I have been trying to be authentic to my beliefs about learning. Hence the students are working on projects of their own design around the Vietnam War and the Cold War. My one class has five groups of 2-5 students each building a Tumblr feed, making a game, writing a children’s book, creating a rap video, and filming a documentary.
The other half of the class (about 20 students) is working together to make a Choose Your own Adventure style videos on YouTube. This is a very mixed group with students who have previously performed well and struggled in my class. Let me just say that they have blown me away. First of all a couple of them took charge and organized the group’s research assigning everyone a topic which they then decided to make into a timeline.
Next on the whiteboard they started mapping out the paths of the “choices” in the video.
Later they divided into roles as writers, directors, actors, artists, props, editors, and computer designers for special effects. We are putting an addition on our school for next year and the construction workers put up a temporary wall as they literally tore off the outside wall over holiday break. What opportunity did students see with this wall?
Even after being so impressed with their efforts I saw some of them shooting some scenes outside. I watched them for a few minutes. They were not in costume. They were not organized. The video camera was sitting to the side on a stand. They weren’t even using it!
They were obviously not using their time wisely. I went outside to redirect and Jake told me that he was using his phone since it had an app that added some special effects. I said ok and went back inside.
I guess I forgot about that part of the conversation because I started class the next day by complimenting them on their organization, their creativity, and their efforts. Then with the memory of them running around in a field yesterday, I gently reminded them to focus on the quality of their video. I told them their “process” of learning was great, but that all people would see would be their end product: the videos.
They quickly assured me that they were taking steps to address this including some costumes and props. A few minutes later they were begging me to come watch their movie trailer.
Once again they showed great things in what they were doing. I have blogged alot about giving students a chance to own their learning and they will do great things. The truth is that this project has been very hard for me for fear that the students will “fail” and not learn anything. It has not been easy to give up control.
My teacher eyes see kids running around in a field and I momentarily lose my trust in their efforts. Then they show me what they are doing and prove that they deserve it.
Letting go as a teacher is so hard…