The first-year students made this photo-collage of themselves at the end of last semester.  What’s cool about this isn’t the stuff they’re doing in the photos (well, that was great, but.)  What moved me about this was that they took the photos themselves.  That may not seem earth-shattering to anyone who’s seen 20-somethings share inappropriate photos with hundreds of acquaintances.  But it’s important here because, at the start of the semester, many of these students were so cool that they could frost up a whiteboard from the back row of desks.

Always Formative wrote that “the thing that’s always appealed to me about [using a portfolio to collect examples of your work] is having students self-select what he or she perceives as quality. Developing the [skill] of self-evaluation is probably the most important thing I want a student to get.”  But that requires students to dare to be proud.  At the beginning of the year, they wouldn’t have been caught dead admitting that school was interesting or fun, much less documenting in video that they felt strongly about their craftsmanship.  Can you imagine a student posting photos of their homework to Facebook?

D-shell connector soldered by student

D-shell connector soldered by a student

Fifteen weeks later, they take turns holding the camera while someone mugs with some small thing that they made with their own hands.  If you’re concerned that services like Animoto make the wrong things easy, I mostly agree with you.  Except that in this case, digital storytelling was not the difficult skill that the students were trying to master.  Cracking out of their protective shell of indifference was orders of magnitude more painful and challenging.  They watched themselves in this video over and over.  I watched them as they watched it.  They were seeing themselves as skilled, in a way that wasn’t real until they saw it from the outside.  All of us were proud.