Xcelerate 2017: Week 3

This week was a bit different because it’s the first week that I’ve helped teach two different classes in a single day. It’s definitely a lot simpler to teach the same class twice. By the time the second class rolls around, I’ve really figured out the content, and I’m able to help in more ways.

Teaching only one class a day came into play with App Adventures, my afternoon class where I was to help students put together an app game. There were a variety of factors that made me less able to help as much as I would have liked. Less exposure to the material was one of the reasons, and the other reason was that I was unable to be hands on with the program to really know where everything was.

Being hands on with the program was really the only reason that I was able to understand the game programming class I assisted last week. It’s one thing to understand what the kids are supposed to do, but it’s another thing entirely to know where they are supposed to click to get there.

Many of the concepts in this class are extremely similar to the concepts from my previous game maker classes and computer programming classes. It’s just unfortunate that the format of this particular class doesn’t allow me to work with the program myself.

Other than that, this week took me back to my roots! Lights, Camera, Action started up this week, and I’m happy to report that we stuck with the newer class format that we started last year. In this newer format, the kids are able to have a bigger role in creating their own original story. It’s definitely a bit more stressful from a teacher’s standpoint because there is less control to make sure everything is done correctly, but I think the kid’s get a better understanding of making films from it.

My group for this particular class chose a bit of a creepy story. I promise I had absolutely nothing to do with it. They made it on their own. On Monday, they split into groups and put their story together. On Tuesday, we drew up a storyboard and started filming. Wednesday and Thursday were both spent finishing up the necessary camera work. Surprisingly, my group was able to get a look at editing on Friday. It was a very eventful week.

Once the films from this week are available on YouTube, I will most likely be sharing them here. There is one more Lights, Camera, Action camp this summer, and I will be a part of that next month.

Until then, I have several other camp experiences to have! I will continue to write about these experiences as I have them.

Xcelerate 2017: Week 2

Oh boy. This week was a doozy!

During this second week of the summer camps, I was working in classes where kids were learning how to design and program their own video games. My experience in this particular area was a bit limited, but I was happy to see that it very closely resembled basic concepts of coding with html and what little knowledge I have of computer programming.

After a rough start, I was able to get on board with the kids in the class. I did this by making my own little game at the same time as them. It helped me understand why specific actions were being taken and how to go about getting those actions to work properly. I never would have been able to keep up if I weren’t working with the program myself.

It was definitely a challenging week. I found myself oddly stressed about things I had no control over. This has never occurred with me during these summer camps before.

In the end though, I just hope the kids had fun and they’re proud of the games they created. I know I’m pretty proud of the one I did at least. I called it S’mores Galore. You go around as a poorly drawn marshmallow, collecting chocolate and avoiding campfires. It’s a hoot.

Xcelerate 2017: Week 1

As a general update, I have started my role as an assistant youth instructor for the summer camps at my local community college. This is my fifth year working with the camps. This year is also my biggest work load.

I started off the camps, only working with Lights! Camera! Action! because that was my area of expertise. Last year, I was given the opportunity to explore other camps, and this year I have been given that opportunity again.

During my first week, I helped out with Camp Ukulele. It’s really inspiring to see all of these children who have a desire to learn music, and even more so, the children who already know how to play some instruments. I wish I knew how to play an instrument! I picked up on some of the teachings about the ukulele, so maybe I’ll give that a try myself. 

I will be working pretty consistently through the months of June and July. Work on my next short film may be delayed more than I was anticipating, but I will try to keep things moving. Weekly Review Wednesdays will continue as scheduled. I will try to keep updates at least semi-regular!

Lights, Camera, Action Films 2016

I mentioned in a previous post that I was eventually going to put together a compilation of the films that we did through Lights, Camera, Action in 2016.

During the first week, we maintained the original format of the class. We filmed The Secret of the Pirate’s Treasure. We didn’t have a showing on the final day, so we edited the film in the next week before uploading to YouTube.

The kids didn’t get to write this one, but they got to see the production process while we made it during the week.

In the next week of class, we changed the format. The kids came up with their own story, and we helped them film it. We split into two groups. I worked with one. We named our film Truth or Dare. I edited it during the next week.

I’m really excited to share this one because I think the kids learned a lot and had a good time.

Despite the fact that I wasn’t involved in this next film, it was from the recent week of Lights, Camera, Action, so it deserves to be talked about as well! The kids came up with this story too, and they were helped in making it through the class.

Xcelerate 2016: Week 4

This post took a bit longer to write than all of the other weeks of Xcelerate 2016, and this was because, for me, it extended a little bit further. I just finished a second week of Lights, Camera, Action! While the class ended this past Friday, it continued somewhat through the weekend, and into the following week.

The reason for this extension was editing. Due to the new format for the class, which I’ll explain next, I just felt that it would be easier for me to edit the film for the kids in my group.

I mentioned briefly in a previous post about how we’d been planning on changing up the format of the class. In previous years, we’d stuck with a pre-made story called “The Secret of the Pirate’s Treasure.” On the first day of class, we’d familiarize the kids with the story, and then we’d start filming on Tuesday. The rest of the week would be filming that particular story, and the final film would need to be finished by that Friday.

