Getting students to create photo slideshow videos

The experience of a participant of the EVO Video 07 course

by Geoff Taylor, St Clare's, Oxford, England

This is an account of how, in connection with the EVO Video 2007 course, my students made photo slideshow videos, with accompanying spoken soundtracks. (See bottom of page for links to the students' videos)



  1. For my students: to manage to produce, edit and display their own videos
  2. For me, personally: to learn how to use Microsoft's Windows Movie Maker (already having experience with Apple's iMovie video editing programme)


  • I had a small class of (young) adult students at more or less pre-intermediate level, studying general EFL at a fee-paying college in the UK, meeting for 2 hours together each morning for the duration of the EVO Video 2007 course.
  • The students were not computer or Internet novices, but had little/no experience editing video or audio, or even digital images. They had little/no experience with any video editing programme.


Introducing the project

I told my students that I was involved in an online teachers' workshop about video, and that as well as doing my own video projects, another assignment was to get my students to actively involved. In principle, the students seemed to be OK with this, and were interested to be part of a global effort.


However, when I introduced the initial idea of the project - to make and display videos of ourselves - there was an immediate negative response from most of the class. The idea of appearing "live" in a video seemed to scare them.
The project languished for a while.

The use of avatars

During this period, I believe, looking for ways to overcome students' videophobia, I began to focus increasingly on the idea of using in video projects what I will now loosely term personal "avatars". By "avatars", I mean visual representations of ourselves that - by masking our own real selves - allow us to interact with others while remaining hidden. In various online worlds, such as Second Life, people can create or assume a visual character, such as a warrior or animal, of a different physical build, age, or even gender, that they use to interact with others.
For the purpose of personal slideshow videos, "avatars" to represent self-effacing students could include the contents of their pockets or bag, the contents of their room, images from their journey to school, images relating to their free-time activities. [Or is this all just a long-winded way of saying "show and tell"?]

True video vs. slideshows of still images

During this period, too, it increasingly dawned on me that most of my own past video projects, personal and other, were often little more than photo slideshows with music and/or spoken accompaniment. That became a big part of my thinking about video. I saw that, in many cases, all you need is a photo slideshow with speech and possibly musical accompaniment.
Anyway, when the scope of the video project changed from scary full-blown "live" video to photo slideshows with spoken accompaniment, and the students were able to see samples made by myself and others, their attitude changed, and they agreed to produce their own videos.

Individual / group work

My students, linguistically at a very low level, and skillswise all new to digital video editing, chose to work in small groups of two or three people. This worked well in one way, as the group members were able to support each other. On the negative side, I would say that groupwork may have prevented any very ideosyncratic personal statements from being constructed.
We set aside one hour per week of class time for the students to work together in their groups on the videos. I didn't record exactly how long it took, but including false starts, completing the video slideshows took several hours.

Technical training / support

To see what could be achieved, we looked at examples, including one or two video slideshow I had made (or was in the process of making) on the EVOVideo07 course, and at other people's video slideshows available in various places online (sourced from links on the EVOVideo07 Wiki). As the students were mainly working in the classroom, with me present, I was able to help them with technical or other problems directly, as needed.

Sample photo slideshow videos with audio accompaniment

Geoff's examples

My EVO Video 2007 week 2 video project, a photo slideshow video, edited in Apple iMovie, entitled Oxford, a visitors' guide:
My EVO Video 2007 week 4 video project, a photo slideshow video, edited in Windows Movie Maker 2, entitled Geoff's (Life at) Home:

Other people's examples

  • Some fine examples of photo slideshow videos can be found at the Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction (I particularly like "Stowaway"created by Anna Thorlaksdottir (Scottsdale Community College) a participant in the May 2005 Learnshop): **Bringing Digital Storytelling to the Classroom LearnShops**
  • "Stowaway" created by Anna Thorlaksdottir (Scottsdale Community College)
    "Stowaway" created by Anna Thorlaksdottir (Scottsdale Community College)


Getting images

For acquiring suitable photos, there were basically two options:
  1. Their own photos: most students in the class had digital cameras or camera phones that they could use to make new photos; some students were able to access personal photos in online Web galleries or old emails
  2. Other people's images: one group used the image of a map of Oxford, from someone else's Web site, and images of the town where they were studying, Oxford, that the teacher (me) had taken and made available on a CD-ROM

Editing the images into a slideshow sequence

Several of the students had their own Windows laptops, enough to permit them to work together in small groups in the classroom.
The laptops all had Microsoft's Windows Movie Maker. This program allowed:
  • the sequencing of a series of still digital photos into a digital slideshow
  • the recording of a spoken narrative to accompany the slideshow
  • the addition of another audio track for music or special effects


Windows Movie Maker has a record facility, and the students recorded their speech accompaniments directly into the program, using headsets with microphones "borrowed" from the computer lab.
This was not a great solution, as no editing of the recorded sound files was possible in the program. However, keeping everything within Windows Movie Maker unified the "work-flow" and was convenient and relatively easy to use, which was very important, given the students' lack of video editing experience.

