Video Essays as a Possibility of Documenting and Presenting Preschool Practice – Antonija Balić Šimrak

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Video essays have great potential for use in practice and in the documentation, revision, interpretation and dissemination of the process. Every educator, every person who engages in recording material for a video essay and designing it can find great satisfaction in this process, since it allows for creative, artistic expression by choosing materials from different areas, the background music, the different types of clips and animations, as well as different fonts in announcements, among other choices.

The video essay offers great possibilities when documenting the process in kindergarten. It is, by nature, a multimodal expression that gives its authors the opportunity for a very personal, contemporary and creative approach to publishing research results. The video essay can be compared to the form of the short film where the most noticeable difference is that a short film is a distinctly artistic form while the video essay seeks to retain a documentary approach in presenting the theme. The question is to what extent we can be free in making a video essay and whether there are rules in its structure and way of formatting. As a rule, a video essay uses several video clips that, when recomposed, give a comment or discussion on a certain topic. In a video essay visual scenes and text play an equal role, both media interpret the same motif and together give it greater credibility and enable a topic to be described in a shorter period of time. The video essay is a much faster and more agile form of communication that is fluent for those who watch it. That is why we can use a video essay as a means of documenting, interpreting and disseminating in order to reach as many recipients as possible.

We all keep a lot of clips in our mobile phones, record them on different occasions and usually we don’t make anything out of it in the end, but they serve as a reminder of some events, trips and workplace processes. However, I believe designing video essays is a good solution in order to give a story its true meaning. This is especially true in kindergartens, where so many interesting situations happen every day, where educators plan processes, prepare them, motivate children, children respond to them, activities go in unintended directions. All this is recorded with any camera, so that it can later on contribute to observe what had happened in the process, draw some conclusions, think about what could have been, how it could be or get a concrete, very thorough insight into what was happening. 

Video essay authors should not approach montage as a simple sequence of videos and photos from the process, but rather, just like when writing an essay, they should think carefully about the concept of the video essay and how to rhythmically introduce the topic, and present the main part of the content, discussion and conclusion. The documentary form is the closest to what we strive for when we present our own practice or a project we conducted with children in kindergarten. The decision to approach such a way of presenting practice implies prior collection of visual materials and mastering the techniques of digital editing, which today, thanks to very intuitive computer tools, is accessible to everyone.

What precedes the creation of a video essay? The usual way of planning the structure of a video essay is to create a storyboard in which, in addition to the order of the clips, the frame is sketched and its duration is determined. The storyboard allows the author to maintain control over the composition, to make the rhythm of the scenes dynamic and to present a complete picture of what he wants to tell the audience in a short time.The form of a video essay itself is not burdened by strict rules, so the authors are free to approach it in a very personal way and enrich it with details, whether it is animation, various effects or music. All these elements give the video essay a completely different tone.

Our approach to the shaping of the atmosphere in which we want to emphasize the theme is very important. This raises the question of the preparation of the scene and everything that visually enters the scene that will certainly have an impact on the later aesthetic impression of the video. Depending on the desired visual outcome, different authors take into account a number of details in the design of the scenography, which make the later visual effects more convincing and the overall performance more impressive. In fact, it is an opportunity to give a work a personal touch, to be an author. I believe that it is a challenge for many educators and that they can achieve very nice results, since they can show in that video the practice as it really is and add a touch of group and personal work and everything they value and admire the most. 

We shouldn’t criticize each other at the very beginning of making video essays, but let the whole thing develop a little more, because only if we work, only if we try, if we experiment and explore the possibilities of shooting and editing, will we get good results. I hope that an increasing number of educators will engage in recording the process and interpret what happens in kindergarten in this way, because this is the best way we can all progress, observing each other, assessing, learning from each other, just the way we want  children to do in kindergarten. 

Full professor Antonija Balić Šimrak, PhD
University of Zagreb, Teachers faculty, Croatia, Europe

Antonija Balić Šimrak was born on August 24, 1969 in Patna, India. In 1983, she enrolled in the School of Applied Arts and Design in Zagreb. After that, she graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1992 at the Sculpture department. In 2017, she defended a doctoral dissertation titled Soft Sculpture and its Anthropomorphical Transformation at the Academy of Fine Arts, University of Zagreb. Since 2009 she has been employed at the Faculty of Teacher Education at the University of Zagreb. She has exhibited at fifteen independent and numerous group exhibitions both at home and abroad, winning several awards and recognitions for her art work. She is a member of the Croatian Association of Fine Artists and Croatian Association of Researchers in Children’s Literature. She is a cofounder and artistic program organizer of ACE ZAGREB conference on arts, creativity & education:

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