We of the edbloggosphere have bemoaned the snailâ€™s pace progress in educational change. One of the issues I believe is that kids are perceived by society as only having the potential to contribute to society sometime in the future. If kids were appreciated for what they can contribute now, and that â€œcontributionâ€ was valued by society, perhaps society would be more willing to â€œinvestâ€ more substantially in them at an earlier age. One of the transformative aspects of technology is that it allows students to produce finished products that others have access to and can use: Other students, other members of the local community and members of the global community.
Too often Iâ€™m afraid, kids are seen as sponges sucking up resources while at the same time being responsible for being noisy, tagging, rude, shoplifting, littering â€¦ you get the idea. Letâ€™s get kids on the news because they are doing uplifting, valuable things.
I try to have my students participate in at least one project a year that is tied to standards, but also provides a service or function for the community at large. We have made a web page for a non-profit animal park (if you want to pull at peoplesâ€™ heartstrings what could be better? A project involving little kids and defenseless animals, many of which are cute), made curriculum based videos downloadable on the internet, made a public service announcement about diversity and a video about bullying and getting along, and more.
Each of these projects has been huge curriculum and learning wise â€“ research, writing, learning about technology by using it, talking to experts in emails and in person as guest speakers â€¦ you can fill in the rest.
But one easily overlooked aspect of these projects is that they live and breathe. All of our video projects are still downloadable on the web, and they are downloaded on average 30 times per month. Our â€œDonâ€™t Laugh At Meâ€ video is downloaded hundreds of times per month off our web site and it is also available on Apple Computerâ€™s web site.
Past students come back to visit me from time to time and they always mention how they still watch the video they were part of (I had a former student who is 19 now come see me this week, he is the first person in his family EVER to graduate 6th grade, he has now graduated high school and has been accepted at a culinary school which will be paid for by the restaurant where he works. The first thing he mentioned was the Animal Ark web page he worked on, which unfortunately was recently taken down, mostly because after 7 years Animal Ark has their own professionally made site).
So the educational value for students is obvious, but what if student work filled some of the many needs of society. What if the taxes we pay that go to education had a payback (besides a well educated public, like that isnâ€™t enough, right?) for society? If kids were seen as contributors to society NOW, perhaps taxpayers would be more willing to invest in them NOW.
To me it makes sense anyhow. Learning by doing real work, not work that gets tossed or put in a drawer, but work that is utilized by its producers and the world at large just seems totally appropriate. Hard work is used instead of tossed. Needs are met. Kids are given productive things to do that use what theyâ€™ve learned and contribute to their learning. Think of it as â€œThe Peace Corp for kids.â€ Imagine kids being able to show up for their college interview or a job interview with a portfolio of the projects theyâ€™ve worked on over the years.
What better way to showcase our students and the power of project-based, problem-based learning, supported by technology and Web 2.0 applications than community service projects?
So teachers and students, look around locally and globally and find inspiration for projects (using tech or not, but I bet they usually will) that fit what you are supposed to be learning in science and social studies and whatever, and make the world a better place while bettering yourself and your students at the same time.
That is the best â€œMessy Learningâ€ I can imagine.