Thursday, May 17, 2007

"So what?”

Yesterday I was asked a question that is very common to all of us in Instructional Technology.

"So what? Why is this important?"

I'm in the middle of a great project (with a great teacher) at one of my elementary schools. The project is about life cycles. In this 2nd grade classroom the students, working in 3 groups of 5 students each, have written their own story around their life cycle (Frog, Butterfly, or Sea Turtle) to be read in a Reader’s Theater style. Each group has also prepared a puppet show to illustrate their life cycle visually. We are helping the students videotape the Reader’s Theater and puppet show. We are then going to post these projects online and the students are going to share the movies with their parents at a parent night coming up soon.

"So what? Why is this important? Why use technology, why videotape?"

I had just showed the questioner the completed movie of the Reader’s Theater that the Frog group created and got the question "So what? Why is this important? Why use technology, why videotape?” I had no immediate answer - my mind went blank - I was taken by surprise as I'm sure many of us when we are asked this. I KNOW why it is important and meaningful - but try to vocalize it at that moment, that second in time. I was silent - and finally came up with the silly, most basic importance of what we did - "They learned how to work a camcorder," I said. How silly, how base, how NOT what I wanted to say.

I was lucky; this person understands the great impact that technology has in education. This person was only trying to make me think and not one of the MANY in education that ask this question because they really don't see the value and the meaning of technology-rich integrated projects.

So let me attempt here to answer the "So what?" question.

Instructional technology projects that are integrated into the curriculum are invariably many wonderful things. They:

are Student - Centered,

are Project Based Learning,

use Higher Order Thinking Skills,

allow for Multiple Intelligences,

involve students in their own learning,

thus making students excited about what they are learning,

furthermore allowing them to retain information they learn for longer periods of time - if not forever,


MOST importantly (at least to me) prepare them for the real-world with skills such as collaboration and problem-solving.

This learning is authentic. It is real. That is why it is SO important!

But maybe a better question is really “So why?”

“So why?” Why technology? It is true the project we are doing could be just left as a Reader’s Theater and a puppet show. It would have still been a great student-centered project with higher order thinking skills. It would have involved students; they probably would have been excited, and retained the information for a long time. So, why did we need to videotape it? Bringing technology into this project and recording the Reader’s Theater and the puppet show did something I have a very hard time defining.

There is a level of engagement, an excitement, a love of learning you see with technology. Technology engages students in their world. They use technology all the time, they are much better at it then we are. Additionally, they need technology skills to compete in the real world - communication is done with technology more and more, this is a skill our children MUST have. But there is an indefinable element here – that you have to witness to believe – that I still can’t explain or verbalize – but you can see it when it is happening.

“So, please!” – come to this classroom where students are videotaping and immediately watching their Reader’s Theater and puppet show – and tell me you don’t see the indefinable.


Aaron said...

Tell me, I will forget
Show me, I may remember
Involve me, and I will understand.

While I am still trying to figure out my own response, I can't help but think about the above Chinese Proverb.

Aaron said...

So why does your lesson matter?

Because you taught them how to think, rather than what to think.

Found this quote, which sums up my philosophy of education.
The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think - rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with thoughts of other men.
by Bill Beattie

Why Videotape?

To share.

A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle.
By Kahlil Gibran

Ashlyn said...

When the students' audience is extended beyond the classroom, the project becomes more important to them. They want to communicate with and please someone besides themselves and their teacher. The assignment becomes more than just a hoop to jump through on the way to the summer or to the next grade. It becomes a way to find a voice and to be seen, heard and understood.
Your project, without the videotaping, would have covered the basics and was collaborative and project-based. It addressed multiple intelligences and was cross-curricular. It is an excellent project on its own. What takes it one GIANT leap forward is the videotaping and sharing of that tape beyond the classroom.
Watch students as you pull out a camera to take a good project and make it better. You see personality; you see excitement; you see engagement. Listen to the students and the teacher when they are filming and producing the tape. You hear ownership of the project; you hear reflection on the process and a desire to do a good job; you hear self critiques and requests to do that again so “we” can be sure “they” understand. The project becomes more than getting things in the correct order without true understanding. It becomes a way to communicate with others with clarity. “Teaching others” is an incredible way to learn. Students and teachers become collaborators. They stand together in their pride.
Even without the “sharing” aspects of this project, students can see their own work in a medium that they understand. They know when a video makes sense in a way they don’t always understand the written word. They can evaluate the final product and recognize, critique, and reflect on their own learning. And guess what, in a well planned project they have had to read, write, plan, and understand a process in order to produce the video.