, finally viewing the iMovie tutorial. Sounds logical, but too often those essential ingredients are ignored by both teachers and students.
A decade after a former industrial arts teachers and I revamped the shop curriculum to emphasize computer graphics and video production, another teacher and I are working together to update the curriculum with an infusion of digital technology and new challenges for tech-savvy but information-illiterate students. This decade the emphasis on still and video digital photography continues, with a dose of information literacy mixed in. Instead of stringing video and audio cables together, we are connecting firewire cables to computers and exporting digital video. Instead of trying to impress kids with the newest gadgets, our emphasis is on using technology as a tool and working in a thoughtful manner.

Kim Penrod, a former German teacher with an interest and expertise in technology, was recruited to teach the class. I was excited about working with Kim; we were Library of Congress American Memory fellows in 1999; I knew we'd make a good team as she implemented the revamped curriculum.

Planning Curricular Updates
We bounced ideas around for several months before beginning the new endeavor. We attended an Apple Computer-sponsored digital media seminar, subscribed to Atomic Learning—an online training site with tutorials—and equipped Kim with the hardware and software she needed to prepare. During the planning process, we updated the old units we wanted to keep, threw out those that needed to go, and added some new components.

The 12-week course has three major units: digital photo editing, video production using Apple's iMovie, and completing a multimedia portfolio. Clay Animation, Inspiration, and PowerPoint are used for two smaller projects. We reserved equipment and spaces months ahead to ensure availability. Careful scheduling was critical, as 170 students are enrolled in each of two trimesters. Our school operates on a modified block schedule; students meet every other day for 80 minutes and have ample time for intensive hands-on experience. We purchased more hardware, software, and assorted computer and audiovisual supplies, including memory for our 128K iMacs. We set up workstations in our media center's labs, instructional classroom, and video production area.

Ready, Set, Go with Hands-On Projects

Digital Photo Editing

The digital photography project combines a mix of fun, information literacy, and a correlation with the geography curriculum. Students take pictures of each other with a still digital camera, import the picture into Adobe Photo Deluxe, cut away the background, and finally superimpose their own picture on a picture of a scene from Asia. Their edited picture becomes the front of a postcard they create with ClarisWorks or Appleworks. They create a postcard stamp with ClarisWorks, draw and write a note home to Mom and Dad about the sites they saw on their trip to Asia. Students find the information to write to Mom and Dad, as well as pictures found in World Book Online Encyclopedia. They are required to use note-taking forms, turn in their notes, and cite the source for both the notes and the pictures. Student creativity comes through in the projects; my favorites were a student who placed herself walking with Afghan refuges and another who rode Japan's bullet train James Bond style.

The Capstone Portfolio

Starting in sixth grade, all middle-school students are required to save specific projects in their personal server space for eventual incorporation into a multimedia portfolio showcasing their work. Compiled with HyperStudio, the portfolio includes samples of word processing, spreadsheets and graphs, a database, a sixth grade HyperStudio project, their digital postcard, samples of other technology projects of their choice, and a reflection on their work with technology. Most are appreciative of the opportunities they have to use technology and recognize its value as a life skill.

The portfolio project, their final project in the class, is technically easy for most students, whose skills are considerably more advanced than we anticipated when we developed the project 4 years ago. The challenge is to produce a consistent, mature-looking portfolio and write a thoughtful reflection about experiences with technology. Those who complete the requirements have opportunities to work with more advanced special effects.


The most exciting component of the class is learning to use iMovie. First-trimester students filmed and edited scenes of life at Winona Middle School; the final edit is the orientation video for this fall's new students. Second-trimester students worked on topics supplied by Apple's iMovie Film Festival: Teach Me Something, Make Me Laugh, Tell Me a Story, plus the Yearbook Trailer, which was modified to become an eighth grade farewell, and broadcast building-wide the last day of school.

Kim required the proper steps of planning, storyboarding, script writing, and, finally, viewing the iMovie tutorial. Sounds logical, but too often those essential ingredients are ignored by both teachers and students. Atomic Learning's Video Storytelling Guide was a helpful resource. Chris, the "video guy" with a local television company, was a guest speaker and provided guidance. It was nice for the kids to hear from a professional. Kim found planning to be the easiest part of the class, saying, "They do all the work; I just supervise and guide." Students read from children's books and do mock interviews as part of their screen test. After they watch themselves they decide if they'd like to be talent, a director, or camera operator.

The Most Fun? The Most Difficult?
We enjoyed watching the students edit and have fun with iMovie. Some of them are really creative—they like the sense of ownership this project provides them and came up with their own ideas and got to film them. I was impressed with their mature and professional behavior throughout most of their project time. Unmotivated students who cause trouble were the greatest difficulty, but were removed from class if necessary. If what they planned and filmed was
really trash they were not allowed to refilm. Kim noted, "That is hard, since I want to see everyone succeed; yet the groups must realize that they need something concrete and simple." Another problem was keeping students busy when they were done with their movies. Students played board games to keep busy. One group filmed a weather show, which was integrated with their science curriculum and became quite creative. They reversed weather map images using ClarisWorks Draw and then projected them behind a sheet to simulate a television weather map.

