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What is a cellphilm?

(MacEntee, Burkholder, & Schwab-Cartas, 2016)

Cellphilms are short videos shot entirely on a cellphone (smart device or tablet) that convey a single message. We carry around high-quality digital cameras and audio recorders in our pockets in the form of cellphones. Many of us already use these devices to capture our everyday experiences. Why not bring these common, everyday tools into the classroom? According to MacEntee, Burkholder, and Schwab-Cartas (2016), the use of cellphilms in the classroom has the potential to stimulate collaboration between students and teachers that “enable[s] the sharing, analysis, and synthesis” of “authentic artefacts and anecdotes” (p. 6). Cellphilms provide instructors with an opportunity to engage students in an activity/assignment that will involve every part of learning (distilling, creating, editing, sharing content). All the while, students are also acquiring new digital literacy skills and harnessing the power of technology to the benefit of local communities. In the past few years alone, cellphone videos have become intimately tied to social justice work, community activism and heritage preservation. Viral videos capturing injustice, cruelty, and crime have become essential parts of the work of ensuring justice and promoting accountability and transparency. Demonstrating the proper use and potential capacity of this technology, while evaluating students on their understanding of core course content, is a win-win.

How to produce a cellphilm?

Brainstorm: 1) Consider activity/assignment learning outcome(s) and instructions, 2) What will people get out of the video?, and 3) What will my video look like? Links for brainstorming

Storyboard: 1) Consider each basic shot/how many shots (angle, the setting, participant(s), 2) Plan out the action that will take place in the setting (speaking, walking, sitting), and 3) Sketch out roughly what the short will look like. Please see below for an example of a simple storyboarding template (also available online at Storyboard)

Film: Consider text/sound/image/movement/location/quality/consent; No-edit required (NER), One-shot shoot (OSS), or edited, longer film. Links for Video Strategies

Produce: Consider hardware or software available; the necessary training in digital literacy, etc. Video Strategies

Share: To use MyMedia. To use YouTube

What are some key pedagogical and practical guidelines for cellphilms?

If you are interested in implementing cellphilms into your tutorial or course, you should take into consideration the following pedagogical and practical matters. In regards to pedagogy, you may have to determine the level of training your students might need to complete a cellphilm assignment. Some of this will depend on the level of difficulty or the type of assignment you develop. Other pedagogical matters to consider include consent of communities that students might work with, developing content that is controversial or contentious, comfortability in community activist or civic engagement, and the overall purpose of the cellphilm (e.g. for social change, preservation of language, or knowledge generation, etc.).

You may also want to consider educational technology guidelines. These include reliable technical support, access to hardware and software, issues around privacy and confidentiality, accessibility requirements, affordability, and intellectual property (or ownership rights in general). Like all good teaching, however, the implementation of cellphilming into your classroom will require good planning. Hopefully the resources provided in this tip sheet will make the process a little easier.

How to get students to reflect on cellphilms and how to evaluate student cellphilms?

One of the most important steps in incorporating cellphilming into your tutorial or course is to ensure that students have time and put energy into reflecting both on the process creating a cellphilm, and in the content they created (its potential impact or significance).

Reflections can take many fo rms, again depending on the level of difficulty of the assignment. One can imagine that a reflection could be as simple as small or large group discussion in a tutorial, or as complex as a four-page reflection paper to be submitted alongside a cellphilm. The important point, Mitchell et al., (2016) tell us, is to engage students in “speaking back activities”. These are opportunities for students to reflect and critique their cellphilm, consider potential audience responses, as well as provide clarity around the significance of the subject matter and their aesthetic choices (i.e. filming style).

Evaluation, much like reflection will depend on the level of difficulty of the assignment. However, if the cellphilms are for a higher weighted part of the course (final assignment, for example) it’s important to provide students with a rubric (see references for example of a rubric). Students should be aware that they are being evaluated both on the creation of the cellphilm (the mechanics) as well as on the content (the subject matter). Of course, the better aligned these two areas are in a cellphilm, the more clear the messaging will be in that video. Students should also be evaluated on the accessibility of the video (is the video captioned, audio described, ASL interpreted, etc.). You want to ensure that as many people as possible can engage in watching the video, including the other individuals (yourself included) in the classroom. Please see below for two examples of grading rubrics for student cellphilm projects.


Flicker, S., O’Campo, P., Monchalin, R., Thistle, J., Worthington, C., Masching, R., Guta, A., Pooyak, & S., Whitebird, W., Thomas, C. (2015). Research Done in “A Good Way”: The Importance of Indigenous Elder Involvement in HIV Community-Based Research. American Journal of Public Health, 105(6), 1149-1154.

MacEntee, K., Burkholder, C., & Schwab-Cartas, J. (Eds.). (2016). What’s a cellphilm?: Integrating mobile phone technology into participatory visual research and activism. Springer.

MacEntee, K., & Mandrona, A. (2015). From discomfort to collaboration: Teachers screening cellphilms in a rural South African school. Perspectives in Education, 33(3), 42-56. Milne, E.-J., Mitchell, C., & de Lange, N. (2012). Handbook of participatory video. Plymouth: AltaMira.

Links for brainstorming



Video Strategies