Yesterday, President Obama spoke to our nation's students inspiring them to try their hardest in school and to always do their best work.  He poignantly stated how the work  we sometimes ask our students to do, may not always be what they want to do, but the work has a purpose and a point (or at least it should). Though with this contest, I think he is onto something.  As this is a project most kids will want to do, and it definitely has a point.

Following this speech was the announcement of the "I am what I learn" student video contest, where students are challenged to submit a video of up to 2 minutes  that answers the following question:

  • Why is your education important to fulfilling your dreams?

My guess is that for many students this will be a challenging question to answer.  On the surface, and for many, the most obvious answers will come quickly:  so I can get a job, go to college, make lots of money.  But underlying this question is a bigger, deeper question asking our children to think about their dreams?   If they could do anything, be anything, what is it they would be?  What would they want to do?  Tough stuff.

I think this is a great project to kick-off the new school year.  It is a nice way as teachers to learn more about your students and what inspires them.  I recall doing short questionnaires of students which were insightful, but had I asked them to make a video I wonder what I might have learned?  

Students will love to use their digital video cameras, camera/video phones or if your school has video cameras they can checkout they can create their personal masterpiece!   This project will give them a chance to concept, develop and create a finished product about a topic all students know and love:  themselves.  Not to mention the opportunity to produce their video as a class assignment!  A direct application of those 21st century skills we talk so much about:  creativity and innovation, critical-thinking, and being a responsible digital citizen.

Seems like a great time to introduce a mind mapping or brainstorming activity to help students generate and connect their ideas. A good skill for students to develop and there is some great software that can help with this.  Two products that will help with this:  1) Mind Mapper and 2) Cmap Tools.  Both take slightly different approaches to the same idea, that is, helping to generate and link ideas or concepts to form a bigger more complete picture around an idea, concept or essential question.  Mind Mapper offers a free trial download that works with Microsoft Office (adds in as a ribbon in Office 2007) and Cmap Tools is a free application.   These might be good tools to checkout to kick-off this project.

I blogged about a week or so ago that Microsoft has released a new version of Windows Live Movie Maker (works with Vista and Windows 7).  One of the key features of this release is its integrated sharing feature for YouTube (all contest submissions need to be posted there).   I also included in this post a couple of good links to help with video creation.   If you're using Windows XP there are a number of good resources here for using Movie Maker.

If you decide to have students participate in this contest as a class project, it would be great to hear your ideas about how you're using this project in class?  How you might tie this into other work or projects you are doing?   It would also be fun to see some video submissions from your students. Please post some links here to your student work.

Good luck to all with this, a fun time to be a student (and a teacher)!

Regards,

Rob

Rob Bayuk

K-20 Educator Marketing Manager, Microsoft