Background music problems

The biggest resource-related stumbling block we had was getting hold of free liberally-copyrighted music, to use as backing soundtracks. We had problems using Jamendo, and the students didn't particularly warm to the selection of music there. In the end, two groups used music mixes I had previously put together for fun in Apple's Garageband. The other group didn't use a music track.

Publishing problems

The other issue was an online publishing hiccup. The students used Windows Movie Maker to output to 320x280 Windows Media files (.wmv). These played OK when embedded in web pages of the audio / video podcast service we were using (, but I discovered that the .wmv file format wouldn't go into the RSS feed. MP4 seems to be recommended as the most compatible podcastable movie file format, but MovieMaker couldn't export to that, so we needed some other software to convert the files. I was able to copy the files to my Mac, and use a freeware program called iSquint to transform the .wmv files into MP4 files.

Sharing and presentation of projects

Class show

We had a show in the last week of the term, where each group showed off their photo slideshow video project to the others, face-to-face in class. Each group got a round of applause. Then we posted them online on the class podcast feed, with accompanying text notes.



  • Once the students realised that live performance in front of a digital video camera was not required, they were quite well motivated by the project and did generally enjoy it, despite some frustrating episodes


  • The digital skills learnt with software the students themselves possessed was a benefit to them, in particular confidence in the use of Windows Movie Maker and recording speech
  • Group dynamics building via cooperative project work
  • Confidence building of speaking skills: focussing on semi-formal speaking skills (for a group presentation), and the pressure of getting it right when being recorded

Quality of images

  • Could have been improved by use of image editing program, e.g. Google's free Picasa or Microsoft's Photo Editor

Photo slideshows and video editing software

  • Still photos, used in a sequence or in slideshow mode, can be given added functionality and made more interesting by the use of pans and zoom-ins and zoom-outs. Apple's iMovie has the so-called "Ken Burns Effect" (i.e. editable pans and zooms) built in. Microsoft's Windows Movie Maker does not. Comparing my two video projects, my week 2 project, "Oxford, a visitors' guide", edited in iMovie, and my week 4 project, "Geoff's (Life at) Home", edited in Windows Movie Maker, it's easy to see that judicious panning and zooming can really enliven a photo slideshow sequence. Quote from Wikipedia "The zooming and panning across photographs gives the feeling of motion, and keeps the viewer visually entertained".
  • What's to be done with Windows Movie Maker? There is another Windows product, Microsoft Photo Story 3 for Windows which is designed to do the same thing. WINDOWS MOVIE MAKER 2 TUTORIAL (University of Texas): "Although Windows Movie Maker 2 does not include what is called the ‘Ken Burns Effect” in Macintosh’s iMovie, you can also download (for free) Photo Story 3 for Windows. With this simplified program, photographs can be manipulated using panning and zooming effects, which can then be saved as Windows Media Video (wmv) files and imported as video into Windows Movie Maker." This would seem to be an ideal solution for Windows users


Students' completed slideshow videos

Direct links to the students' photo slideshow video projects at (Please be patient - they seem to take quite a little while to buffer, even via broadband)
My page on EVO Video 2007: EVO Video 2007: Student Video Project: GeoffTaylor

Image editing

Video editing software

Photo slideshow video editing software

  • Microsoft Photo Story 3 for Windows: make show-n-tell cool again
    "Bring your digital photos to life with Photo Story 3 for Windows. Download Photo Story 3 for free and experience your photos in amazing new ways... Capture memories: Create slideshows using your digital photos. With a single click, you can touch-up, crop, or rotate pictures. It's that easy! Bring photos to life: Add stunning special effects, soundtracks, and your own voice narration to your photo stories. Then, personalize them with titles and captions. Share your stories: Small file sizes make it easy to send your photo stories in an e-mail. Watch them on your TV, a computer, or a Windows Mobile–based portable device."
  • [N.B. On a Mac, can't play the demo video slideshows on Microsoft's website, even in Microsoft's now defunct Windows Media Player]


This account is based on an email entitled "Student videos online - at last!" to the EVO Video 2007 Yahoo Group, following the EVO Video 2007 course, on 2 April 2007.
Geoff Taylor, English Teacher, St Clare's, Oxford. Last updated: 24 December 2007