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Reinvesting student knowledge, thanks to YouTube

April 12, 2013

Photo on 2013-04-12 at 4.28 PM #4

Being the only Music teacher in my High School, I have the incredibly wonderful opportunity to teach most of my students for five years in a row. Just imagine the relationships we develop! When they come to me at first, they are barely 12 yo; they ask a million questions, they are enthusiastic about almost project you throw at them and they speak in funny voices to make each other laugh… When they graduate, they want to show off all that they think they know, they are legally allowed to drive a car and their eyes light up when you introduce them to the younger ones as a ‘friend’… Our kids (and I tell them on the very first day of the very first school year that they come into my class: “From today onward, you are mine. You always will be whether you like it or not! So be careful, I’m never very far away. You can count on that!”) move on to college or get a full time job, and when they do, they take five years of musical experience with them, never to be heard again. What a waste! But what if they were given the opportunity to either give back a little of what they have learned, or ‘pay forward’ to the next generation coming into school?

This all started because of Marc Prensky. Again. He recently tweeted: “Thinking with your students about how to use technology powerfully for learning can be more educational for kids than actually using it.” This got me thinking: “Why am I trying to decide everything myself? Why not extend the creative process and let the students choose the means and the content?” So I planted this proverbial seed last week and am watching it grow. I spoke to my graduating Music class (but the process could easily be applied to most subjects) about all the good times we had shared so far, the things we had learned together and the experience they had acquired. I spoke to them about the concepts of sharing and of leaving some form of legacy. I asked them to think about the many ways of collaborating and learning available to us today compared to when they first came into my classroom. Then, once all of these were present in their mind, I asked them to start reflecting on how they could use the tools of today to share a bit of what they had learned these past five years with the generations of tomorrow.

I also asked them not to answer right away; just to ponder. The seed had been planted.

Of course, as I am writing this it’s mid-April, which in Music teacher speak means that I am in ‘preparing the end of year concert’ mode. Translated into normal human language, this means that for the next few weeks we will be rehearsing songs over and over again, determining who gets to improvise when and where (because if I let every student who wishes to solo at the concert do so in each song, we’ll still be listening to them play well after midnight!), ordering, receiving and distributing band shirts, preparing the program and tickets, finding volunteers… There is no chance in hell that we can take time out of our schedule to leave a legacy behind. But that’s OK; that’s why I planted the seed now: so it will have time to grow. In just a few weeks, the concert will be over but I will still have about 6 hours of class time to kill before the school year is over. Perfect!

Now, I know that I wrote that I want to “extend the creative process and let the students choose the means and the content” (such a strange feeling to quote oneself…). But on May 15th, the day after the show, when we all sit down on the floor in a what a geometrically challenged or very creative person might consider a circle, I want to be prepared! Unbeknown to my students, I already have a few ideas of my own! My favorite one so far involves my creating a dedicated YouTube channel to upload videos that they will create. Students in groups of 2 or 3, iPad (or other device) in hand, will choose a topic they would have liked someone to go over with them at home when they were still learning the basics. Could be as simple as ‘how to play a certain scale on the saxophone’, or something more personal like: “When I started playing, I always had this problem. Nothing I tried seemed to work until I finally figured this out!”. I’m really looking forward to hearing about what they want to share! Imagine the database of peer created knowledge, skills and advice we might accumulate in just a few years? Of course, now I need to learn how to create a YouTube channel… But I’m sure I’ll manage. I’m lucky enough to have a great EdTech school board consultant who is always just a ‘tweet’ away when I get overexcited about something and I’m not sure where to start! (shout out to you, @TaniaAvrith!)

I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes, and maybe even post a link to a few of those videos! And if anyone feels like trying any of these ideas out, please do so and let me know how it went. Tweet me @stephanecrete, or just leave a comment at the bottom of this article!

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