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Randy Evans

Guest Blogger Randy Evans, Dataseam iLife Instructor and Project Coordinator, shares his insights and learning experiences as part of the Kentucky Space Movie Projects.“Use it, or lose it.” An obvious statement – we’ve heard this before.  In school, we memorized terms and definitions, used study guides and outlines, prepared for tests by committing facts to memory and then regurgitating them for exams.  We may have scored 100% on the test, but how much did we learn? As educators, you certainly understand that the learning process is perhaps the most important step to students’ retention, growth, and curiosity.

The primary focus of the Kentucky Space Movie Project is this learning process.  In this experience-based learning program, students are presented with a topic on which they produce a 10-minute video. This might sound like “home-videos,” but looking deeper, you see that this is MUCH more than just using a video camera.

A short list of knowledge items used to produce this movie could include: astronomy, physics, mathematics, art, music, planning, writing and communications, organizing, speaking, presenting, video and audio, and a multitude of technology skills.

Traditionally this would incorporate an entire curriculum, with dozens of teachers, books, classes, study guides, quizzes and tests. Yet, the students would not have DONE anything with the material they studied. Notice – I did not say, what they have learned. Remember, what we don’t use – we lose.

The Kentucky Space Movie Project provides students the opportunity to utilize information and skills, rather than just memorize facts.  During this process, students make discoveries while searching for answers to arising questions.  The new techniques and methods acquired by these students are further developing their life long learning skills.

Let us focus on one activity from this project and analyze the benefits of Project Based Learning.

Students were tasked with writing a script for their movie. Does this sound like a simple writing assignment? – a traditional paper submitted to the teacher for a grade?  A closer look at this movie project exposes much more. Students performed their written script for the camera. Their final video was published on the Internet for everyone to see – including teams in schools throughout the state. The motivation to “get it right” was multiplied ten fold over submitting a paper to be graded by the teacher.

As the project matured, many questions about topics, methods, and techniques presented themselves. The learning environment was no longer a classroom with seats in straight rows and a teacher lecturing in detail about facts. In the project based learning environment, the classroom contained access to resources, but the students had to reach out to find their own answers. The depth of this experience required the students to put their knowledge and skills to use, rather than just recite them on a test.

Students became proficient with the technology. They documented their facts, planned, organized and timed their scenes. To clearly communicate their message, the script was written in advance, and the actors rehearsed. Segments were illustrated with graphics, music, scenery, backgrounds, etc… The students became very resourceful, worked as a team, discovered their own strengths and weaknesses as they discovered answers. As the project progressed, they became very critical of their own work.

In the end, the teams stood proud of a unique product that they had researched, planned, critiqued, and produced. At the Hazard film festival, students were asked, “did you make any mistakes?” The answer was a resounding, “yes.”  Did they learn from those mistakes? You can bet they did! In fact they knew more about their mistakes than the judges that viewed their films.

So what did the students take with them from this project?  Primarily, they gained the knowledge of the space topic they researched.  Beyond that, and most importantly, they learned how to be independent learners. They experienced the pressure of a deadline that put their intellectual values on the line for all to see. They took with them the value of teamwork, critical thinking, and self evaluation. They not only acquired knowledge of the subject, but they have learned the skills they need to succeed in the future   Bridesmaid Dresses.

Good work students!

You can view the Kentucky Space Science Movies at:http://www.dataseamstudio.com/department.php?deptid=7