Let's Stop Making Students Power Down at School

by Lisa Nielsen

cross posted at The Innovative Educator

Unlike parents or teachers at their age, 21st century students are fortunate to have what Marco Torres refers to as "the global stage" which describes the worldwide publishing potential now offered by the Internet. Yet, for the most part students are performing on this stage completely devoid of teacher or adult influence. It is unfortunate that outside of school students operate in a world where they are interacting, publishing, and producing for thousands, yet as they enter the school building, they have to power down and produce work usually for an audience of one.

The self-proclaimed, almighty teacher.

I remember a story Alan November shared with me about a student he met who struggled with this. She felt her teacher was always wasting her time with unimportant writing assignments and reports that she cared nothing about. Her teacher never even bothered to learn what she actually did care about. The student was much more interested in the writing she was doing on FanFiction where she had discovered the world's largest archive and forum where fanfic writers and readers around the globe gather to share their passion. This student literally had thousands of fans around the world reading and responding to her stories. She had no interest and didn't care to make time to prepare work for the teacher who didn’t have interest or seem to care to take the time to learn to allow her students to express themselves in areas of passion and interest.

When school started this Fall, I was impressed with 9-year old Sarah’s two-minute recorded response to President Obama’s speech, posted to YouTube. She had 187,632 views, 1600 comments, and a 4 star rating. Talk about authentic assessment, authentic audience, and real learning.

Today there was another video I saw a little closer to home that I was extremely impressed with. It is this video which my boyfriend’s daughter created.

It has received more than 15,000 hits in a day! His 13-year old was excited to discover that her voice was heard and her message was shared with thousands of others who rated her work an impressive 4 stars and left relevant and meaningful comments. She also was excited to read the comments from other educators about the video that I posted on my Facebook wall which included:

  • Wow that's pretty amazing! She's got mad iMovie skillz yo! What grade is she in?
  • Your daughter is a great teacher for both teachers and students. Rather than taking classes, you should see if she could teach a class at her high school. All the teachers can be her students.
  • The immediacy of technology displayed in its best form.
  • Wow! Outstanding work! I've shared her work with our media club students - her work is sure to inspire our members! Thanks.
  • I'm impressed too! She did a great job in capturing not only the events of the day but the sentiment also. Great storyline and organization. OMG thank goodness I wasn't at the mall that day!

Barry (the video producer's dad) BBMed me saying, his daughter was smiling ear to ear and wanted to know, “What’s so good about my video?” Huh, would you look at that! A student requesting authentic assessment feedback from the educators that were impressed by her. There should be more conversations like these in schools for sure. When I asked her dad how often his daughter has these opportunities at school, he said, “as far as I know she doesn’t have such opportunities.” To answer her question here are a few things that are so good about the video. I’m sure I and others will come up with more.

-She learned how to use the software on her own. She didn’t need to take a movie making class. She just needed a subject that inspired her to learn how to make a movie.
-She is exploring a topic she is passionate about and her interest shines through.
-She teaches her peers through her comments how to employ movie making techniques.
-She tells a clear and focused story with a message.
-She employs mart and appropriate use of graphics and subtitles.
-She has a great eye for capturing engaging video and photography.
-She incorporates a range of important story elements from real-time tweets, to audience reaction, to appropriate background music and commentary.
-She provides smart on target transitions.
-She lays out a clear sequence, flow, and story line.
-She is an on the street journalist with a story to tell and thousands of people who want to watch that story.

As an educator of innovative educators, I urge you to remember these students, their voices, their passions and don’t force students to power down when they come to school. Encourage and embrace their excitement, their passions, their enthusiasm, their need for socializing and authenticity. Help make school a place your students want to be, discover, grow, learn and share.

Lisa Nielsen has spent more than a decade working in various capacities in educational innovation at the NYC DOE and Teachers College, Columbia University including as a technology innovation manager, manager of instructional technology professional development, literacy and instructional technology coach, teacher, librarian, and staff developer. Ms. Nielsen is a Google Certified Teacher, International Edublogger, and creator of The Innovative Educator social network, blog, and wiki all of which can be found at http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of the NYC DOE, the AVP or any other entity.