Operation Smile

dan pink drive book

I’ve been reflecting a lot on Dan Pink’s new book Drive and thinking about how this applies to education and the work we ask students to do. My wife recently took 10 Middle School students on an Operation Smile trip into the mountains of Thailand near the Burma boarder. The Middle Schoolers spent their time playing the kids who came there to get surgery done. It’s a moving experience…the kind that shapes you as a person. When the students get back they are given one assignment…..reflect on your experience.

Autonomy: Take as long as you need, and use the media that you want. Purpose: Share your experience with others. MasteryYou can reflect anyway you want: Essay, blog post, video, presentation, etc.

One student decided to write an essay that I hope she decides to publish on her blog….it will bring a tear to any eye. And then there is Brian. The lone 8th grader on the trip who decided to express his emotions and reflection using video. I get asked by teachers how do you have students use media and make it a reflection not just a retelling of what happened? The answer, I believe, is in giving students a purpose. A meaningful purpose to reflect that is bigger than a grade, or an individual assignment. Yes…I’m going to make you go to Brian’s Blog to view the video in hopes that you too will be so moved by his creativity and message that you leave him a comment or pass along the message of Operation Smile to others.  

I believe that part of my role, or any role of a teacher with a Personal Learning Network, is to use that network to spread the word when good things happen with your students. The Operation Smile group here at ISB continues to find ways to spread their message about their trip, about what they learned, and what you can do if you want to take part. Last weekend Ciel, a student on the trip sat down and decided to create a video. But as she said on the Women of the Web 2.0 podcast “I put it on YouTube because I wanted to spread the message.”

This is the now third video created by the group. The other two can be found here and here.

Because of my PLN and helping them to spread their message, they were invited to do a live podcast with th Women of the Web 2.0 crew yesterday. It was a great experience for the students and as students do so often they truly raised to the occasion. If you get a chance to listen to the podcast it’s funny to hear how at the beginning nobody wanted to talk and I was forcing the mic onto some of them, but about 5 minutes in, it changed and I was grabbing at the mic to get them to take turns. They did a great job of watching the chat room, grabbing questions and talking about their experience here at ISB and on Operation Smile. If you want to know what our school is like from a student prospective you’ll enjoy the first half of the podcast.

This is the power of the teacher (in this case me….married to the school counselor who went on the trip) having a PLN to help spread a message. A message that I, as the teacher felt was worth spreading. This is the power of a PLN not only for my own learning but to spread the messages of our students.

You can listen to the students (and my wife) on the podcast here or via iTunes here.

Support Operation Smile and the 6th Graders at ISB by donating here http://www.tinyurl.com/isboperationsmile
Support Operation Smile and the 6th Graders at ISB by donating here http://www.tinyurl.com/isboperationsmile

There are days like yesterday when everything comes together technologically that allows you to create some of the most amazing artifacts.

Yesterday The Thinking Chick (my wife) sat down at around 2 o’clock and started working on a video that she wanted to create about her recent Operation Smile trip to Surin, Thailand with 9 middle school students.

8 Hours later she had created what I truly think is an amazing video capturing students feelings and reflections about the trip.

I was so proud of her. I didn’t help her out except to make lunch and dinner and keep her water glass full (still 90F here in Thailand….ug). About two hours into creating the video she looked at me and said “This is kind of addicting” to which of course I just smiles and refilled her water glass.

I don’t think we stop enough to really think about the power of the tools and the ease of use we have at our fingertips. Using iMovie ’09, a program that she had only about an hour of time playing with, she was able to manipulate video, audio, pictures, and words to create a heart felt video. I just marvel at her ability to see the movie in her head and then figure out how to put it all together on her own. An amazing testimonial to the power of the tools and my talented wife.

Of course that’s one thing….to have an adult take the time to sit down and create a video like this. But then Owain, a student that went on the trip, decided that he too wanted to share what he took away from the trip. So using Movie Maker on his computer at home, and in less than a day created this video. He sent the link to my wife in an e-mail that simple stated:

It’s nothing special, but it’s how I see it personally.

Nothing special? Other than here was a student so touched by his experience that he felt the need to share it with the world. He didn’t do it for a grade….because we don’t grade students on things like this. He didn’t do it because he was asked to, he did it because he was moved to.

This is what happens when we stop talking about technology and just let it be. Let it be what we do, let it do what it was meant to do; To create ideas, to share feelings, to communicate with the world. When we stop trying to use technology and just let it be is when it affects us the most.