Flipping the Roles of Student and Teacher

A couple of weeks ago, a teacher asked if I would take over his 8th grade class to introduce iMovie and the features it has so that they can use them for a video project they will create over the next few days. At first I was pretty worried and I was ready to have a conversation with him about how it shouldn’t just be all about the app and that you must start with a curricular goal, then find the best tool to meet the learning objective in the most engaging way possible. I didn’t say that right away, instead I listened to what his objectives were, and I had to agree that using iMovie would be a very creative and unique way for students to demonstrate the learning he wanted. I then said I would be happy to lead a student training on the use of iMovie.

As I started to prepare to lead a lesson for 8th graders, which is pretty scary when you are used to working with seniors, I was inspired by a story told by Carl Hooker in his book, Mobile Learning Mindset: The Coach’s Guide to Implementation. He recounts going into a First Grade Classroom where the teacher had asked him to teach kids to use an app called Chalkboard. Carl had never used the app before this and had never even heard of the app. Nevertheless, he didn’t want to disappoint the teacher and the class, so he began with an “exploratory” period, where students just played around with the app. Pretty soon, there were some students who started “getting it” and began showing off the features of the app to their friends and neighbors. Some students were becoming frustrated because they didn’t understand, and soon they were being helped by the emerging student experts. Near the end of the exploring period, Carl started asking kids questions about Bats: what they looked like and where they lived. Kids were then encouraged to draw a bat and a cave, using the new app they just taught each other how to use. Carl describes,

In the period of 30 minutes, the class had gone from an exploratory lesson, to one with some direction, to one where the students were the lead learners (and teachers)
— p. 54

What Carl was demonstrating and describing was that,

Empowering learning moments happen for everyone when the roles of student and teacher become reversed.

This was the experience I wanted the kids to have while learning iMovie. Knowing that they would have enough class time to work on their project for the teacher later, I thought they would have more fun trying to learn something new, something most of them wouldn’t know how to do, juggle. I put 3 objectives on the board as we began: 1) Learn how to juggle, 2) Document your learning process using the iPad, and 3) Play around with the app, iMovie.

The students partnered off and began to work. I provided each pair with 3 kleenexes and instructed them to document their learning process by having a partner videotape them. Students played around with this for a good 10 minutes, taking turns behind and in front of the camera. They had a blast. They laughed, they struggled, and even one was able to conquer!

By the time 10 minutes was up, there was some frustration, so I asked students, where do you go for help when you don’t understand something. “A teacher” was the quick answer, but then I pressed for more. Eventually we got to YouTube and then searched for videos about learning how to juggle. Students were then sent off again for more exploration, more practicing, and more filming.

After about 10 more minutes we then had plenty of footage to begin playing around with to utilize the features of the app. I spent about 5 minutes demonstrating how to add clips, cut clips, trim clips, add voice-over audio, and add text titles. The final 20 minutes of class was spent editing their new videos documented how they learned, or failed to learn, how to juggle. I also encouraged students to continue exploring other features of the app and if they found something “new” to call myself or their teacher over to show us and explain how to use it. We would then announce it for the class and students then began checking that out too. My favorite one was when one girl called me over and said, “LOOK! It has FILTERS. It’s just like Instagram.”

Overall, it was really amazing to watch the students really get into it. After the class was over, the teacher came up to me and said, “This was perfect. I can’t believe how much I learned and how much the kids showed me what to do.”

Empowering learning moments happen for everyone when the roles of student and teacher become reversed.

Epilogue moment: I dropped in on the class today as they were beginning work on their actual project and 100% of the kids were not just engaged, but 100% of the kids were innovating in their own ways, ways I hadn’t even considered.