Project-Based Learning in Multimedia Production

Project-Based Learning in Middle Years Technology Classes

My classroom features many “projects” that focused on producing media in various forms.  Naturally, I was interested in investigating project-based learning (PBL) for a paper in an independent study course.  I discovered that PBL is a pedagogical approach that focuses on learning through experiential learning activities that moves beyond traditional rote memorization.  It “has as its foundation the premise that the challenge of real-world problems can stimulate student critical thinking and sustain the high levels of engagement required to acquire and apply new knowledge” (Serim, 2012, p.26).  There is evidence that suggests that PBL is an effective method for teaching students complex processes and procedures relating to planning, communication, and problem solving, while increasing student engagement and academic achievement (Thomas, 2000, p.34-35).   Krajcik and Blumenfeld (2006, p.318) break down PBL into a series of steps which include:

Image used under Pixabay license
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
  • Students begin with a driving question.
  • Students explore the question by participating in situated inquiry and in a process of problem solving related to the discipline.
  • Students participate with teachers and community members to engage in collaborative activities to find solutions to the driving question.
  • Throughout the process students are scaffolded with learning technologies.
  • Students create a set of tangible products that address the driving question.

As I was looking at potentially using elements of these models, there was a problem.  Many of the models that I examined came from an approach focusing on teaching science or engineering through an inquiry approach, and not multimedia or audio/video production.  It became apparent that I would need to adapt and modify what I found to fit into my own classroom practice. More recently I came across the work of Min Liu who describes research on project-based approaches in multimedia production. Liu (2003) describes a cognitive apprenticeship model where the learners function as multimedia designers in a team environment that focuses on situated learning and cognitive skills through four stages of planning, design, production, and revision which showed encouraging results. This type of process promotes active and creative use of knowledge, while the teacher will act as a facilitator scaffolding student learning through modeling, inquiry, and instruction (Liu & Hsiao, 2001).  

Below is a revised version of my original PBL model for multimedia production that is influenced by the sources as cited above.

Prior teaching: students will receive basic instruction on using the computers with an emphasis on multimedia production programs such as iMovie.  They will also receive instruction on the basics of using equipment such as DSLR cameras, microphones, and digital audio recording interfaces.  

Project Outline

  • Students begin with setting a driving question or  topic of interest.
  • Students explore this question and other related questions with an inquiry process that includes research, interviews, and possibly experiments.  This is guided by the teacher and is based on the developmental level and abilities of the students.
  • Students collaborate with other students, teachers, and experts, to critique and revise their information.  This is largely based on the individual context of the school or environment.
  • Students organize their information using a word document or a graphic organizer.  Which includes a section to write a conclusion to summarize their findings. There is an example for this below that could easily be modified.
  • At this time, the recommendation is to create a co-constructed assessment rubric for the project.
  • Students decide on an appropriate medium to create a product or presentation for their information.  The medium should be a multimedia production product such as a podcast or video, but this could easily be changed depending on the nature of the class.
  • Students should write a script, I recommend the two column format for this activity if it is a film, there is an example below.  A podcast script could be written in a similar manner to a play. The length should be determined by the teacher as to what is realistically appropriate.
  • Students work with appropriate technologies and with the teacher who is a multimedia specialist to create their product/presentation with technology.  Students can take on specific roles such as director, video personality, audio producer, etc.
  • Students present their product/presentation in a public forum.  This would ideally be in a public screening or through posting on the internet.
  • Throughout the project on an ongoing basis projects in process and when completed will be assessed using formative co-constructed assessment rubrics.  Either at the start or the mid way point there should be a class discussion where the rubric for assessment will be created.

Krajcik, J. S., & Blumenfeld, P. (2006). Project-based learning. In R. K. Sawyer (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (pp. 317–334). New York: Cambridge

Liu, M. (2003). Enhancing learners’ cognitive skills through multimedia design. Interactive Learning Environments, 11(1), 23-39.

Liu, M., & Hsiao, Y. P. (2002). Middle school students as multimedia designers: A project-based learning approach. Journal of interactive learning research, 13(4), 311-337.

Serim, Ferdi. (2012). Digital Learning: Strengthening and Assessing 21st Century Skills, Grades 5-8 (Vol. 6). Jossey-Bass, An Imprint of Wiley. 10475 Crosspoint Boulevard, Indianapolis, IN 46256. Tel: 877-762-2974; Fax: 800-597-3299; e-mail:; Web site:

Thomas, J. W. (2000). A review of research on project-based learning.   San Rafael, CA: Autodesk Foundation. Retrieved from

Narrative Documentary Organizer



  • Choose a topic of interest for you and your group.  This should be something that you want to talk about, research, or teach about.
  • For your topic, come up with and research 10 facts/issues/talking points.
  • Write a two-column script.  Each shot should represent one of your facts/points.  Write 1-2 sentences of narration for each point. Use a variety of shot types and video of different people and things to help support your film


Facts/Issues/Talking Points


Write a one paragraph summary that would serve as a conclusion to your research findings.  Attach it to this sheet.

Shot Type/Video ContentAudio/Narration

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