Thursday, March 28, 2013

21st Century Skills- A Missing Piece- Production!

If you have been following this blog, you probably know how big a fan I am of the learning cycle approach to science teaching. I run my classroom on a three step cycle beginning with an exploration activity, then the concept development, which is followed by an application of the content acquired.

I believe firmly that this model can and should be used in many teaching experiences. There is no reason why it should be less effective when teaching 21st Century Skills. I can tell you that when planning any learning cycle, the easiest part to breeze over is the application. The students already know the material, why spend more time making sure they can apply it? In truth, this is probably the most important step in retention of the concepts.

I am not saying that this is not being done in our classrooms with regards to 21st Century Skills. I believe it is. What hit me this morning in the shower (where I do my best thinking on Ed tech) was that we should be pushing higher end applications of these skills. Today's bright idea revolves around some examples that are currently not available in my building but I believe they should be. They are all favors of the same candy, simply presented in different wrappings.

1. Video Announcements- About 7 years ago, my building tried this. At that time, a class called TV tech produced a 5 minute video to be shown during announcements about once a month. That was almost a decade ago. Producing video has become so commonplace that there is no reason that students can not read the announcements every day on video. I envision a couple of students dressed well sitting across a formal desk delivering the announcements. Maybe once a week, they could do a sports story or cover the various clubs and activities out there. I have even thought about maybe allowing commercials when time allows that may provide some funds. (Interview a florist before homecoming talking about the best kind of corsage.) Our school newspaper is amazing in its production, why can we not do the same thing with video?

2. Video production- I would like to see a class where the students make a short movie. They work on a script, find some actors, locations, film, edit, and do post production. The software to do this is relatively cheap and easy to use. We have a lot of students who are doing this at home, or would like too. The school should support them with guidance and a venue to show off their work when they finish. How cool would it be to show these in our auditorium at on a night showing. Create posters, the whole deal. Our school plays are incredible, why can we not tap into those actor's ambitions with film.

3. Music production- I sat in an English teacher's classroom after school the other day when a student came in to play one of the teacher's guitars. This young man, who I knew from my astronomy class, picked up the three pounds of wood and string and pounded out two pieces of his own music. He belted lyrics that he and the teacher worked out together after school. I asked if he had ever recorded his music and he said he had some stuff at home. He also had a notebook of over a dozen other tunes that he was working on. We need to support this kind of ambition any way we can. I would like to see the school invest in basic studio equipment and make that available to students. How cool would it be to teach kids how to use a mixer, record tracks, and produce student made music. Last year I attended our talent show and was introduced to several students who were placing music on YouTube and even one who has a song on iTunes.

There are many more examples of the kind of thing that I am talking about here. We currently have a class called Planetarium productions that tries to fill the production void in our school. Students have 9 weeks to write a script, make the visuals, record the music and narration, and program the planetarium to produce a show. It is a great class that students really enjoy taking. In the end they have a show that we use in our planetarium for other classes. Unfortunately As this is not a science Elective, it is usually the first thing we cut from our curriculum when we are short staffed. Also, this is a school-centered class, where students work for a purpose set by us. In the previous examples, the school would be working for the student to produce their own work. I can't think of anything more engaging that that.

I believe these are the type of things that people want us to be doing. They are Quadrant D, engrossed in 21st century skills, centered on problem solving, require timetables, are high in rigor, and naturally engaging.

If your school has these programs already, great! Please let me know how it is going and some of the successes or tribulations you are having. If you have other applications of real production going on in your school, please post a comment to let us all know what is out there.