Suffern Middle School in Virtual Worlds

A running account of the process of the proposal, acquisition, development and integration of a virtual presence for education at Suffern Middle School, Suffern, New York, USA.

Suffern Middle School in Virtual Worlds

THE NET GENERATION EDUCATION PROJECT: No Future Left Behind

March 4, 2009 · No Comments · Musings

Here it is — a true labor of love! When I was asked to Keynote this event, I simply asked Vicki Davis if it mightn’t be a better idea to have the kids create the keynote? (note to self – be careful what you pray for!) My Tech Club took up the challenge. I outlined the project and showed them Wikinomics and Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott. Then we watched his video, The Dumbest Generation, and that really got them talking! I started writing everything they said on the Promethean board–and prompted them with things like “You sound angry – are you? What would you change? How would it look? As the kids brainstormed the script – and that is a post unto itself… I kept taking them out to resources like the Net Generation Education Project Website, at Don Tapscott’s video about education and then we went out to You Tube to look at some others. We looked at other videos about education in Canada- and about 21st century learning. They had already seen videos from Mike Wesch and offshoots- and they were already pretty well versed in discussions of this nature – After all, they are my pilot audience whenever I have to create a presentation – and they always tell me straight when something is off.

I might also add that I spent a great deal of time with Bernajean Porter and after watching her coach my kids last year and attending her storytelling camp last summer, I had learned quite a few skills to really coach kids to get to the heart of the story – or the message in this case. Echoing back to them what I heard them say – would get them to revise it – fine tune it and make it clear and hopefully powerful. It was really easy for them to generate a list of “complaints” and to talk about what they didn’t like but I kept reminding them that we needed to be part of the solution. So when they contributed something I would ask what the solution might look like – and we’d do some word play with it – That prompting seemed to get them on track with some of the positive comments. At one point I remember saying, “this reads like you think that your teachers wake up in the morning and start thinking of ways to make your life miserable!” What’s the flip side? — What are the teachers dealing with?

Then we started the arduous task of filming. The script was in a “rough cut” sequence and every student recorded every line. Hours were spent in the TV studio where we all learned quite a bit about filming, lighting, sound, etc.. and if you knew what landed on the “cutting room floor” (or, in this case, the trash bin in iMovie!) it would amaze you. The whole “future simile” section got wiped – (*the future is like a ball rolling down a hill- if you don’t grab it right away you might never catch up” – ” “the classroom shows us yesterday but the computer shows us the future” “the future is a bright white light shining outside” and many many more just didn’t make it into the script we ended up with because we just couldn’t fit it all in. We were aiming at 3 minutes and were already way past that. The creativity of my students amazed me! The kids started to ad lib- and I let them. “School should be more like a game…” was an ad lib— But, as always, we were under an enormous time crunch (and I take full responsibility for that as I had NO idea how time-consuming the process would be-duh!) so we had to keep it as simple and as “uncluttered” as possible. This was probably a blessing in disguise as I feel we would have ended up with a full length epic had we not had a deadline.

Then it was time to start the editing and we solicited the remarkable talent of Marianne Malmstrom- you may know her as the rainbow-winged samaritan in Second Life, “Knowclue Kidd”. We started chopping up the raw footage until we had every line grouped and listed in an excel sheet. We starting pulling them in and moving them around – trying to make sure that reach student was represented and that the stronger lines were used repeatedly. The kids wanted their Second Life footage used as well and always up for a challenge, Knowclue started inserting the machinima that her students at The Elisabeth Morrow School had filmed in Quest Atlantis and coached my kids in Second Life to film theirs. Putting it all together came down to (and slightly past) the wire. A snow day came to our rescue and we were able to devote some uninterrupted hours editing, and filming last minute footage with my kids logged into Ramapo Islands on their “day off”. Finally, we added original music, “Harpsicord” created by a former Suffern Middle School student, Larry Bordowitz.  Seeing the power of their film, and their message,  the kids are already asking to start a new video-this time about Second Life and video games!

The Net Generation wiki cn be found at: http://netgened.wikispaces.com

Most importantly, the kids reported feeling empowered, and that they had stayed true to their original message: The future belongs to them – and we are charged with the grave responsibility of getting them prepared for it.

Thanks to all of those who take up the torch each day—you know who you are! Keep the fire burning!

No Future Left Behind

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