Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Learning through Movie Production with the MovieClassroom

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Learning through Movie Production with the MovieClassroom

Article excerpt


The MovieClassroom website allows student or faculty users to create and share Geoscience themed digital videos. Movie production can promote learning by encouraging meta-cognition and the synthesis of multiple concepts in an engaging, project-based exercise, with the ancillary benefit of producing educational media useful for peer-learning. The website was tested by students in an introductory Earth Science class (Weather and Climate) who created extra-credit movies designed to be shown to future students. Results of student self-assessments indicate that the website is easy to use and that students took exceptional pride in producing a creative product that could be shared with others. Almost all of the students' movies were scientifically accurate. The website interface and database are currently being upgraded to enable viewer ratings and to facilitate the adaptation of published movies. These changes are designed to allow quantitative assessments of student learning through movie production, and explore the reciprocal hypothesis that student produced digital movies may be an effective means of introducing geoscience concepts to social and cultural peers. The MovieClassroom is an open-source project, therefore details regarding the website design, pedagogy, applications and assessments together with forums for discussion and suggestions are all available on the project wiki.


The past few years have seen an explosion of user-generated video sharing websites pioneered by YouTube ( These websites allow the posting of digital videos (usually < 10 minutes long). They have, however, been plagued by copyright violation issues as users upload illegally extracted commercial material. These sites have, on the other hand, demonstrated the talent and creativity of non-professionals in recombining copyrighted material into interesting and entertaining digital videos. Moreover, they have also demonstrated the feasibility of the large-scale, online distribution of video.

Another slightly older internet trend has been the emergence of user-content-created websites exemplified by Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that any user can edit. This experiment in open editing has produced remarkably credible results, comparable to proprietary encyclopedias (Giles, 2005). Open discussion and review has allowed rapid development of depth and accuracy, and has created a mechanism for rapid self-correction. It has also demonstrated the willingness of volunteers to contribute information and intellectual property for a common project.

The MovieClassroom website is a product of the convergence of these two trends applied to the visualization-rich field of the geosciences. With the increasing use of numerical modeling and computer software, the creation of sophisticated visualizations and animations is becoming increasingly easier (Slocum et al., 2001). The MovieClassroom enables free online video editing and publication of geoscience-themed movies utilizing a growing database of contributed images and scientific visualizations.

There are, however, severe impediments to the use and recombination of most scientific visualizations. While many geoscience journals provide forums for the publication of visualizations related to articles, the broader use of these media are typically restricted by the journals' or authors' copyright restrictions. In addition, there is a wide variety of digital video formats, compression-decompression programs (commonly called codecs), and video dimensions that make it difficult to integrate different authors' animations into a coherent presentation.

In the MovieClassroom website, we have created an online video editor that accesses a growing database of images and animations that have been converted to a single, lowest common denominator digital format (MPEG-I). More recently developed compression/ decompression software (codecs) such as MPEG-4 are more efficient at video and audio compression but are more encumbered by patent protections. …

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