The other day I was discussing what my 6th grade students were doing with Dr. Sheryl Abshire when I pulled out my iPhone. I explained that this year I encouraged students to bring whatever device would help complete a video booktalk/commercial for our media center. In the past I further explained, we would force the students to fit into whatever tools the school had which would be Audacity and Microsoft Movie Maker in our school. As I thought about this I thought this might limit the creativity students could show in future projects. Usually if a teacher wants a technology project then he or she would book the computer lab and march the students down to all do the project the same way with PowerPoint or Publisher being the tools of choice. Would this frame of mind work with the philosophy of the Computer Technology classes of students using what they learned in Computer Technology in any academic situation they may encounter. No, it was time for me to differentiate among the tools students happen to have to create the booktalk projects and tell the students to bring those iPads, iPods, smartphones, and whatever else they have at home.
Of course this took some planning. First, I created a new project planning packet I adapted from a project planner by Duncan Germain of the Voyager Academy in Durham, NC. I first read about how Mr. Germain used this plan with his 6th grade students in Dr. Cathy Davidson's Now You See It. Some of the elements of this plan include why is the project being done, what resources are needed and what will be the source of these resources, who will the team turn to for help and feedback, what is the backup plan, and justification for doing the project. As expected most of the students had difficulty with this planning process. First, many teachers don't ask students to do indepth planning for a project and, second, students are almost never asked to be so introspective with an assignment. I still have some students who are having problems with this planning process so I am trying to be patient because this is another disruption Mr. Woodring has done in their educational process. The other part of the planning process was going over ground rules for using personal devices at school. Along with the do's and don'ts is a permit for students to use their device for the project. The student asks for the permit, gets a parent to sign it, then I counter sign it make it valid. Students are responsible for bringing any cables that are needed to transfer media from the device to the computer. I give recommendations for apps such as Splice for video editiing but students are also told to research apps for themselves since better and cheaper apps always come along. Once the planning process is completed with plan, script, and storyboard the students are ready to begin production.
While the planning process has been very slow, video production is rather quick. Students who used their plans admitted they helped keep them on task when creating their videos. Another thing students have told me is that they rarely think how a project in one class can relate to other classes or life in general. This is not going to be good news to my future students because they will be challenged to think in ways they have never thought before. I cannot wait to see students do a project on British tax policies that led to the American Revolution and have them compare what the modern Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements possibly relate to those policies. Another thing that has speeded up the production process is allowing students to use their own devices. While I have a classroom with 30 computers, I only have five microphones and four cameras. With 25 to 30 students per class this process would take much longer. I would hate to think what would happen if a teacher had to wait to book a computer lab and could only get the lab for one or two days during the project. It would never get done at all. I may be viewed as a heritic for encouraging students to bring phones, iPods, and other personal devices into my classroom but so far the majority of students have been responsible of the use of these devices. The other thing is students are eager to use their devices in school. So way not have a bring your own device learning party?