Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Creative Risk Taking in the Form of a Final Exam...

This past semester a few of the English II Pre-AP teachers offered a hybrid exam meshing both a paper as well as a digital presentation. As the presentation was not to be longer than a minute and to focus more on socio-emotional self-analysis rather than the bells and whistles of a high end video production app, students selected the FREE Shadow Puppet EDU app to create their final product.


Digital Discoveries

Some of the discoveries that came to light with a project of this nature:

  • Deeper Awareness of the Socio-Emotional: Meeting student's socio-emotional needs has been a focus with all content areas this year. While the video projects were all created using the same application, each one personally touched on a socio-emotional self analysis with a text to self approach to Catcher in the Rye (the novel they had just finished). Many times we have students complete assignments but they don't have ample time to reflect. As reflection and self-analysis were at the heart of this assignment, students had built-in time for students for self awareness. Within this forum, I noticed topical trends like transitioning, worry, future goals, stress, anxiety, lying, depression, isolation, introversion, bullying, perfectionism, adaptability, perseverance, performance anxiety, unrealistic expectations, responsibility, coping with change and death etc... and the coping mechanisms that many use to overcome these struggles. In a HS where these emotions and issues can seem heightened, I felt like this assignment really validated these sensitive issues. Some of the more poignant quotes were:
    • "Being a teenager is like testing the waters"
    • "You can't change the future unless you change the now."
  • The Power of Audience: Both Michele Benage and Lee Bergen mentioned that the power of sharing these projects with their classmates allowed for bonding and empathy (e.g. some students realized that they were not alone in their feelings and struggles and others felt like they had initially misjudged their peers without knowing the full story).
  • Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners: Due to the hybrid approach of this project (e.g. both an essay and a video), learners had the opportunity to articulate their voice in both written and visual form. I felt like this really met the needs of our group of learners. Some may be more articulate with words and others with visuals and this gave each student an opportunity to be successful in their own way. Additionally, those that suffered from performance anxiety - that would rather record their thoughts rather than stand and deliver had a venue to successfully convey their ideas behind the scenes rather than in the spotlight.
  • Polishing Presentations: With any project, some presentations were better than others (both visually and content-wise). Truly, if we don't give our students these types of presentations, they will never have an opportunity to improve in this arena. Additionally, by seeing their peer's presentations, this allows students to note best practices for this form of content delivery. I also think there is power in providing an assignment that can not be easily pulled and replicated from an online source - a task that requires both self-analysis and the ability to create something that doesn’t already exist.

Student Exemplars
While observing the presentations during finals week, three students presentation stood out to share as exemplars for poignancy and creativity. Each of these students not only completed a thoughtful self-analysis but took a creative approach in the delivery... as they all included original artwork. Before I shared the examples I made sure that I permission from all 3 students as the content was of a personal nature:



  • Catcher in the Rye: I loved that this student created all of their own illustrations in Adobe Illustrator and then incorporated them within his video.
  • It Takes a Listener: This student used a very creative and poignant approach to blending hand- drawn original images with 2D and 3D environments. 
  • Hello Classmates: I enjoyed the questions that this one raised and the hand-drawn images.

Creative Commons Image Search
Though most of the exemplars featured above include original art work, I did want to mention the power of the built-in Creative Commons image search available within the app. It includes maps, landmarks, Library of Congress, Met Museum of Art, The British Library, NASA, NOAA, Web Images, Flickr Creative Commons, Wikimedia, and Open Clipart. When images are selected from the the built-in image search to be used within a project, Shadow Puppet automatically cites all of the images used within the work at the end of the video.




Collection and Submission Logistics
Since Shadow Puppet publishes to a url, the easiest way to collect, organize, and view all of the student submissions proved to be a Google Form (see example posted below). As this was the first year using this hybrid approach to a final exam, students had the option to allow permission of their project to be shared so future classes could have a possible model for the assignment.



Stay tuned for info about future updates to this project. As we progress into our fifth year, we will also continue to reflect upon the changes to classroom, pedagogy, and instruction throughout our 1:1 iPad implementation.


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