Why don’t we have more unbelievable tech projects from young students?

As I mentioned before, the reason that we do not have these types of incredible tech projects coming from our students is that most teachers don’t know what to look for.

Let me explain...

As I work with schools about educational technology they will inevitably take me on a tour of their school to show me the “cool” projects their students are doing with technology. This usually means that I am going to have to sit though yet another poorly made student tech project of some sort.

You’ve seen them -- presentation made with every transition, animation and sound effect that came with the software. Videos that are so shaky, poorly lit and with such bad audio that you are car sick by the end of watching it and you still have no idea what it was about.  Websites that have animated logos, a sound track, and a background that is so busy-looking that you can’t even read it. I could go on and on, but I think you get the sarcastic picture I am painting about student-made tech projects.

Inevitably, at the end of these projects the teachers look back at me to get the accolades that they think are coming. They mistakenly think that because their students worked hard on a student-made tech project that was full of everything that the software possibly does that I would be impressed. I simply thank them for the hard work and I tell them that I will talk to them about this project later.

Then, when the appropriate time comes, and I have just the teachers alone in a room, I let them know how I really feel, “That project was horrible.”

Then, just as they are reaching for the pitch forks and lighting their torches, I explain to them that it is not their fault. None of them studied filmmaking, graphic design and web programming, how were they to know what makes a good presentation, video or website? But allowing students to do a poor tech project is like letting them write a story and allowing them to do anything they want, any way they want. Poor grammar -- sure. Spelling errors -- yup. Bad punctuation -- you bet. Or like allowing students to solve math problems any way they want -- no order of operations, no learning your times tables, etc. We, as teachers, would never allow this to happen to our other projects even if the students worked hard at it. We would correct them and teach them the proper way. Yet, when it comes to projects that use technology we allow bad presentations, videos, podcasts, web pages, etc. to be made by our students. All because as teachers we have no idea what to look for and how to grade it.

To get better tech projects we need to demand better tech projects. No different that what we expect from their projects in reading, writing, math, science, geography, etc. We must demand the very best tech projects from our students, the employment world they will soon be entering into will expect nothing less than this. But, how do we get our teachers to know what to look for when it comes to a student-made tech project?
This is what I will attempt to answer in future blog posts.