Create, Create, Create!

I have had many a conversation about students’ ability to consume digital content vs. creating digital content.  Which do you think students are better at? I’ve always leaned toward consumption over creation. They use Google, social media, and other online places to intake great amounts of information, but how often are students actually contributing something back for others to benefit from? How many times do we ask students to go grab this or that bit of information from the web or go to YouTube and watch this video or that video? Is it possible that we’re proverbially “stuck” in our education system because we don’t give our students enough opportunities to create and in turn share their creation? I’m not saying that students creating “stuff” is going to be the magic that fixes everything, but what if it could be? Should there be more of a conscious effort to give plenty of choices for our students to be creative with that information they find for this project (homework, assignment, etc.) or that project?

There’s certainly no shortage of information that’s produced for you and I and our students to learn from. We teach our children, students, and each other to “pay it forward” in face to face spaces, but should we do the same in online spaces too?

These are just some thoughts I had bouncing around after coming across this video: 29 Ways to Stay Creative. It’s certainly not exclusive to the digital world, it even reminds us to step away from all things digital from time to time. It just reminded me that we need to have our students see the value in creating something not only as a way to express ourselves, but possibly to the benefit of others as well.

Thank you for reading.

29 WAYS TO STAY CREATIVE from TO-FU on Vimeo.

Telling Search Stories with Google

Yesterday, my district hosted a day of professional development for teachers and staff that are involved with the e-learning program at three area districts (including mine).  It was a great day for teachers to collaborate and learn with each other about best practices and hopefully get some new ideas for teaching online.

In the afternoon, we had a good ol’ tech tools smackdown where folks from each respective district went back and forth sharing a favorite tool they have used or think students would enjoy using in an online course. I decided to share the Google Search Story Creator.  If you’ve never created a Google Search Story, it’s a lot of fun and a great way to quickly share a search experience. Since the search story creator is kind of hard to find (it’s located towards the bottom of this page and says YouTube is making a new, permanent home for it), I also made a custom link that was easier to share with others. Please feel free to pass this along: http://bit.ly/searchstorycreator.

I wanted the teachers to see a relevant example first before I explained how to create one. I only had about 4 minutes total during the smackdown so the first 35 seconds was sharing an example of a finished search story. One of the online courses in my district (American Government), students have an assignment to create a short commercial for a political candidate. I thought this would be a great way for students to chronicle locating information about a specific candidate. So I created this search story:

I picked the first candidate that came to mind and it very briefly shows how I located information on a particular subject. Students would have a great time creating these and I’m sure would do a much better job than my example (as I alluded to in a conversation later that day).

Then I went on to explain how the search story creator works. You plug-in your search terms, define the type of Google search to be completed on each of those terms (web, images, maps, news, blog, product, or books), add some music and upload to your YouTube account. As you can see in the above example, YouTube (Google) packages it all together in a nice little video to share with classmates or make it a nice addition to an overall assignment.

Click for a larger preview

When you’re creating one, definitely take advantage of the preview area as you plug-in your search terms and define the kind of search you want to perform. This comes in handy for checking out the kind of results that are going to appear in your video before you finalize it.

Have fun creating your search story!

Letting Go…Eventually

When I was meeting with a teacher earlier this week, the teacher said to me, “I’m just having a hard time letting go”. This was in reference to a current method of instruction because of a new piece of instructional technology I was supporting her use of. I honestly don’t remember what the technology was because this past week was a crazy one. This teacher’s comment resonated with me though. By the way, my response to her comment was something along the lines of, “That’s OK. Change is hard but doesn’t have to be instant”. In my efforts to support this teacher in a new endeavor of  instructional technology, it would be unfair of me to push too hard. Don’t you agree? Should there be a speed limit on the change process?

Teachers need a continual support system in place with any instructional strategy, technology or not. They need the initial formal PD upfront, classroom visits if necessary, ongoing communication to “check in”, and then more formal PD to build upon existing skills. More specifically to technology, however, if a financial investment is made and a plan is not in place to support it (continually), then we have not only failed our teachers but we are also failing our students. When I say “we”, I don’t mean there is a finger-pointing at any one leader (principal or other administrator), I mean “we” as a collective body of leaders that want what’s best for students.

I think sometimes we try too hard to exceed the speed limit in the change process. We get excited and want to buy everything and we want everyone to change right now. We’re at a point in education where change is inevitable, and necessary. We shouldn’t forget the old adage, “Talk is cheap”. However, how fast is too fast to expect change? Teachers are going to have a hard time “letting go”. Do they need to eventually “let go” 100%? I think they do.

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.

— John F. Kennedy

Let’s be ready to support teachers appropriately but also remind them in their effort to try something new, change doesn’t have to happen overnight. However, it does need to happen.

Just some thoughts on the matter. Thanks for reading.