Wednesday, November 14, 2007

the best use of technology

There's this teacher down the hallway. She wants students to know, like really know, Supreme Court cases pertaining to the Fourth Amendment. So we talk and we say all the right things:

Inquiry driven.

So many trendy/timeless words that when she and I begin to plan, we suddenly feel a massive web-weight thrust upon us by our own conspiring.

We decide to have the students make recreations of Supreme Court cases. Videos. There are many steps involved: research, annotations, two-column storyboarding, pitching the project, filming, editing, post-production, and viewing.

All of that is a semester long project, but curriculum gets in the way and we only have two weeks.

Students spent the first five days completing all steps up to filming. Starting today, they were going to have five days to film and complete all the tech-driven steps; you know, the stuff we love to celebrate. The stuff blogs are made of!

But here's the tickle me Elmo moment: we could stop today and celebrate the knowledge and understanding we've seen and heard from the students without every picking up a camera; without ever having to split a clip or insert a transition.

And every student would be able to articulate the relevancy of their court case to their own lives.

This project represents the best example of successful tech integration. Students have yet to film one scene but the assignment has clearly cemented the fact that this group of students has a deeper knowledge of these court cases than classes from year's past. They are asking their own probing questions. They are self-directed. They are using pathfinders. They are acquiring primary source material on their own accord.

They are asking for more time to work on their storyboards. Say that sentence to yourself a couple times and let it sink in. Remember that video cameras and time to film around the school are waiting for them. But they are huddled together in their groups, working collaboratively on their storyboards. They are going back to find more research. They are asking how these cases apply to their lives.

They may never film. There just isn't enough time. But I wish the teacher and I had the foresight to film them during class today. We'd post it to TeacherTube.

And no one would watch. Because process doesn't fill the seats and it surely doesn't wow the eyes of the masses.

But it's not about what they do with their understanding that creates the 'wow' factor; rather, it's about how they reach that understanding that is the educational equivalent of CGI.

Thank you, technology. We may never use you, but you afforded all of us the opportunity to really practice and refine those much-needed 21st Century skills.

What a phenomenal project.

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