Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Windows MovieMaker – RIP

I heard today that Windows MovieMaker is no more! Double checking when I got home I discovered that as of January 10, 2017, MovieMaker was discontinued with no replacement.
What a bittersweet moment! This workhorse of a multimedia program was a staple in my classes for many years, before we had iPads and the wizardry of iMovie and many other apps. No, in those days, we had MovieMaker and it was fantastic!
Looking back to nearly 15 years ago, teachers at our school only used the computer lab during their assigned periods for word processing and sometimes research – to be written up via more word processing. Myself included!
Then, my friend Len told me about this app that was built into Windows and therefore available for free on all our machines. He taught his class, then me, and then one of his students came along on Day 1 to help me out.
I never looked back.
MovieMaker might have been a bit clunky but by gosh you could search for and save photos off the Internet, make a slideshow, and add a soundtrack (I am sure I could still hum Blues Highway if I put my mind to it!) – all on a computer in the lab. This simple process alone called upon skills that were new to students. For example, it provided an authentic reason to discuss and insist on using network drives instead of the local C: drives. In later years, it prompted lessons on Creative Commons photos and music.
For a long time, I started every year with MovieMaker projects. It was definitely a case of introducing something quite new to the students. In Year 1 of MovieMaker we started simple with some personal projects. To this day I still have Who Let The Dogs Out in my iTunes, after buying it for a student to use:)
But several years later my Grade 8 history students used MovieMaker to make incredibly evocative photo essays comparing the lives of children in other countries to their own in Canada. We always built a sharing component into their work, and the discussions and metacognition value were enormous.
The height of our use of MovieMaker occurred in the years of Speaker’s Corner. We had a large free-standing brick-wall backdrop from the theatre, and a tripod and small video camera – containing mini-cassette tapes. All this apparatus lived in my core classroom for a month. My friend Len came through again and showed me how to work the camera. Then, for a month all my media classes in the computer lab ran as follows: pick a topic, start researching and creating a basic slideshow into which the video would be dropped. Meanwhile, across the hall to my classroom they would go in small groups to film themselves. I tried to make the task as realistic as possible, with short speeches and all production work done by the students themselves. I kept away from the room, and left them to show some responsibility. I was never disappointed.
My work came later. Every Saturday for three weeks I would go to school and transfer the speech files off the cassette tapes, to name them and store them on the shared network drive where the students could pick them up and place them as the centrepiece of their opinion slide shows.
With three or four classes, this was usually 100+ projects. What a production!
We also held a film festival in the theatre during the last week of school to screen a wide range of projects and vote on an equally wide range of “awards.” I still remember one popular Speaker’s Corner. Many years ago, this student chose to speak about gay rights, and the theme of tolerance. I still remember one of her slides: “Don’t like gay marriage? Don’t get one!”.
I have to say, the values I learned through the process of learning MovieMaker and regularly integrating multi-media forms of response into my classes has stayed with me to this day. Yes I will miss it, but I am equally happy to be learning new apps and spreading the word about the wonderful variety of assessment forms now available to us.


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