beyond technology

I enjoyed our last class meeting, especially about how to use technology as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. Once we have students engaged with material through technology, we must expand. It’s not just about how glitzy students can make their projects, but rather, it’s still about content and mood. If anything, I think students face a new challenge of presenting material than I ever did as a K-12 student. We just had to write papers, now we are asking our students to create multimodal projects, and still give us the same amount of content we would expect in an essay. Clearly, they’ll need help. Giving them a website like Glogster to use, or flashy PowerPoint animations alone is not enough.

This class reminded me of the importance of talking about, and exploring visual storytelling with students, of expanding students’ use of technology. It also reminded me of a conversation I had with a school librarian at a private high school last semester. She was talking about how a student had to make a project for French class, introducing their family and then themselves, like hobbies and interests. She said the project was beautiful, and so professional looking but lacked any real content, except sparse French sentences here and there. She said it was all glitz, and no grit. (Funny enough, their school motto is “Grace and Grit”). As a teacher-librarian, I want to help my students to have the glitz and the grit. I want to use technology to help us tell and convey our stories, not just be the story alone. Just like in writing, every word and way a sentence is structured matters and has meaning… so does visual storytelling. I want my students to be able to tell me why they chose that color, or why they chose for their head to rotate every minute during a video they made for class. I want my students to know their stories and work are important, and the thought in how we use technology to convey those stories is also of importance.

I think we saw all of this last class in the student work. We were all fairly unamused, and very unimpressed. I think we all have high standards for students, and I think that’s a good thing. If we have low standards for what students are capable of, then what’s the point?

The last thing that has been on my mind is the idea of creativity and innovation. Using pre-made graphics, and placing them on a page is really neither of these things. So, how do we help to promote creativity and innovation using these Web 2.0 technologies? When our students feel limited by what they can use of pre-made graphics, feeling they want to use something in a way that the program is incapable of doing, or have a different vision of how a graphic should look than the original graphic designers, are they reaching a point of creativity/innovative thinking? How do we harness that and move forward? I have some ideas …

Lastly, I’ve focused a lot on visual storytelling, but I’m also curious about the use of things like Twitter for school assignments. What if students were charged with choosing a day in history, and they had to make a Twitter account where they then acted as a news reporter or as someone living in that time, tweeting throughout the day of events and what they are doing (a la NPR’s Twitter account @todayin1963) as if it were in real time. The amount of work that the student would need to research, and in depth research would be incredible! Or what if English classes used Twitter as a way to do creative writing or poetry, limited to 140 words or less. Or what if we used Instagram for science classes to document wildlife and plants found in the area, or environmental degradation happening? The possibilities are incredible, and I’m excited to be entering the profession at this time.

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2 thoughts on “beyond technology

  1. skcram says:

    What a fabulous post! I agree that we need students to be able to tell us why they made certain choices, because being able to reflect and evaluate your own work is such an important skill. Too often, I think we’re more concerned with the product than the process when it’s the process that teaches us the most.

    I also loved your ideas for using Twitter in the classroom. The “historical event” Twitter is fascinating because it not only teaches content, but it is a great way to talk about how media has changed over the years. I’ve also seen people rewrite classic novels through Twitter and other social media platforms, and that is again a really cool way to cover content while also talking about formats and how different platforms provide different narrative experiences. Another idea I’ve heard about for Twitter in the classroom is using Twitter during field trips to capture what students are thinking and seeing and wondering in the moment.

  2. molliehall says:

    I think I have heard of Twitter being used for (very) short story contests before. And one idea for tech in the classroom that I really like is using blogs as writing and research portfolios. I had to do a report on The Digital Writing Workshop, which is a book by Troy Hicks, for my Teaching Writing class. (Sorry if I’ve told you about this before, since I know I mentioned it recently on someone’s blog.) He is a big proponent of using blogs to show the progression of student writing over a term, and for using things like wikis to do things like peer-editing. He had a lot of great ideas! I thought that a blog would be a great way to keep track of research – students can have all of their links in one place, and they can see how their ideas progress. There are so many exciting ways we can use tech to help our students learn!

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