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Administration, Education, Leadership, Reform, Students, Teaching

(Power)Pointless or Purposeful?

136/366 - Death by Powerpoint

cc flickr photo by p_a_h

Why do we ask kids to make presentations, on topics they don’t care about, to an audience that doesn’t exist? ~ Gary Stager

At last month’s ISTE conference, I had the pleasure of hearing both Gary Stager (@garystager) and Chris Lehmann (@chrislehmann) speak during two separate sessions.  Both were very powerful, and thought-provoking presentations that, among other things, addressed the issues of authenticity and personalization in education. These terms are common buzzwords in academic circles, but unfortunately, truly personalized, and authentic learning experiences are largely elusive concepts in our schools.

During his presentation, Chris correctly addressed a common misconception by stating that “personalization should not mean that we all do the same thing, but at our own pace.”  Other than the rate at which a task is accomplished, there is nothing personal about this approach.  Instead, Chris suggested that “personalization is when we get to do stuff we care about — it involves choice.” He went on to describe the powerful learning experiences of students at the Science Leadership Academy, who participate in Capstone Projects.  These projects are chosen by the students and they allow them to address academic endeavors through the pursuit of their personal passions…true personalization.

Gary’s quote about student presentations (above) drew a smattering of uncomfortable chuckles from the audience – recognition of the truth in the statement.  Not only is it unusual for students to experience true personalization, but we rarely allow them to prepare, or present, their work for an authentic audience.  I believe that most of us (kids and adults) want to be difference makers…we want to make our mark on the world.  This is powerful motivation for learning, but one that is lost in the absence of an authentic audience. Gary ended his presentation with a simple, but powerful statement: “less us, more them.”

What ideas, or examples, do you have for personalizing student learning and ensuring authentic opportunities for difference making?  How do we make learning experiences “less us” and “more them?”

About azjd

Junior high principal by day, aspiring difference maker, and Jedi in my own mind. Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.


2 thoughts on “(Power)Pointless or Purposeful?

  1. Jeff,

    I just started reading your blog and find it very insightful. Thank you. As to your questions about personalizing student learning and authentic audiences, five teachers in my school participated in a program in partnership with Adobe Corporation and SpyHop Productions, a local media production group, called Adobe Youth Voices. This program trains teachers on Adobe PhotoShop and Premier so they can teach students to “create with purpose”, their motto. We build and use curriculum that covers both the technical aspects of video, audio and print production along with some of the issues, problems and concerns of today’s youth. Students create PSAs, short documentaries, narratives, and informational pieces. Our local television station has picked up a couple of them to play during local programming. There is a screening the students, parents, local educators, Adobe and SpyHop attend and many of the pieces are chosen to participate in the “Aspire Awards” through Adobe Youth Voices.

    This has been an excellent way to get sutdents thinking about the Power of One, how one person can make big changes. It gives students a voice in issues they confront such as teen suicide, bullying, problems with drug use and abuse among other topics.

    The program has been so successful that we are molding curriculum to teach a second year and hopefully improve our technique and content even more.

    Thanks for bringing up this timely topic. As educators, we are expected to teach 21st century skills to ready students for careers that have not even been invented yet. This program ties in critical thinking, teamwork, effective communication, problem solving, creativity and innovation. This is what students need to succeed in a rapidly changing and growing work environment.


    Posted by Alesha | July 16, 2012, 4:57 pm


  1. Pingback: Process Post and Resources: Contemplating 21st C Ed, PBL, and Common Core State Standards – a Thought Board in Progress « It's About Learning - July 24, 2012

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Jeff Delp

Junior high principal by day, sports enthusiast, technology fanatic and jedi in my own mind. Striving to be a difference maker!
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