Friday, August 1, 2008

Beware the Barbarians, Redux

I think I've mentioned that I'm teaching a research/video documentary class at my school's Summer Institute. I have a group of attention-challenged 8th graders who thought they were signing up for movie-making (Did you READ the catalog description???!), and were quite aghast at having to actually research. That aspect has been a huge struggle.

Until the last few days, when we've started actually putting their documentaries together--recording narration, gathering (creative commons) images, grabbing video from C-Span's student site, etc.

Yesterday, I noticed the alternative energy group was online and not editing their video. I grrr'd at them, asking why they were off-task. "We need to find out more about hydrogen fuel cells!" they chirped, as they proceeded to spend half an hour digging through databases and websites I could hardly get them to spend 10 minutes on two weeks ago!

I was re-reading one of my blog posts from last summer (looking for something else) and ran across this:
The most exciting aspect of the read/write web is that, at last, students have a tool that allows them to take their learning into their own hands (with guidance!) and engage themselves. They transform from passive observers and listeners to active participants. They learn both process AND content, if teachers are willing to step aside and let them.
I had one of those ah-ha moments. Here, if I needed reminding, was yet another example of the power of real assessment and real projects to empower and motivate students. These kids were less than thrilled they'd be doing documentaries--they wanted to film action movies!--but once they were immersed in the process, the project became its own motivation. They even worked through break yesterday, and they haven't missed a break in 3 weeks!

1 comment: