Surprise, Surprise

This is just a short follow-up post.  I am hoping to write a longer post this weekend….

In my last post, I left off writing that I wasn’t sure what exactly I would receive from my students when they turned in their first iMovie projects ever on Monday.  Based on what I witnessed in class last week, I felt sure these movies would fall into the genre of disaster films…and not in a good way.  But like those Hollywood movies where some hero inevitably comes along to save the day at the last possible moment, my students apparently swooped in over the weekend and saved themselves (and their grades :)).  The movies were actually quite good for the first time out, with only one having any serious technical issues.

Despite the fact that they turned out much better than expected, we still had our chat about preparation and wise use of time.  Most admitted sheepishly that they waited to watch my tutorials until the last moment, fixing their movies after making numerous mistakes along the way that could have been avoided.  Most also admitted that they did not use their class time fully, requiring more work outside of class than was necessary. I have no doubt that some will fall into the same pits the next time we do a project like this, but my hope is that one or two have learned their lesson.  Time will tell.

Today, we watched the iMovies in class, and I was surprised for a second time.  The students, who had seemed a little indifferent to the project last week, wanted to share their iMovies and wanted to see each other’s as well. In fact, I hadn’t planned to show them today, but I had so many requests that we took the last half of class to share the videos.  You could tell that they were both a little proud of their work and a little nervous about sharing.

Watching the students watch their movies made me remember that sometimes apathy can serve as a mask or a disguise to protect a student.  Sometimes that indifferent attitude is only skin deep.  This will be the subject of my next longer post.  Stay tuned.





Like Fish Flopping on Dry Land

During the last 3 days of school, I nearly bit through my tongue on more than one occasion as I tried desperately to remain silent rather than intervene with my students.  My U.S. history students were tasked with their first iMovie project ever (at least for 95% of them), and it has been a struggle to say the least.  Often, however, as is so often the case, that struggle has been of my students’ own making.

You see, I knew that the vast majority of the students had never made an iMovie before, so I created short tutorials on exactly how to make the most basic of iMovies (which is all I was after) and posted those tutorials on my Haiku page.  When I say “exactly,” I mean exactly.  I walked them through the program from start to finish, telling them the order to do each step, telling them which button to click when, and on and on.  I then told the students where to find those tutorials and advised them as strongly as I could to actually, you know, watch the tutorials before beginning their iMovie.  How many would you guess took me up on that offer?  Based on everything I’ve seen and heard over the last two days, the answer would seem to be not many, with some students admitting as much to me already.

In addition to the time that often gets wasted by students working on group projects, the amount of time that has been wasted in my classroom by students trying to figure out things that they would have known how to do simply by watching a 15-minute tutorial has been truly amazing.  And my job in this particular case, I decided, was to remain silent as I watched them flop around like fish on dry land.  It’s been hard on me and hard on them.  I have gone home more exhausted from NOT saying anything than I would have been had I run around the room correcting each group all day long.  For their part, I know, they feel like I did not help them, that I left them high and dry, and the frustration was in some cases quite palpable.

The end products that I am likely to receive on Monday will more than likely be “un-grade-able,” at least with regards to the rubric that I’d originally given them.  And at first, this added to my frustration about the whole thing.  I know that I did my part in preparing them via the tutorials, my directions, and the rubric; why couldn’t the students do theirs, I wondered.

Well, I’ve decided to change my mindset.  On Monday, as they turn in who knows what to me, I am going to ask them to take a short, anonymous, reflective survey about the experience.  I am going to ask them questions like Did you watch the tutorial videos in their entirety before coming to class as Ms. Lamberti suggested?  If they are honest with themselves, most should be responding with a resounding no.  I am going to take time out of my class to talk to them about what they found frustrating and why, and hopefully, I will be able to get them to do a tiny, tiny bit of self-reflection so that the next time we do a new kind of project they can learn from the mistakes they made this time.  And I know I need to explain to them why I didn’t help them more than I did so that they understand it wasn’t because I didn’t want to do so or because I’m just “mean.”

I don’t know exactly how much history my students learned from this whole exercise.  In all honesty, probably not much.  I suppose I have to take comfort in the fact that, whether they realize it or not, and whether they apply them right away or not, they did learn other important lessons.  Time management, problem solving, communication with their peers, and preparation are all important tools to have in one’s toolbox.  Did they need to learn how to wield these tools the hard way?  Maybe and maybe not.  Maybe there is no other way.