How a GoPro Got My Students Excited to Learn

One teacher recounts the transformation in learning, collaboration, and creativity he’s seen after adding a GoProgopro-racecar

Rewind to May 2007. . .

I had not planned to purchase a GoPro while out shopping. However, it was on sale, I had a coupon, two gift cards, and two weeks in the Florida Keys was just a moon phase away. Needless to say the summer spent fishing, snorkeling, and kayaking in the Keys yielded very few incredible pictures. I had purchased the Digital Hero 3, the first GoPro with sound. After that experience my GoPro stayed packed up with all my kayak gear and did not see the light of day too often.

Fast forward to August 2013 . . .    

It was the start of a new school year and I found myself teaching six classes of eighth grade technology and one class of TV Production. I was intimidated to be teaching TV Production and having to produce a daily news show for the school. I was not a stranger to project-based video projects, but a daily TV show was a different monster.

The first thing I did was dust off my old GoPro, purchase a remote control car, and a bag of adhesive mounts. The TV production students started using the remote control car and my old GoPro to drive around school and film different events. I am not sure what was more exciting for the students, to see themselves on the morning announcements or to have them jump in front of a remote control car running down the hallway during class change.

This setup worked for a while, but as with any type of older technology, there were limits. I had to find a way to get a new GoPro that had Wi-Fi capabilities, so the entire production would be simplified. Significant time was spent looking for ways to upgrade our equipment and I had my eyes set on a GoPro Hero 3 Black+ camera. After meeting a sales rep for GoPro at FETC 2014 and entering an education contest, I won a GoPro Hero 3 Black+ with accessories for my classroom. In a matter of days the GoPro started to reshape my technology classroom in many positive ways.

(Next page: Photo and video projects inspire students)

I started with the basics; pictures. What middle school student doesn’t like to see their picture posted on the morning news show or on the school’s website?  Simply taking pictures of students in class working on group projects and posting them on our class Edmodo pages started to create interest and excitement. Students would use the camera during class to take pictures for projects and presentations, not only for my technology class, but also for their academic classes.

It was extremely simple to train my students how to use the GoPro and my expectations for using the camera during class. They became extremely protective it, since we only had one, and they went to great lengths to make sure anyone that used it followed our classroom rules. Students that passed a certification exam had their picture taken with the GoPro and posted on the bulletin boards in class. The GoPro lived in my classroom and spent most of its time mounted to either a tripod or a jaws: flex clamp. Since the GoPro was in such demand, I connected it with an iPod touch so the students could control the camera more efficiently and effectively using the mobile app. This sped up the use of the camera so multiple students/groups could use the camera during each period.

Of course, students quickly mastered the photo mode, and were eager to move on to shooting their own video. The diverse video modes allowed students to select from a variety of frame rates and angles specific to their project or presentation. After students recorded their projects, they transferred their footage to a flash drive, so they could edit the video on either their home computer or on one of the classroom computers, using GoPro Studio software. Such versatility from a single camera makes the price point of the GoPro the perfect choice for the classroom. Students preferred to use the chest and head mounts to create a true point-of-view experience for the viewer in many of their projects. They used such mounts for videos they created for their Health, Science, and P.E. classes.

As time passed, we found that more and more of the content of our news show was comprised of student-made videos using the GoPro. These students created videos created quite a bit of excitement for our news show and got even more students interested. Students started bringing in video projects and movies they had created at home with their own GoPros for academic classes.

This was a win-win situation for both students and teachers. Students were having their work featured on the morning news show and seen by 1,260 peers, this improved self-esteem along with the quality of student work. Teachers were having incredible projects turned in for their classes, as well as student created content they could use for both review and for flipping their classrooms.

Charles Moseley is a technology and TV production teacher at Switzerland Point Middle School in Fruit Cove, FL.

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