I’ve Got Two Words for You: Puh-lease!

As an assignment for my technology class, I was required to watch Dr. Tim Tyson’s 2007 keynote address to the NECC. While I want to be excited about the use of technology in school, and I want to give him props for implementing podcasts for and by students, I know too well who really does most of the work that goes into the movies for their “Oscar Night” film award show – the parents.

I hate to be the person to burst the creative, imaginative bubbles of my fellow cohorts and our professor, but, the truth is…I don’t live far from the school, and most of my friends’ children attend (or attended) Mabry. Two years ago, my best friend was the designated “parent helper” for the 8th grade film team. She would have the student team over to her house regularly, and just as regularly, the students went outside to jump on the trampoline or down to the basement to play video games. Her own son rarely made any input on the movie. My friend spent hundreds of hours on the movie, so on Oscar night, she was very proud when her (teams’) movie won several awards.

What did the students on her team learn from having the parent helper do all the work? Not much about the topic or making a movie. They learned to take credit for work they did not do.

 I’m sure Dr. Tyson is unaware of just how much of the actual work the parents do. I viewed all the 2007 videos on the www.mabryonline.org, and I was very impressed with the level of sophistication in the storytelling, the cinematography, the special effects, and the sound quality. I just don’t think that the students did the work. Call me cynical. I teach ninety 7th graders at a school with similar demographics, and I’m pretty sure that most kids of this age are not capable of producing the quality movie demonstrated on the Mabry website without a great deal of parental involvement.

With that said, I think that project-based learning is meaningful and memorable for students, and I don’t think involving the family in the process is wrong. I only object to the assertion that the students (with a teacher facilitator) created the sophisticated and advanced movies as shown. Get real.

More thoughts on this topic soon…

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One Response

  1. A couple of quick thoughts come to mind: 1. As educators, we all know that parents are often involved in their student’s school work. Some are overly involved, perhaps even to their child’s educational disadvantage. The creation of digital media in school will be no exception to this fact. I personally prefer parental involvement in their children’s educational experiences in a positive, supportive way–certainly not doing the work for them or, conversely, not engaging in or supporting their educational experiences at all, the later being far more pervasive from my vantage point.

    2. I don’t know to what movie project you refer, but, from my perspective, to extend that even a significant amount of the exemplary work done by hundreds of students and teachers at Mabry over the past 7 or 8 years is done by their parents while their children are outside playing would be an extraordinary speculative leap and dismissive of the capacity these children demonstrated. Even though I am the former principal of these students, I feel obligated to protect them from dismissive over-generalization that, in my opinion, shows disrespect for the hard work these students did–yes, actually did themselves.

    I wouldn’t doubt that some small percentage of parents may have been over-involved in their student’s project. But most of the projects were done at school while mom and dad were at work. I had the delight of talking with these students about their work, hearing them explain why they chose to do this or that, watching firsthand many of the projects unfold, see the students have the difficult discussions, work through the project development, ask for assistance and technical help, work face to face with a professional director/producer, meet before and after school with their teacher sponsor, seeing the great pride they took in their work as it was presented the night of the film festival–experiences I and they will never forget.

    I would suggest that as long as educators underestimate the capacity of their students, most of the students will indeed meet those expectations, not exceed them. Being cynical, as you say, is just too easy. Pushing students to produce their personal best as an educator, as a parent–now, that’s the hard part. I invite you to prove for yourself that your students can do work of this same caliber if not better.

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