Sunday, September 25, 2011

One Year Later...

Note: I started this post over a year ago after listening to Brian Crosby speak. I've mulled over it, and updated much of it. What is in italics is what I wrote originally. What follows is my current situation and how I'm going to address these cold hard truths about my teaching.

This is going to be a blog post with two purposes. A serious look in the mirror at how I teach multimedia, and how I have been doing things for the past 3 years. Some of it is going to be BRUTALLY honest. ALL of it is going to be for the purpose of reflecting and making my class a more engaging place to be for students.

I went to ISTE in Denver this year with some colleagues. After all the sessions I went to, it was TedXDenverEd that stood out as the highlight for me. One talk in particular from Brian Crosby has completely transformed my outlook on education. I think that after 3 years of doing things pretty much the same way it's time to face some hard facts.

Fact 1: After 3 years of teaching multimedia, concentrating on video arts, I feel my program is stagnant and is often boring for students. Those who are intrinsically motivated to create video projects will always do well, but usually there are only 4-5 true "AV Geeks" in my classes each semester.

Fact 2: I have struggled with assessment in video arts. I don't know if I have all the answers yet. Developing quality assessments for projects is tough. Getting buy-in and getting students to be active participants in the process and stages of their own learning is a dream of many educators. Students know the game of school too well...

Fact 3: Students have been 'going through the motions' in my class and don't feel connected to the projects they are working on. New project ideas need to be integrated. 

Wow. There it is. Here's some thoughts about these three statements 1 year later.

What Are You Excited About This Year?
Stagnant Classroom? Get a project. Last year I started RTV with my students. I took over my media arts class and made it happen. It's going even better this year. I believe this made my 2010-2011 school year. I dove head first into an experiment that was bumpy but rewarding for myself and most importantly my students. RTV is now running quite smoothly with some key changes and I look forward to the work that we will do in the 'newsroom'.

However, I do need to shake things up this year. This is why I'm going to introduce something totally different than I've done before: 3D modelling and printing. Starting in November I'm diving into uncharted territory and going to capitalize on students' inner child by letting them learn about design, and then actually getting a tangible plastic model of what they have created in Google Sketchup and other open source software.

Assessment Challenges Ahead
With my RTV students all demonstration of their competencies will come in the form of reflections on their blogs. Assignments are given with the outcomes at the beginning of the project, and student will be asked to give evidence from their project work, team work when creating the daily news, and their own research and investigations. An ongoing part of my life is working on this.

Connections to the Projects
This is one I am still working on. How do I make it real in the confines of a school. People tout about 'real world' all the time in education, but very few actually do it and do it well. In previous semesters we've worked with our Peace Officers to make PSA style videos and we've even editing HD footage of a professional commercial, but all the 'real world' projects I threw at students still seemed a bit contrived. One way of connecting students to projects is for them to guide their own learning in areas of interest. This idea comes from some posts I've read about Google's 20% time. What if I gave my students Friday to work on multimedia projects that they develop, set goals and work towards achieving? I think this will be another post unto itself.

So there you have it. Brutally honest, but with excitement in my words, I'm looking forward to dealing with these 'truths' this year. It's kind of neat to have this post sit for a year and now be able to write back to myself about what I've done to work on each "fact". 

BTW- How could you incorporate 20% time into your classroom?



  1. Jared,

    This is a great post. I think we could all learn from your humility here and admitting the downfalls of our own practice. I have been reflecting on what I don't like or am maybe "afraid" to admit.

    I have been thinking about what you wrote since I read it yesterday and was thinking again about "Drive" by Daniel Pink. This book, in the first 2 chapters, wrapped up in a nice nutshell some of my learning about education in the past few years. Just those 2 chapters alone has fueled my teaching this new school year.

    As for the 20% time, after I read the chapter discussing this concept, I had the very same question: How could I use the 20% rule in my classroom. Without sounding like I have no faith in my students, I think that there are some potential issues with using a full 20% rule with them.

    How will they know what is appropriate for their 20%? Obviously, curling their hair would not be a good use of their time. Simply socializing the whole period wouldn't help either. Then I started thinking about what I started in my media arts class last year with some inspiration from you.

    You talked about your Media Chef idea or something like that. I did the media meals found here ( This allows students to choose from appropriate projects to use their spare time in class. I already have some other ideas to add to the page for more choices. I feel that they need some structure and giving them a multitude of choices helps their thinking and guide their productivity. In Drive, the author talks about how some employees who start in a company that has that kind of flex time need the scaffolding or structure to "teach" them how to thrive in that kind of environment. It is not intuitive to every one and so if you provide choices to your students, which I am sure you do, you could help them through the process.


  2. Thanks for your comments Eric. I am thinking of bringing in the 20% time when I start 3D modelling. I have read that other teachers make their students work on any project they design as long as it related to curricular outcomes. In Alberta, there are modules that are designed for the teacher to incorporate outcomes from 2 or more previous modules. This would allow the student to identify areas of interest and truly design their own project. Some ideas for success I have are for the student to write the project proposal, give a project timeline, and maintain a project blog/log to share their progress, help they may need, resources that are required kind of thing. Working up to this 20% will be crucial as you identified otherwise time could be wasted.