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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

DPS Making Progress

I looked at the new DPS website last week as I was updating links. There is a new look (blog-like appearance), and it is nice to see we are trying to be less static (i.e. boring). We have 5 videos on our home page. I recognize our own Mrs. Johnson narrating in most of the videos. It is refreshing, and perhaps we may be moving forward in our use of technology for communication.

I've said it so many times I tell myself to shut up, but "It's not about the technology. It is about what the technology allows us to do." The movies are embedded in a flash file, and we probably paid a lot of money to have them edited, not knowing how easy it is to do. We are storing the files on servers we pay for, I'm sure. But we are getting closer. The tough jump will be when we allow our students to create videos and put them online to demonstrate their understanding of curriculum requirements. We've had enough static communication methodology (essays, powerpoints, and posterboards). There is nothing special about shooting video. There is nothing difficult in editing video (iMovie for the Mac and Movie Maker for Windows), the only thing that is difficult is time. Students will take the time for this kind of work...I know first hand.

For this shift to happen, our system must:
  • get beyond the idea that the only way to assess students is through tests and paper-based products. This is a teacher training not associated with UbD.
  • provide video editing labs that include digital cameras, computer hardware, and instruction for the students. Instruction won't take long to learn. It's not necessary to master video production, just some simple concepts. It's not Hollywood.
  • and the difficult part...a change in policy! We currently "lead" with fear when it comes to the online world. We are either afraid of content online, or afraid our network can't handle the load. We block all streaming media sites because of the strain on the network. Dozens of free storage sites exist for video files, but they are blocked due to content fear. Or will it be okay for some to provide video but not for others?
We are moving in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go just to catch up. We still need our students writing and producing for a world audience in blogs, and not just completing fill-in-the-blank worksheets their teachers. We still need teachers collaborating online through wikis (a service our tech department was unfamiliar with when I mentioned it in a meeting this month - they thought wikipedia, and how bad it was - ay caramba) instead of creating islands of individualism. Blogs, wikis, Google video - all FREE, yet untapped as an educational tool that will and does engage students when the teachers understand that it is not about the technology, but what the technology can allow their students to do.

We need to quit making excuses as to why our computers and their security is more important that our students and their ability to function in the future.

It's good to see the Central Office videos, I just wish we could see our Media Center student booktalks on school computers. We have had over 2500 hits on Google Video, and under 10 have come from inside the school system (on school-based computers). Our audience is big, and the students are getting more concerned about content quality. If it is about the word I abhor - engagement - then our student booktalkers are -- engaged, reading, writing, and learning.

So congratulations to the CO for adding a modern element to their web page. I hope they have the signed permission forms from the parents of the students in the videos as is our system policy :^).

It's not about the technology, it's what the technology allows you to do.

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