Teaching frustrations and joys

I had a parent tell me yesterday that she likes the way I use technology with my classes in meaningful ways. That statement captures the essence of what I’ve been trying to do for the last few years. I don’t hear it very often, but I’m glad I did. She made my day. It was the end of a week of technological challenges and I needed it.
Joys – 1
Frustrations – 0

This past week, we made short digital stories using Windows Movie Maker. Many of my 7th graders had not used Movie Maker before, so I spent a couple class periods giving them an overview and some tips (both visual and on paper). While they were a fine audience, I could tell from this past week that for many of them the information just didn’t soak in. I repeated certain phrases so many times that I considered taping my voice and just playing back canned phrases.
Joys – 1
Frustrations – 1

The assignment was a follow-up to Persuasive Essays they had written. All four of the members of each group wrote about the same issue: teens owning cell phones, global warming, the importance of voting, animal cruelty, banning cigarette smoking from public places, or some other topical topic. Then they worked with their group members to make one Public Service Announcement (PSA) of 30 – 60 seconds using Movie Maker. That way they had to boil down their papers to the most important elements, find pictures to match those elements, and get across their message with words, pictures, and music. It was exciting to see most of them so geeked about being able to make a short movie/commercial/psa. It was novel, hands-on, creative, musical, visual, and fun. A real win-win sort of assignment.
Joys – 2
Frustrations – 1

If you’ve ever used Movie Maker, you know that it’s a little clunky. For those of us who like IMovie, using Movie Maker is a bit like playing Pong when you were hoping for Galaga. It works, it’s some fun, but it’s also more of a chore than it really needs to be. Combining narration with music, for example, is not an exact science with Movie Maker. You have to do this click and drag thing that works most of the time, but it’s so simple and straightforward in IMovie that I can’t understand why Movie Maker hasn’t caught on yet. Add to those frustrations, things like computers freezing, students not saving images in the right folders, and other students not able to keep focused on the assignment when their partners were using the mouse, and you have a recipe for early retirement.
Joys – 2
Frustrations – 2

We did, however, get many of the PSA’s saved and uploaded to our class wiki(look in the group lists under each hour). We viewed them on Friday and talked critically about what each one did well and how they could have been improved. It was one of those culmination days that makes you realize why you went through all the work. Students were mostly polite while watching each other’s PSA’s and emphasized the positives more than the negatives. I was able to breathe a sigh of relief and know that the joys outweighed the frustrations…I may even have them do this again later in the year.
Joys – 3
Frustrations – 2

(By the way, the results of my test from my last post are in: I didn’t get one ping or any response from the digital “blog scape” after my intentionally juicy paragraph in that post. Maybe it would have been different if I had tagged the post. Anyway, it was fun to test the blog system.)

3 thoughts on “Teaching frustrations and joys

  1. Hi Aram,

    Glad to see that the joys are outweighing the frustrations and that you are engaging your students in smart and useful projects. I appreciate your sense of humor and insights about your teaching.

    Take care,

  2. Hi Aram,
    this is random, and not really a remard about your posts, though I like the joy/frustration tallies…

    Just wanted to let you know that I am sitting in Bessey right now, with Troy Hicks and a bunch of other interns- we are learning about how to use blogs and wikis and googlepages, it’s very exciting! But he showed our class your blog and your wiki as examples, and I talked a little bit about your PD session, when we were talking about the usefulness of wikis. Thought you might want to know… we are spying on you from over here 🙂 But your examples have been really helpful. I admire your tech-savy-ness!
    -Jeana Maynard

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