An integral part of the ds106 course that I’m taking at the moment is that participants are encouraged, even expected, to submit their own ideas for assignments. Rather than just wait around for the instructor to hand us our next batch of digital storytelling assignments, the students are welcome to create their own idea for a way to express themselves through various digital media, and then post the assignment for others to complete if they see fit. The notion then is that from the ever growing collection of assignments, present and future participants of the course have the ability to choose an assignment that still meets the definition of a digital story, yet might be better suited to their own individual tastes and/or strengths with technology.
Besides that fact that I’m actually starting to get the hang of Photoshop thanks to some very awesome student-submitted design assignments, I love this model of teaching and learning, and have always endorsed it in my classroom. I’ve always had a VERY healthy respect for Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, as I feel all seasoned educators should, and I always try to incorporate the acknowledgement that different people simply have different ways of processing new information regardless of whether you agree with Gardner’s strict definitions of the learning styles. As a result, most of the large projects in my classes were always a choice; throughout a unit or semester students would perform smaller tasks or projects, often being required to complete specific types of assignments.
For example, all of the 4th graders at one point during the year would have to create a podcast, then complete a visual assignment, and eventually work with some simple written project using a word processor. When they became 5th graders, I would give them more free reign, since they had already experienced different ways to express themselves. For my big E-Waste project, I gave them the choice of creating either a commercial, a website, or a poster as their finished project, and while I didn’t have many takers on the commercial, all the students were still held to the same rubric that focused on imparting information, forming a cohesive argument, and a number of other standards for publishing and writing to persuade.
It was very refreshing for my students to be able to pick how they wanted to express themselves, and allowed for me to focus on their presentation skills (which was another rubric they had to pay attention to), and still cover the standards I needed to (in this case, the Michigan Education Technology Standards), and have fun all at the same time.
Choice is powerful. Throw in the opportunity for students to create something all about themselves, like this “what’s inside me” poster, and you have a potent opportunity for excellent learning. I created this poster based on Wired Magazine’s “what’s inside” regular feature, in which a common household or consumer product is explored by examining it’s constituent parts. Recent examples include all of the ingredients in kitty chow, and red bull. It’s a very enlightening feature, as you learn about all sorts of nasty things that companies put into consumer products (did you know that Colgate whitening toothpaste contains lye?!). I took a bit more tongue and cheek approach, as it would fit better for students having to introduce themselves at the beginning of a term, or perhaps used as a reflection tool for how they’ve grown at the end of a term. Either way, don’t feel intimidated by creating something like this! If you don’t have Photoshop skills (and I have very little), try using a word processor, copy and paste some images, insert a picture of yourself, and then use text boxes to be more flexible with the content.
I’d love to see “what’s inside” some of my regular readers….but please, keep it K-12 safe 🙂