The guiding principle here is this:

Let the kids own it, wholly and fully.

The expectation is that you will guide the content, as you would with a written paper. You will advise, prod, suggest, re-direct and comment upon their understanding of the content. You will teach them the content.

But let them re-imagine and re-interpret that content in the various media on their own. Please do not give them a single creative idea.

In this creative gray zone, you can push them by asking questions such as: Do you believe that this is the best idea that you can come up with? Do you think that maybe some other teams will come up with a similar idea? Ask questions that will encourage them to delve deeper into the material and push their ideas further, while inspiring confidence in their own abilities to invent and pursue creative ideas. Help them to realize that their ideas will evolve as they proceed and encourage them to seek more information as their ideas change.  Push them…but please don’t give them any creative ideas.

In terms of production, you cannot help out. If media production is your strength, you can teach them about how to frame a shot or how to create sound effects…but you can’t help them with their shoot. If theatre is your strength, you can teach them the elements of a good scene, but you can’t fix their script.

Michael Nakkula, an expert on adolescence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes about “how the work of teachers who work with adolescents is in many ways about ‘creating possibility’—helping young people develop ideas about themselves, their abilities, and their futures that they otherwise might not be able to imagine.”

Your role in this endeavor is to help ‘create possibilities’ for your students.

On Media and Technology…

Class time should not be dedicated to teaching software or other technical skills.  If students are unclear about how to turn off the “Ken Burns Effect” in imovie, it is best that they learn to use the help menu in imovie, research the question on the internet or share information with each other, so that they may develop skills to solve problems in the future.  Part of the experience is how the students problem solve their way through the media and technology challenges. And because technology constantly changes, it is even more important for students to develop a problem-solving approach to these issues than focus on mastering specific software.

It can be frustrating, difficult and time consuming to find the solutions to technical problems.  Because these challenges ultimately help students to become better problem solvers and to collaborate more effectively, teachers need to remain confident that the solutions are out there and encourage students to be persistent.  And this leaves you the time and space and energy to do what you do best – teach the content.

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