We had two weeks of Lights, Camera, Action during Xcelerate 2016, and both of them were slightly different. In the first week, we still filmed the pirate story, but we were able to eliminate the viewing on Friday, which gave us more time to film the story. It wasn’t as rushed. During the second week, this week, we changed the format entirely.

In this past week, rather than work with a pre-made story, the kids were able to write their own. We just gave them a genre! On Monday, we discussed some aspects of filmmaking, showed them the cameras, and did an exercise where they put a short story together. On Tuesday, they formulated the story for the movie they would make throughout the rest of the week, including storyboarding which I loved to do with the kids. Then Wednesday through Friday, we filmed their story!

There were 8 students in the class this week, so we split into two groups. I took one, and another instructor took the other. I don’t know much about how the other group’s week went, but I know that the students in my group got to get a lot of hands on experience. As the week progressed, students were able to run the camera, operate the boom mic, help with direction. It was great! I really felt like I was able to teach them something.

Unfortunately, we ran into some technical difficulties on the first day of filming, and we ran into situational difficulties on the second day, so it took us a bit longer to finish than I would have anticipated. If we had finished earlier, the kids would have gotten a more hands on approach to editing as well. When we finished on Friday, I was only able to briefly show them the editing program and talk a little about avoiding jump cuts and choosing the best shot to tell the story.

Since I didn’t know anything about what the other group did, it’s safe to assume the other group didn’t know much about what my group did either. This is why I asked if I could take the edit home and do it myself. I figured it would be easier for the other instructors involved because they were teaching the class on top of their regular day jobs at the college. We had over 10gb of footage to sift through, and even with the guide I made, it would have been a chore to navigate.

I may have gone a bit above and beyond on my edit, but I was just really excited. The kids put so much effort into the film, and I wanted to give them something to be proud of. As I write this, I’m still making the finishing touches, and I’ll be taking it back to the college this week.

There are definitely still changes that need to be made to this format of the class, but I think this is a good idea that we should continue to run with. I’ll probably make a round up post of the films from all the weeks soon since this is the first year they’re all going to be on YouTube!

Xcelerate 2016: Week 3

This week was very interesting.

When the week began, I was helping teach Minecraft Animators. Going into it, I was very worried that this week would be another one where I didn’t understand the material. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Minecraft Animators was actually really close to what I normally do! The class had almost nothing to do with Minecraft, and instead, it was about making a short animated film with Minecraft characters.

The biggest aspect about this camp was understanding keyframes, and this is something that I am familiar with from my normal film experience. The biggest thing for me was understanding the interface that the kids were using. Other than that, I was perfectly capable of answering questions! We even had a day dedicated to planning and storyboarding which is right up my alley!

I was really excited about this camp and learning something about animation, but unfortunately, the class was cancelled really early on. We weren’t able to work with the animations all the way to completion.

For the rest of the week, I bounced around wherever I was needed. On Wednesday, I was an additional hand in the LEGO Video Game Maker class. That one was just as difficult for me as computer programming because I was not grasping the interface. For the remainder of the week, I was a part of the Science Xplosion camp. This one was pretty fun. On my first day, we did some vinegar and baking soda reactions and some tie dye. The second day we made fossils. It was a good time.

On top of all of that, I was working with the instructor for Lights, Camera, Action to develop a bit of a different schedule for our class next week. I’m hoping that our new plan works out well and that the kids can learn just as much, if not more, from this new curriculum. More details on that to come! I can’t wait to get back to what I do best.

Xcelerate 2016: Week 2

As I write this post, my second week with the Xcelerate summer camps at Waubonsee Community College for 2016, has come to an end. I must say, it was an exhausting week.

I’ve said this a few¬†times, but I’ve been working these camps for several years now, and this week was the first time I really experienced something different. In all the previous years, I had helped with the Lights, Camera, Action! camp, and that was all. There were times when I was asked if I was interested in helping out with other classes, but for a variety of reasons, I always had to decline. For one, I didn’t think I could really help in other classes where I didn’t know much about the topic being taught. Also, I was working another part time job, so my availability was limited.

This year, after being assured that my lack of knowledge wouldn’t be too much of a problem, I agreed to help out with some other classes. This particular week, I jumped into a computer programming class for ages 11-14.

I must say, while I have been assured that my lack of knowledge isn’t a problem, I definitely felt hindered by it. I was told that I would pick up on the topic as I went through the week, and it was a class for kids so it wouldn’t be too difficult to follow. That is true. I did start to pick up on the topic that was being taught in the class, but I didn’t feel that was good enough.

Since I didn’t know the topic beforehand, it was hard to answer questions when they came up. I had to be up front with the kids at the beginning of the week that I was learning what they were learning at the exact same time. If anything, I sort of just talked them through what they were doing until they figured out the answer to their question themselves. That’s ultimately not a bad thing, but I wish I could have done more.

Throughout the week, I did pick up on some coding in Python, a program I had never heard of before this point. Since I know a bit of HTML, it wasn’t too hard to read the programming language, but the concepts were a little difficult to grasp, especially when it got really heavy into the logical aspects.

Next week, I’m doing another class that I have no knowledge about. It has something to do with Minecraft, which I’ve only vaguely heard of. I’m not exactly sure what the class will be teaching, but at least if there’s code involved, I’ll know something about that!