Sunday, October 30, 2011

Digital Anne Frank Museum Final Thoughts

Previously, I wrote about the process behind converting my Anne Frank Museum project into a Digital Anne Frank Museum. This is my follow up post to let you know how it went.

Here is where you can find the Digital Anne Frank Museum final product. Overall, I was pleased with the outcome of the project.

Creativity: I didn't specify the technology that needed to be used in order to encourage the creative use of technology. I was pleased to see some impressive projects I myself would have never thought of. Two students created the Annex residents in Sims 3 and then recorded some of their daily interactions. Two other students used Minecraft to build a model of the Annex. I am familiar with both of these programs, but would not have thought of tying them in with Anne Frank. Two groups used Glogster and one took those Glogsters and embedded them into webpages without any help from me.

Content: I felt the students did a good jo of showing understanding of content. Only one project, although very creative and artistic, failed to show a solid understanding of the book. I use the project in lieu of a test to assess understanding. It appears the majority of the students came away with a firm grasp of what Anne Frank is all about. However, I don't just want content understanding, but also a clear understanding of the significance of the book. In my opinion, that was achieved.

Death to Powerpoint: Like I said, I didn't specify technology as to allow creative uses. However, I strongly considered banning Powerpoints. Forty percent of my projects were Powerpoints. All of them had good content, but just weren't very original. Also, all of them had a technical issue the students couldn't solve. Some didn't get their fonts or images to appear as planned. Others couldn't get their audio to work correctly. I would say that this was my biggest disappointed. I encourage them to use Google Presentations (this was prior to the recent Google Presentation upgrade), Slide Rocket, Keynote or some other presentation tool. I, personally, can't remember seeing a good Powerpoint presentation, or actually any Powerpoint presentation at many of the conferences I've attended over the past few years. I've been to NCTE, ISTE, and a few smaller conferences and just don't see it. Maybe its my personal bias, but Powerpoints always looked dated and cluttered to me. Recently, I saw on YouTube Adam Bellow giving his Tech Commandments at the 140 conference. The MC implied Adam used Powerpoint for his presentation. I was surprised how good it was and didn't think Powerpoint could do many of the things he did. However, I asked Adam what he used and apparently he used Keynote '09 for his presentation. I assume the introducer was using Powerpoint as a generic term, like Kleenex.

Another teacher at my school recently assigned a Powerpoint specifically (even though we are a Google Apps school). I believe that is a lot of the problem. Too many teachers are still assigning Powerpoints, making students believe making a Powerpoint is an important skill. Presentation skills are important, the ability to make content presentable is important, but the actual Powerpoint program, I believe is counter-productive to that goal. Feel free to disagree and send me wonderfully produced Powerpoints that prove me wrong. I just haven't seen them.

Classroom iPad: We have a classroom iPad2 that the students share. I was hoping to see some students use it for something extremely creative. About halfway through the project, I had one group that was having difficulty with getting video to a mac to edit. Since the iPad has iMovie on it, I suggested they record video with it and edit on it. They got all the video complete and did some work in iMovie, but ended up exporting it and editing on a Macbook in iMovie because that is what they were familiar with. One other student used it to search for images for his Powerpoint. Oddly enough, he moved the images to his Google Docs account, so he could work on his Powerpoint at home. Disappointingly, other than that, no one came up with a creative use for the iPad on this project. At the point, students still see the iPad as media consumption only and are not seeing the production capabilities it has as well.

Overall, it turned out to be a good project that I will continue into the future. Some of my disappoints will require a cultural shift in thinking, not only amongst the kids, but also other staff members. Small steps I guess. Small steps.

Feel free to let me know what you think of the project.

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