Collaboration in Action
Kim and I planned curriculum and shared ideas throughout both trimesters. I planned to spend more time with kids and more time learning with them, especially as they worked with iMovie. However, the realities of managing a busy media program made that almost impossible. Instead I assumed the "media specialist as facilitator and manager" role. I assisted in scheduling; purchasing supplies and equipment; reorganizing spaces; finding resources; sharing Web sites; creating handouts, direction sheets, and rubrics; and providing behind-the scenes-support.

The revised curriculum was undoubtedly an exciting challenge for all of us. The students benefited from exposure to more digital possibilities and insight into future careers. This year we hope to do more broadcasting throughout the school; the local television company would like more student-produced and school-produced video to show on the air. We'd like to add more work with digital photos and have students use Apple's iPhoto. The Capstone portfolio requirements need to be more challenging and stringent. We also need to increase the correlation with career education to meet the tech education requirements of the course and to strengthen copyright awareness.

It's rewarding to see a curricular desire become reality and to know our media/technology program has an ongoing role in curricular changes.

Tips for iMovie Success!
  • Considerable organization and practicality is needed to manage class sizes averaging 30 or a total of 170-180 students each trimester.
  • Keep the movies simple. Limit groups to five or six students. We had five digital video cameras, making it necessary to have large groups or rotate students through various aspects of the project.
  • Assign each group a tape. They are responsible for filling in the log sheet to keep track of what they have filmed and edited.
  • Use a calendar with filming times for all to see on the board.
  • Keep the computers offline to avoid the temptation of students to surf the Net when they should be editing.
  • Plan for lots of storage space, and separate storage space for video to keep files from being fragmented. We had planned to use Apple's iDrive, but the 20-MB allotment was not enough.
  • Store movies on the computer until editing is complete; export finished vides to cameras or a CD-ROM to conserve server space.
  • Establish behavior guidelines; all school rules apply. The movie must not make fun of a person or group of people, and it must be in good taste and "G-rated."
  • The teacher must give up control; it's hard, but needed for student success and experimentation.
  • Trust them all to be on their best behavior and to respect the equipment.
  • Have a Plan B; technology does fail.



  • Adobe Photo Deluxe Version 2.0 (Adobe)
  • ClarisWorks/Appleworks (Apple Computer, 1991-2001)
  • Clay animation (Tech4Learning)
  • GraphicConverter (Lemke Software, 1992- 2001)
  • HyperStudio (Roger Wagner Publishing, 1993-1999)
  • iMovie (Apple Computer, 2001)
  • Inspiration, Version 6.0 (Inspiration Software, 1998-1999)
  • iTunes (Apple Computer, 2001)
  • Microsoft PowerPoint (Microsoft Office 98)
  • Smart Sound (Sonic Desktop Software, 1996-1999)
  • Apple iBooks and iMacs
  • Video projectors and scan converters
  • Televisions
  • Canon ZR 25 digital video camera (or any with ilink IEEE1394 interface)
  • Sony CCR-VX 1000 professional digital video camera
  • Sony Mavica FD 87, 92 100 still digital cameras
  • VHS cameras
  • Lapel microphones
  • Splitters for microphones
Web Resources

Anderson, Mary Alice, "School-Wide, Multi-Disciplinary Portfolios," MultiMedia Schools, Vol. 7, No. 3 May/June 2000,
available on the Web at

Atomic Learning

The Capstone Portfolio Project

Copyright Society of the USA, maintained by Duke University

Copyright awareness and lessons

Rubistar (create rubrics for project-based learning)

Freeplay Music


World Book Online Encyclopedia from World Book Publishing 2001-2002

Odds and Ends and Props

  • Extra long coax, and composite video cameras
  • Firewire cable
  • Carts
  • Power strips (You can never have enough electricity!)
  • Children's books for screen tests
  • Stuffed animals
  • Sheet for videotaping
  • Clipboards
  • Storage bins

Mary Alice Anderson is a frequent contributor to professional journals, a conference presenter, and an adjunct instructor in the College of Education at Winona State University. The Winona Middle School Media/Technology Program has received both state and national recognition and awards. She is also the lead media specialist for the Winona Area Public Schools and was a Library of Congress American Memory Fellow in 1999. The Winona Middle School Web site can be accessed at Communications to the author may be addressed to Mary Alice Anderson, Media Specialist, Winona Middle School, 1570 Homer Road, Winona, MN 55987; e-mail:

[Information Today Inc.]
Information Today Home Page
[MultiMedia Schools]
Home Page
[Current Issue]
Current Issue
[Current Issue]

Copyright © 2002, Information Today Inc. All rights reserved.