Guest Post: Animoto + ELA + Tupac = Powerful Self Reflection

The following post was contributed by Daphne Pesina, High School English Teacher:

Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 8.16.55 AMWhen I began my teaching career 14 years ago, I knew I could do two things: entertain my captive audience and teach kids what they needed to know to pass the state standardized test.  At the end of each year I survey the students to get some feedback on how I can improve as a teacher. I reflect on my performance and abilities as a teacher because I want to be relevant and connect with my students.  I find that my relevancy in lesson planning is directly related to my students’ engagement. The Personal Core Values Animoto video assignment holds the award for the majority vote of all time. I have never had an assignment generate more than 90 percent of the popular vote during a student survey. This assignment will be one of very few I will repeat!

Last spring after the state’s standardized testing, I knew my students would need a high-interest assignment to remain focused until summer vacation.   In a Socratic Seminar fashion, we read selections from Tupac Shakur’s collection of poems “The Rose That Grew from Concrete.” Using Costa’s Level of Inquiry, my students created level two and level three questions to bring to class for discussion. Students also wrote reflections and/or summaries after each seminar. However, the culminating assignment for this poetry unit was a video based on personal core values.

One day we defined each word (personal, core and value), and created our definition of what personal core values were and made an accumulative list. Afterwards, I found another list of common values online and had my students compare it to their list.

The effort my students put into the Personal Core Values Animoto video assignment makes it the best assignment my students have ever approached and completed in my teaching career. The video had to include the following:

  • At least 10 personal core values (PCV)
  • At least 10 digital pictures, one to represent each PCV
  • At least 2 video clips
  • Video length must be at least 2 minutes and no longer than 5 minutes.
  • Music that supports PCV

Animoto has a collection of music, digital pictures and video clips, but students may also upload their own as long as their media is original and meets Animoto’s guidelines. Animoto offers many features for the student to create their unique video, but the best feature is that Animoto does all the technical and difficult “stuff” for the students so they can remain focused on the assignment. The length of the video is based on the length of the song and/or the number of media pieces included in the project, whichever one ends first.

Animoto is web 2.0 friendly, so students can share their creations via Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Photobucket, Picasa, iPhones  and many other applications that support embedded codes. A teacher can apply for a code, so students can gain access to special accounts for education. Visit Animoto for education and use your school email address to apply for an educational account.

Because the account codes generally last for 180 days, my students were able to use their Animoto accounts over the summer for their own personal use. Talk about relevancy! Many students created videos of their prom, vacations, and summer outings. I had two students from last year come back this semester and ask for another code so they could use Animoto for their science project.

Fourteen years later I am no longer concerned with teaching my students how to meet and exceed the state’s minimum standards. Within this project of Personal Core Values, my students performed at the highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy creating, evaluating and analyzing. Instead of creating new material for my captive audience, my students now provide their own entertainment, so I do not have to worry about having new and exciting “material” for my captive audience. Moreover, my students leave the safe nest of my classroom with a set of rules they have created for themselves to face the world and be potential contributing citizens.  What more could a teacher desire?

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