URI students create iPhone videos as National Digital Learning Day approaches

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National leaders will mark innovative digital learning Feb. 1

KINGSTON, R.I. – January 31, 2012 – While many undergraduate students are constantly texting each other on their cell phones, other University of Rhode Island students are using cell phones to create videos in innovative courses developed by faculty in the Film/Media program at the Harrington School of Communication and Media.

These students are among the more than 1 million who will celebrate Digital Learning Day Feb. 1, a nationwide celebration of teaching and learning through digital media and technology. At a National Town Hall meeting featuring Federal Communications Chairman Julius Genachowski and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, teachers will showcase new projects just like the iPhone video courses that are offered at the Harrington School of Communication and Media.

The idea for the course began when Professor Sheri Wills, director of the Film/Media program, offered a special online course in low-tech cinema last spring, which explored the limits and possibilities of making moving images with readily accessible technologies, such as mobile devices, inexpensive digital still and video cameras and toy cameras.

“Today, with the rise of YouTube and the Internet, so much is changing in how people watch film. We want to prepare students for the future by analyzing and creating films that are made in unexpected ways,” she said.

In the summer of 2011, both students and teachers participated in the low-tech cinema course as co-learners, which ignited faculty curiosity to develop new courses. In the fall semester, URI’s Rebecca Romanow taught a course in which her students analyzed mobile and guerilla films and wrote screenplays for an iPhone film. This spring, students in Professor Keith Brown’s Film/Media course are using iPhones to create short videos.

More than a dozen phones were purchased for use in the course so that students could discover the unique characteristics of this small but powerful tool. “This simple technology enables people to be intrepid filmmakers because the portability and size of an iPhone lets students tell different kinds of stories,” said Brown.

The Harrington School of Communication and Media is a new school at the University of Rhode Island, created with support from URI alumnus Dick Harrington, former chief executive officer of Thomson/Reuters. Led by Professor and Founding Director Renee Hobbs, the school integrates programs in journalism, film/media, communication studies, public relations, writing and rhetoric and library and information studies.