Designing for Deconstruction: Making the MediaBreaker Remix Video Editor

Still from MediaBreaker/Studios instructional video

When we at The LAMP began designing the 2.0 version of the MediaBreaker video editor and the MediaBreaker/Studios learning platform, we set out to meet the needs of teens, educators and after-school program leaders nationwide. We particularly wanted to reach low-income communities where people might not have access to tools or training necessary for editing video and teaching media literacy skills. Moreover, we wanted to create a tool that would be compatible with school environments — which meant our video remix tool couldn’t rely on YouTube, which is blocked in many public schools, and also that it had to collect as little student data as possible. In addition, we wanted the tool to be compatible across Macs and PCs and multiple browsers, and we wanted it to be cloud-based so no downloads would be required. Building it in HTML5 was crucial for sustainability. And, of course, we wanted teachers and after-school program leaders to have the freedom to design their own learning experiences integrating video remix with their existing lesson plans and activities.

We stuck with the color palette used for our website because we wanted MediaBreaker/Studios and thelamp.org to feel related, but not twins. Using a design firm for MediaBreaker/Studios that was different from our site design firm helped achieve this. Another goal was to keep the tool and the platform as streamlined as possible, just to keep things clean for users new to video editing, which meant setting boundaries in terms of functionality. We’ve found that MediaBreaker can actually be frustrating for people who have experience working with iMovie or Final Cut or Adobe Premiere, because their options for manipulation in MediaBreaker are so much simpler. With MediaBreaker, users can insert transitions, captions, titles, music and sound effects — but that’s about it. There’s no Ken Burns effect option, choices for transitions are minimal and there’s no precision editor. MediaBreaker lets you do everything you need to transform a piece of copyrighted media as required by fair use, but it’s not going to create a super-slick video ready for prime time. You can still make something artful within MediaBreaker’s constraints, but the tool wasn’t designed to produce Sundance submissions. It was designed for critique and education.

But we did hit a few surprises. In speaking with partners who had worked on developing educational applications and what they learned from the process, we were advised that educators would not want to moderate student comments. As a result we designed what we called a ‘kudos’ system, where students can choose from a selection of canned responses indicating that they thought a remix was funny, creative, insightful, etc. We presented this to teachers in one of our training sessions and they balked at the system, saying it was too similar to liking something on Facebook, which requires little thought or interaction beyond a simple click. They said they would rather moderate conversations than encourage the thumbs up/thumbs down culture which they saw as detrimental to teaching critical thinking skills. The response to badging was similar; it was agreed that a rubric for assessing student remixes might be useful, but automated badging would be too hands-off.

As we near the end of this development phase — we’re debugging as I type this — there are certainly more things we’d like to do. We’d like to revisit the kudos feature, and we’ve gotten some great feedback about making MediaBreaker/Studios compatible with learning management systems like Canvas. We’ve also thought about ways we can help teachers using MediaBreaker connect with each other and share recommendations and lessons learned. The badging system should continue to evolve, just as badging evolves as a practice. But for now, we think we’ve created something pretty incredible that can make a significant impact in helping educators integrate media literacy, critical thinking and 21st-century learning with what they’re already trying to achieve in and outside of their classrooms. We’re excited to share MediaBreaker 2.0 and MediaBreaker/Studios, and make them the revolutionary teaching tools we know they can be.


Originally published at www.hastac.org on February 19, 2016.

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