Saturday, March 21, 2009

Technology…trials and learning’s

So last year I came across this really cool website called that allows you to put in pictures, text, and music and the website creates a video for you with transitions and really cool effects. So for a while I have wanted to use this software/website in class for something and it finally came to the perfect opportunity. In tenth grade we are about to start the unit on The Kite Runner and our two main questions for the unit are: How do families define us and how do we define family? So for class yesterday I had students bring in pictures of their “families,” whatever that definition is for them, and create an Animoto video that would encompass those examples and their definitions. To aid in their preparation I created a video myself (Here is the link).

What I quickly came across was that not all of the students had brought in pictures, meaning that they had not completed their homework even though I had mentioned it to them for multiple days in advance. Learning number one, make sure that I am very clear and specific when I say “bring in pictures of your family electronically.” Do I want that in a Word document, individual files, what exactly? I need to be clearer in my explanation to them.
Then after that my students, the ones that could proceed, started to make their videos. Being that they are all Digital Natives I thought they would have an easy time with this; however, this was not the case. Many of them had some trouble finding the easily marked “Add text” button. Learning number two, you can never show them too many times how to do something. I showed them in front of the class, but obviously this was not enough. Maybe show them step by step in the front, but then what do you do with the other students that are behind or cannot keep up? Set a time limit on each section and then help the others that are behind catch up?

After the pictures were in then the students needed to answer our two main unit focusing questions with text in the video. Once they found the add text feature they were a little lost as to their answers. Learning number three, this all comes back to preparation. How did I prepare the students to be ready for this part of the assignment? I had hoped that they would be ready to go and could think of answers on the spot, but this was not the case. Instead, these students needed time to think about this. So I should have given them that time and made them do it outside of class maybe in a blog post or something. Overall, there just needs to be a little more thought put into exactly what I want the students to do and how to get them from the point of prewriting to the actual software.

Which leads to learning number four, make sure all the prewriting and pre-thinking is complete before ever having students touch the technology. Technology is a tool and it can be used very effectively to aid to student understanding. However, it should not be used as the focal point of the lesson, a really cool element, if that is all it is. In this lesson the focal point was answering those two unit focusing questions through the video; however, technology was at some degree a cool feature to add to the lesson. I’m not saying that I shouldn’t have used it, but instead I should have used it in a wiser manner.

We will see what their videos turn out looking like after the break. For the most part these students did not have all their materials or the right music with them at school so they had to complete it for homework. Learning number five, maybe in a situation where the students are going to need materials or music from their home computer that the actual assignment is set-up in class and I teach them how to use the software and the pre-writing is done in-class. Then maybe the actual assignment is done at home that way they have access to their own materials and can spend as much time on it as they would like. I limited them to 35 minutes. That is a little short for some and a little long for others. It should have been homework over break, but I live and learn.

Animoto is a really great tool, if used effectively, and there is an educator license for free too. If you haven’t heard of it I would encourage you to check it out. If you have heard of it, then how are you using it in the classroom? Did you have the same questions and problems the first time that you used it?