Rather than play another uninspired round of the name game, I decided to kick off the year by requiring my students to show their knowledge of technology by creating something–anything–that would help us learn more about them. I envisioned students trying to one-up each other by using their mobile devices and our classroom computers to develop awesome multimedia presentations full of sound, photos, and video.
Instead, I got 20 Prezis and 115 Google Presentations.
Frustrated over what I perceived as a lack of originality or creativity, I wanted to make something that would show my students what they were capable of producing. That evening, I stayed up late to put the finishing touches on a video that I was certain would interest them, spur their creativity, and ultimately encourage them to improve their own presentations.
Strike one. Strike two. Yerrrrr out!
Let’s just say that my students appeared a bit unimpressed (truthfully, #EpicFail would be a much more accurate description of my project’s inability to inspire my students). That evening, my wife (a high school Spanish teacher a couple rooms down from me) shared that one of our mutual students said that my video, “looked like something he put together years ago.”
Ouch. Really? Now, I know it wasn’t epic cinema, but to imply that it looked like a poorly edited video slopped together by a novice computer user was a little hard to take.
I fought off wallowing in a deep depression over the realization that I would never become a lauded Hollywood filmmaker. Instead, I decided to reflect.
I thought about the movie “reviews” students often share with me. “The ‘graphics’ were pretty good,” they begin, almost acknowledging that elements like plot, dialogue, and character development just don’t factor into whether the movie earns their thumbs up. And then, it all started to make sense.
Students have become extremely judgmental about what they consume visually. Sure, they’ll still watch shaky YouTube videos shot vertically on someone’s cell phone, but they will be quick to point out the flaws in those videos and how they could have been so much better. The problem? They’re quick to criticize, but slow to create.
That’s where we come in.
I’m feeling pretty confident that if my students had produced videos about themselves that were similar to mine, they would have been absolutely geeked about what they had created. They would have come to class excited and ready to share. Unfortunately, a lot of teachers are not giving students enough opportunities to creatively use technology.
We’re doing our students a disservice if we’re only requiring them to put together PowerPoints and Prezis. They already know how to do this. They’re comfortable with this. We have to encourage them to create in other ways. We have to make them step out of their technology “comfort zones.”
They need to edit videos. They need to create podcasts. They need to explore augmented reality, photo editing, video collaboration, and more. We can’t accept that typing an essay in Google Docs or researching online is effective use of technology. We need to challenge our students and see what they can create when they’re told, “I know you can make this project even better.”