An important goal of Enterasys Networks is to encourage the use of technology in the classroom to better connect students and educators, and leading to a highly motivating learning environment. Teaching creativity and innovation is especially difficult to do, but it is becoming more important as automation takes over a growing portion of human tasks. Connected Educator Month (CEM) gave us the opportunity to encourage classroom innovation by acknowledging, rewarding, and drawing attention to creativity that might otherwise go unnoticed.
We challenged schools to show us their technology. Word went out through the CEM newsletter and web site that we were offering prizes and a public platform for schools that could demonstrate their innovative use of classroom technology in a concise video of 3 minutes or less. It turned out that the contest encouraged not just creativity and innovation, but initiative, another vital skill in today’s world.
The video submitted by Applewood Public School Grade 5/6, blew us away. Entitled Techno Gators In Action, it was entirely conceived, written, directed, acted, recorded, edited, and produced by the 10 and 11 year old students. They modeled their video as a TV news update, with an on-site reporter interviewing students demonstrating the technology. The result is a concise and entertaining look at innovative learning technology.
As a postscript to the project, the kids put together a short presentation describing what they learned from the project and what went on behind the scenes. Here are some excerpts: “Working together we can accomplish anything. We use more technology than we realized. We realized that technology isn’t just fun and games, it makes an impact on students’ learning …school would be dull and boring without all the technology we have.”
Even before these 10-11 year olds reached 5th grade, they were already experienced with video recording and editing. They used Apple iMovie and Microsoft Movie Maker. The students had an easy time determining who would be the writers, narrators and actors. For that they practiced democracy (more on that later), voting as a team and selecting people willing to appear on camera.
One of the biggest challenges was keeping within the video time constraint. Mark Twain had expressed this challenge when he wrote, “If I had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter.” The entire technology tour had to be culled down to less than 3 minutes. Some of the classroom technology left on the cutting room floor includes: Guided Reading, which provides differentiated reading instruction to small groups of students; Netbooks; and document cameras. The class also has their own website and a YouTube channel for their class videos and assignments. They have their own blog, but it had to be temporarily taken off line to save space on their server.
Social media presents an ongoing challenge for k-12 schools. As part of the contest we had asked that contestants post their video on YouTube and provide a link to the video from a school Facebook account. The Techno Gators were able to do that, but due to district privacy restrictions, no one outside of the school is able to see that page. The restrictions provide a level of protection to the children, but also restrict collaboration with kids and teachers from outside the district.
Another web site of the Applewood 5th/6th graders describes their H. E. L. P. program (hunger, education, life and poverty) and their class bill of rights. The H. E. L. P. program is “dedicated to giving all children around the world a better future”. The class bill of rights is “based upon the belief that each person is an individual, and each individual has the right to be a respected member of our classroom.” While, “Everyone has a say”, the group operates with “no president or supreme leader(s).”
Are you associated with a school that innovatively uses technology? If so, send us your video.
Follow Bob Nilsson on Twitter: twitter.com/RHNilsson