Feb 08

Inspiration

Since the school year is now officially at the halfway mark, and we have a few months to wait before our next big break, here’s a little something to cheer you up…

Now that you’ve watched the video, let’s discuss its purpose. I created this video for two specific reasons:

1. I wanted to create something that would make you smile and laugh. At the same time, I wanted you to realize that your hard work has not gone unnoticed. Thank you for the countless hours that you spend creating exciting and engaging lessons for your students and preparing your students for the real world.

2. Secondly, I wanted to reinforce the importance of 21st century skills. I decided to document my thinking process and the work that went into this project in order to demonstrate the importance of 21st century skills and reinforce how essential it is for students to practice these skills in preparation for their future.

Where does inspiration come from?

In this day and age, standardized tests require teachers to align specific content goals with their lessons, but the purpose of a lesson is more than just teaching the required curriculum. In order for a lesson or activity to truly engage students in a meaningful manner, students must make a connection between the curriculum and their everyday lives. Even lessons with the most worthwhile purposes in the world fall on deaf ears and fail to engage our students if this relationship is not established from the start.

Before reading any further, please make sure you have watched the video at the top of this post. Did you make some sort of connection with this video? Did it seem familiar to you at all? Did it engage you and you can’t figure out why? If so, maybe this will explain it…

Now do you see the connection?

Making a connection to the real world is sometimes as easy as bringing pop culture references in your explanations of topics or having student interests guide their specific project topics, but sometimes it’s not that simple. However, the best way to make this connection is to be constantly aware of your surroundings and thinking to yourself, “How can I use this in my classroom?” When we are on a constant look-out for material that we can use in our classroom to engage our students and to explain phenomenon, we become more aware of what is actually important and how we can guide our students to develop that same awareness.

The importance of 21st century skills

21st century skills are an integral part of any profession and should be taught to our students in order to prepare them for the future. Although students may not need to know the dates of World War I when they are forty years old and working for a company, they will definitely be required to communicate and collaborate, complete research on a variety of topics, and use their problem solving skills to create and display creative solutions to common problems. As a testament to these skills being necessary, just think about how this small project that I undertook required an understanding and implementation of these skills.

Research and Information Fluency:

In order to complete this project I had to…

  • Create research questions in order to locate specific information that I would need to finish my project. I needed to know how to sift through and evaluate the massive amount of information located on the Internet in order to find the original Chrysler commercial and the script for the commercial. This information was essential so that I could emulate the video as closely as possible in order to make it more engaging and relatable to the audience.
  • Evaluate a large amount of information (in this case – digital footage) in order to determine what footage carried the correct message.
  • Research solutions to problems I had with audio and video files while using Windows Moviemaker, and my particular video camera.

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving:

In order to complete this project I had to…

  • Apply digital tools to solve open-ended authentic tasks. I had to decide how to thank you all for a job well done and how to continue to press the importance of 21st century skills.
  • Justify my decision-making in terms of deciding to spend several hours of my work week on this project. I had to decide how this project related to my job, and how it could be used to support my message.

Communication and Collaboration:

In order to complete this project I had to…

  • Communicate and collaborate with “experts” in a variety of fields to make the video, despite physical boundaries. I contacted a variety of people through email in order to make this product as effective as possible. Several English teachers or former English teachers provided constructive comments on the format and clarity of the written script through a collaborative GoogleDoc. Scott, our resident expert in film technology, provided the necessary support for filming and video construction (and provided an excellent Clint Eastwood imitation as well!). Finally, several other ITRTs helped in the planning stages of this project in order to ensure that the message of 21st century skills was clear and resounding within the video.

Creativity and Innovation:

In order to create this project I had to…

  • Synthesize a large amount of information in order to create a new product that would inspire teachers and reinforce the message of 21st century skills.
  • Engage in strategic risk-taking.The process of which I am currently going through, exposing my thought process to the entire staff, is a strategic risk. I hope by modeling my thought process in using our surroundings to inspire our teaching, it might seem easier for others. But who knows –  someone may not like it!
  • Reflect about my own creative process. There are a number of digital tools that I was unfamiliar with, but I experimented with them during this project anyway. Because I put myself on such a tight deadline for the project, I ended up not using these new tools, even though I thought they might do the job better. I realize that I need to branch out from my comfort zone of tools I’ve used for years, and I will strive to use a variety of new software applications the next time I create something similar to this.

As a side note – For those who say creativity is something that can’t be taught, please take me as an example that it can be. I would hesitate to call myself a creative person. I rarely develop new ideas on my own. Instead, through thought and reflection, I constantly analyze other people’s ideas and how they can be improved or implemented in a different manner. The original idea for this video was not mine, but instead came from an ITRT colleague (Thanks Joy!).

This ability to reflect and analyze is not something  I was born with, and similarly, most of our students do not have this innate ability either. Instead, I was TAUGHT how to reflect, improve, and improvise by my teachers throughout my educational career. And I am still being taught how to be creative every single day. My conversations with you all, my colleagues, help me to increasingly improve upon these skills. Every day, one of you says something that prompts me to think about something from a new point of view. Creativity is not always natural, and in many cases (including mine) it is extremely hard work and taxing on the brain! But – the important thing is that we view creativity as a skill that can be honed and fine tuned through purposeful activities and assignments.

In Conclusion

Is the term “21st century skills” a buzzword that is used too frequently? – Most likely.

But, 21st century skills are a buzzword for a reason. Our individual curricula are important, but let’s not teach our students in a vacuum. Engage your students in 21st century skills with real world problems, and you’ll prepare them for a lifetime.

6 comments

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    • Lenora Dinunzi on February 12, 2012 at 9:42 am
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    William,

    I really liked the video, but am disappointed that the wonderful library team didn’t get to be “stars”. Nevertheless, I want to thank you for all you do for the teachers here at Moody. You have been a great inspiration to everyone. Your energy is so positive!

    • Ann Greene on February 10, 2012 at 8:01 pm
    • Reply

    Wow William, what a creative way to inspire us to bring our game to the second half! I enjoyed the video and loved the tips for implementing 21st Century Skills into the classroom.

    • D Marshall on February 8, 2012 at 5:31 pm
    • Reply

    Very discouraging to realize that I have been an educator for 35 years and am just now at HALFTIME!
    Just joking.
    Your point is well taken about connecting to the world and you present a good case for nurturing creativity. Well done! Thanks for sharing it with us.

    • Deborah Benko on February 8, 2012 at 1:22 pm
    • Reply

    Very powerful video with a strong and optimistic message! Great Job!

  1. This is absolutely amazing!

      • Carrie Starr on February 9, 2012 at 12:23 pm
      • Reply

      That was really inspirational at a time in the year when we all need it and new ideas. Many thanks for your continued support for and to us all.

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