Practical Application

Posted by on May 29, 2009


I might be wrong on this.  Feel free to posit your opinion and help me figure out what needs figuring.

There is a philosophy of technology in education that says we should afford students the chance to interact and explore specific technology experiences to ensure exposure to the technology.  Let me give you an example.

A program could be established at a school allowing all students at all grade levels in the building to engage in a short unit on digital video editing.  The unit would be done for the sake of exposing students to the process and skills of digital video editing as many of them may have cause to use those skills in a future class or occasion where they would employ the learned skills.  We also want to expose as many students as possible to the process as it may spark an inert interest and fan it into a full flame of passion for the experience, and thus, give cause for the said student to pursue a career in the field of video editing.  We also want to make sure all students in the building have the opportunity to have a common experience and exposure, so we’d make sure we work the video editing unit into a rotation outside the general classroom to ensure all students have the experience.  If we left it up to the general education teachers, it may well be that some students wouldn’t have the experience as their teachers may not be comfortable with the technology, or have the time, and thus not choose to do a digital video editing experience embedded in their class.

So the philosophy is to have all students work with digital video editing outside the general classroom to give them exposure and skills for the future.

Frankly, I don’t agree with this philosophy.  This is where I could be wrong.

I believe we should work to create both an opportunity and cause for teachers to have access to the necessary environment where they use the digital video editing as a means to engage students in embedded learning.  Allow an english teacher to dynamically engage literacy by creating a lesson that utilizes this technology.  Allow science students to demonstrate scientific principles by creating a video representation of a concept of study.  Allow foreign language students to produce a video entirely in the language they are learning.

I believe if we isolate the experience for the sake of affording the experience, we’ve made it solely about the experience and not the learning.  Yes, digital video editing is rife with opportunities for learning, but wouldn’t those opportunities be magnified when coupled with specific curricular goals?

To me, the former feels like the “just in case” model we’ve been trying to move away from for a long time.  The problem is, if we use the “just in time” of the latter, some students may well not get the experience.  But, is that a problem?  Do we think every student needs this experience?

Personally, I think we want the latter.  This is the epitome of my philosophy of technology.  My philosophy has been disagreed with as of late, and I’m wondering if I’m wrong.

Am I?

Thanks to BAMCAT for the Flickr image.


  1. Doug Belshaw
    May 29, 2009

    You are, of course, correct, Ben. In the UK we have ICT as a discrete subject. Everyone knows it should be taught in an embedded way across the curriculum, but it’s not in 99% of schools.

    Why? The teachers haven’t got the skills. It’s as simple and as unfortunate as that. 🙁

  2. Chris Craft
    May 29, 2009

    It’s perfectly ok to learn a skill before you need it.

    In fact, if you learn it ahead of time, it becomes easier to leverage that skill when you do need it, since there’s a lesser load on the working memory.

    Think of it like tools in a toolbox. When one has a number of tools in the toolbox, *and* one knows what they are and the basics of how to use it, it becomes easier to use that tool when one needs it.


  3. Steven Katz
    May 29, 2009

    I think you are right on the money Ben. Students should not be doing technology for the sake of technology, but to support the curricular objectives. There is plenty of room for video editing in core classes. For years I have integrated student video projects in my core classes (history & English). Yes, it can be time consuming, but the learning is incredible. I think I make a good case for this in my book, Teach With Video. Take a look at some of my students’ projects and I think my point will be made.

  4. Jon Orech
    May 29, 2009

    How about blending it: Teach the mechanics outside of class, and apply and embed in the class.

  5. Roger Neilson
    May 29, 2009

    Hmmm, when did we best learn, when were we most effective in absorbing learning? When we played as kids and acquired stuff in a random and serendipitous manner.

    When did we learn most measurably? In school, but does the learning compare?

    What’s the best learning? When its for a purpose, but its fun…….

  6. mr_steve
    May 29, 2009

    You’re not wrong. I understand exactly where you’re coming from – especially since exposing kids to something like film making is a particular passion of mine.

    The just in case model suffers from a disconnect from content areas. What you are proposing, a blending rather than an add-on, would require some collaborative planning and teaching from the regular classroom teacher and the ,for lack of a better phrase, tech specialist.

    This removes the burden of learning a new technology from the classroom teacher. It creates an opportutnity for a content area specialist and a media specialist to talk about what outcomes (i.e. skills and knowledge) the students need to get out of this “new” type of lesson.

