Tools to Excite Student Videographers

Since waking up this morning, you have probably viewed, shared, or posted dozens of pictures or videos. Our daily lives seem to be bombarded with visual imagery. For example, I regularly view YouTube videos to solve problems, watch documentaries to learn about new topics, and stream movies to relax and be inspired. Videos play a huge role in what I know, do, and aspire to be. The same is true for most of our students. Luckily, the school library can be a source of inspiration and information that teachers and students need to discover the power and possibilities of videography.

According to Merriam-Webster (n.d.), videography is the practice or art of recording images with a video camera. Student-created videos are effective means for documenting events, telling stories, and demonstrating learning.

There are all types of tools and techniques for getting students started with video production. My school library has curated a small collection of video-recording devices for teachers and students to use in the classroom. These “not-so-ordinary” cameras bring content to life while letting students experience videography firsthand.

360-Degree Cameras

When recording a video with a phone or camcorder, you can only capture what is in front of you, which is the cinematographer’s preferred vantage point. You never see camera operators and technicians on screen. Instead, camerapersons are behind the scenes; they direct their devices toward specific people, objects, or landscapes. But there are many times I want to see even more to the story.

Panorama 360 cameras allow users to investigate their entire surroundings. Today’s 360-degree cameras come with high-quality stitching technology that delivers a remarkable, immersive experience. There are many great 360 camera options to choose from; my school library has a RICOH THETA camera. Students have used the device to record spherical videos of the school library, playground, nature trails, and even classroom demonstrations. The 360 videos can be easily shared via RICOH’s free software, Google Photos, and YouTube. My library also subscribes to ThingLink, an online program that enables students to annotate their panoramic images with text and multimedia files.

Motion-Activated Devices

It is customary to use motion-activated devices for security purposes. Institutions are equipped with video surveillance cameras to observe, monitor, and report activities. Motion-activated cameras have also become common household items. Small security cameras are an affordable option for families wishing to keep an eye out for what is happening outside and inside their homes.

I had never thought about using motion-activated monitors in the classroom until a teacher shared her plans for a first-grade science project. Her class was going to learn about life cycles by placing fertilized chicken eggs in classroom incubators until they hatch. Eggs can hatch at any time, day or night, and the teacher did not want students to miss the special event.

The teacher and I secured an EZVIZ Indoor WIFI Security Camera to the classroom’s magnetic whiteboard, with the lens pointing toward the incubator. Then, early one Monday morning, long before the school day began, the first egg hatched. We went through the video footage using the program’s smartphone app and found the moment the egg started to shake and break. Next, I helped the teacher arrange multiple video segments of eggs hatching into a single movie so students and their families could see the process in action.

Trail Cams

Behind my school’s playground is a densely wooded area containing a retention pond and a walking trail. While playing outside, students often see birds, squirrels, and insects. What they don’t see is the diversity of wildlife that comes out when no one is around.

To help students discover the animals that live in their community, my library acquired a Rexing trail camera through a small donation. Throughout the year, the principal and I helped students safely move through the woods and secure the trail cam on trees and posts in different areas. A few days later, students would retrieve the camera and browse the footage. Students collected and curated images and videos in a Google Drive folder. Next, students created “professionally” edited videos of the different animals seen. Videos and other information about animals, habitats, and conservation were uploaded to a Google Site. Eventually, students want to create markers along the trail in the woods with information and QR codes about the animals who live there. The trail camera has helped students inform their school and community about local wildlife and why it is important to protect their habitat.


As a young child, I would look up toward the sky and see passing planes or helicopters. I never pointed out flying drones, but today’s students might. Drones have become familiar devices. They allow videographers to capture beautiful aerial views. Drones are used to document special events such as outdoor sports championships and graduation ceremonies. Drone footage showed my students how closely connected people and animals are to one another.

A teacher worked with students to fly a DJI Mavic drone around the location of the trail camera’s position. Students were amazed to learn that the foxes, deer, and bobcats recorded by the trail camera were mere meters from the playground’s fence. Drone footage helped students understand why animals choose to live or hunt around the school. Students could see a nearby pond, tree lines, and open fields in the same aerial footage as the football stadium, soccer complex, and parking lot. Drone video recordings gave students a whole new perspective on people’s relationship to nature.

By no means is this an exhaustive list of different video recording devices. Technology is rapidly changing, and it might seem impossible to keep up with all the tools that are available. Try not to get hung up on the hardware. After all, student-centered videography does not demand high-tech cameras. Most smartphones and tablets take better videos and pictures than the SLR camera I had back in high school. Yes, videography requires a camera, but technology is not the most important thing. What matters is how students use videography to collaborate and think critically about the world around them.

Works Cited:

Clements, L., R. Malkin, N. Ray, M. Sterling, E. Sparks, and N. Sykora. 2015. Lonely Planet’s Best Ever Video Tips. Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd.

Merriam-Webster. n.d. “Videography.”


Author: Sam Northern, Ed.D.

Sam Northern is a National Board Certified Teacher-Librarian at Simpson Elementary School in Franklin, Kentucky. He currently serves as President of the Kentucky Association of School Librarians. In 2014, Sam was selected for the Fulbright-Hays Summer Seminars Abroad Program where he spent four weeks in China. Since then, Sam has voyaged to Antarctica as a National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow and worked aboard a research vessel on the Atlantic Ocean as a NOAA Teacher at Sea. From January to April 2018, Sam traveled to Finland as part of the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program to research best practices for project-based learning. Connect with him on Twitter @Sam_Northern and Facebook @themisterlibrarian.

Categories: Blog Topics, STEM/STEAM, Technology

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