Teachers Teaching Teachers #61 – 07.18.07 When do students feel compelled to use multimedia?

Five teachers from the National Writing Project’s Tech Matters`07 Institute joined Victoria, a soon-to-be 9th grader from Virginia, and Danielle, an 18 year-old student from Australia, to discuss what leads to effective learning with technology. The teachers from Tech Matters had been working with the theme of “compelling communication” in the hours before this webcast, and they were right to suspect that Victoria and Danielle might have pretty clear thoughts about how we teach students to use communication tools in schools now. On this webcast, we learned once again that teachers might benefit from listening more to what students say makes some assignments compelling and others not so compelling.

The 2007 Horizon Report claims that “there is a skills gap between understanding how to use tools for media creation and how to create meaningful content. Although new tools make it increasingly easy to produce multimedia works, students lack essential skills in composition, storytelling, and design.”

The conversation on this webcast between Victoria and Danielle and the teachers from Tech Matters would seem to confirm this claim. These girls suggested that many of their teachers had a lot to learn about how to use the tools, and that teachers could learn from the students. At the same time, Victoria and Danielle seem to appreciate the teachers who had worked with them on “composition, storytelling, and design.” Most of all these students seem to be saying that two of the most important elements in any school assignment were to be able to connect to real people outside of the school and to create projects are are personally meaningful for students.

On this webcast, learning seemed to be happening in many different directions.

Here’s how one teacher Scott Floyd, from the Bluebonnet Writing Project in Texas described the webcast:

Yesterday, after a long, first day of learning, Janelle and I joined the Teachers Teaching Teachers
podcast with Paul Allison.  It was an incredible experience to be a part of this very diverse group of folks.  I can’t say teachers because we had the benefit and privilege of two students joining us.

One, a ninth grader, was about to become the most connected student in her county.  Out of need, she is being given a loaded laptop that will allow her to be a seamless part of the classroom.  Her goal in life is to be a writer.  Good for her.  Her district seems to be doing what needs to be done to help her in every way possible.  I can’t wait for her to start honing her skills on her own blog.  

The other student, an eighteen year old from Australia, was not shy in the least bit.  She was asked hard questions about what teachers need to do to engage students with new tools.  She fired back answers that made us pause and reflect about our own actions in our instruction and how they alter the learning environment.  While she says her teacher, Jason Hando , is the best, she discussed how it was not an across the board feeling in all of her classes.  Then she asked what it would take to teach teachers how to be more in tune with technology and integrating skills.  Ouch.  Can anyone say, PD Bingo?  

Overall, the six of us that joined together here in Chico, CA, were very impressed with the student input.  The chat room, as usual, provided some great questions and running commentary about the conversation.  It bounces me back to the reflections from Karl Fisch and others about NECC: Where are the students at these events?   Bravo to Paul and the TTT folks for including them in the webcast.  We should all strive to include these most important voices in our tech planning.