    Really it’s not a new idea, it’s just bringing in a new instructional output into the classroom. When teachers need to teach students how to write a 5 paragraph essay they don’t put them out into another class with a writing expert to teach them that – it’s done in the classroom and hopefully in the context of the content of a topic they are studying. The same should go for blogs, wikis, podcasts, videos, etc.

    However, since these new formats are not part of the some teachers instructional vocabulary they are treated as outsiders and not validated as authentic products to demonstrate student mastery of content and skills.

  7. Sandra McGonagle
    May 29, 2009

    To me this becomes an issue of equity and varies by school sites, even within a district. I certainly see both points of view: teaching a skill and focusing on the learning. I see a major problem when one student spends all of middle school (6-8) in a 1 to 1 EETT classroom thanks to the randomness of the SIS system and another student gets an occasional trip to the lab to do “projects” for three years. Technology integration and Ed Tech needs to be a part of the scheduling, site professional development, school vision, and instructional design. Yes, I believe it needs to be meaningful, but it also needs to be equitable.


  8. Nadine Norris
    May 29, 2009

    I would be thrilled to have all the students exposed to movie making. Although I always agree with you in terms of embedded curriculum when learning to use technology as a tool for creativity and communication, I know that video creation can be a complex process. If done correctly, the students need time to carefully plan their script, create a storyboard, learn how to line up shots, and have plenty of time to re-shoot or add effects to sections. I’ve been involved in lots of video projects and you are correct – telling a story in video fits in to every content area. I just finished a project with the English teacher, and although the videos were an awesome way to enhance his unit on literary elements, it took several days (naturally…more than he had planned.) In addition, even though iMovie is extremely user friendly, the kids still needed lots of support at first. I think I might go with Chris on this one. Video production would be a great tool to learn just in case teachers want to allow their students the opportunity to create a video to demonstrate what they’ve learned – which they are more inclined to do when they know the students are experienced.

  9. Heather Mason
    May 29, 2009

    Why can’t both be used? When I try to use a new technology (like video editing) part of the classtime is spent teaching the program instead of discussing the lesson or task at hand. Most students that I teach are unfamiliar with any type of technology outside of wordprocessing and texting. If students were already exposed to either the program, the vocabulary used or the types of tasks required in a class outside of mine, my lessons would be more efficient. I could get right down to the activity at hand without so much background work.

  10. Greg Casperson
    May 29, 2009

    You are right even though its just not happening in many places yet. I used to teach the middle school tech class required of everyone before I went back to get my PhD. But I was only 1 of about 4 teachers who taught this as one of their spare sections. I argued exactly for changing it so that we’d have a full time tech person who could take care of the computer lab and then help coteach with regular classroom teachers to meaningfully integrate technology into their class. It was fought on both cost and the fact it would be too difficult for most regular classroom teachers to integrate. I think it comes down to the money and time for extra planning though, at least in our state where budgets have been tightening yearly.

    At Michigan State where I’m pursuing my degree in Ed Psych and Ed Tech, two professors I work with have developed and been distributing the framework they’ve adapted called TPACK, to help educators focus on integrating technology, pedagogy and content knowledge. It is starting to gain some traction in the academic world and many of us use it to help guide in our teaching of preservice teachers and those working on their MAs.

  11. Jeanne
    May 29, 2009

    I have always felt that the best way for a student to become engaged and excited at the same time is to embed, mix, infuse technology into the currculum. The student will learn more hands on as they work toward a goal other than “hey I know how to do such and such”…think of it as teachable moment after teachable moment. Unfortunately as schools first began this trek into students and technology use it was done with teachers that were as unskilled as the students and in many cases unsure they wanted to even take that step themselves. When you toss in budget woes things just became even more mirky. I do know that we are making some changes at our elementary level next year that we hope will be a step toward infusion and seamless use. So I’m already looking forward to next year.

  12. Greg Casperson
    May 30, 2009

    Sorry, made a mistake on the TPACK link. This is corrected one.

  13. wmchamberlain
    June 2, 2009

    Maybe a better question would be, “When would a student be more likely to learn to video edit, when he is learning it in case he needs to use it or when he needs to learn it to create his own content?”

    @Chris I agree with you in theory, but who has time to teach “just in case” skills? If you think it is an important skill you should be able to incorporate its learning using the content you teach in your classroom.

  14. John in NC
    August 13, 2009

    Reluctant teachers need to hear from colleagues they trust or quickly connect to that the technology-infused teaching activity, whatever it is, makes a difference in their own effectiveness and their students’ depth of learning. That’s the breakthrough strategy… it’s slower, needs regular reinforcement and school systems seldom have the will or the $$ or both to carry it out. But it works.


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