To get students invested in their education, President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have announced a new video contest, asking students to "inspire" them with their stories. Advocates for educational technology say the contest is a great way to reach the digital generation and help students develop key 21st-century skills.

The contest, called "I Am What I Learn," is accepting entries from middle school, high school, and college students ages 13 and older. Students can submit videos up to two minutes long, and entries must be received by Nov. 2.

"Students share responsibility for their education and for fulfilling their dreams," said Duncan. "This video contest is an opportunity for young people to share their stories about where their education and career training can take them. At the same time, I encourage parents, schools, and communities to play a strong role in their stories by being accountable for forming stronger partnerships that guide students to their goals."

Here are the contest rules:

– Each video must be submitted by an active student, age 13 or older.

– Contestants chosen as finalists will be contacted through their YouTube account and must respond within seven business days to confirm eligibility.

– Finalists under the age of 18 must submit a parental consent form.

– Videos must be two minutes or less in length.

– The contest’s page on the U.S. Department of Education (ED) web site (www.ed.gov/IAmWhatILearn) must be featured in the video.

– The video content must be original.

– The video must convey the importance of education, as well as the student’s individual academic goals.

Aside from these requirements, there are no restriction on the style of the video, and students are "encouraged to be creative," ED says.

Winning videos will be chosen based on their creativity, strength and originality of content, and ability to inspire.

Duncan’s own education video

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From Nov. 2-9, video submissions will be reviewed by a panel of judges, including Duncan. Judges will choose 10 finalists to promote on ED’s official YouTube channel. From Nov. 9-24, the public can view the finalists’ videos and vote on their favorites.

The top three finalists with the most votes each will win a $1,000 prize issued by ED. Winners will be announced the week of Dec. 1.

According to ED, its video contest is modeled after similar contests launched by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency. They also include cash prizes.

"The ‘I Am What I Learn’ video contest really is a great idea: It asks students to think about what their educational experience means to them, and to share the results with each other. It’s like a viral writing assignment–one that gets kids engaged and gives young people around the country the chance to think about their own experiences in the context of kids their own age," said Mark Nieker, president and executive director of the Pearson Foundation. "Best of all, even though the conversation is about education, it’s not mediated by educators, or even by adults. It’s kids speaking to kids, and–because they have to script and create the videos–they’re doing a lot of thinking about what they have to say."
 
Nieker said this use of digital technologies to empower young people to share their ideas is at the heart of the Digital Arts Alliance, which is part of the Pearson Foundation. "It’s great to see the Department of Education leading these types of conversations, particularly on such an important topic," he said.

A helping hand

Although creating a video sounds like a great idea for today’s tech-savvy students, some students might not have the means to create one. Thanks to a few education-focused companies, however, some students will have a chance to participate using professional software.

With the help of School Video News, an online magazine covering K-12 TV and video production, PowerProduction Software, Soundzabound, and ActionBacks are offering students light "contest versions" of their products.

PowerProduction, which makes storyboarding software, is offering a version of StoryBoard Quick to students who want to participate in the contest. "Using storyboards for pre-planning and visualizing helps students create and organize their projects," says the company.

Students who complete their video and submit it to ED by the deadline, and demonstrate that they used StoryBoard Quick to plan the project, will be awarded a full version of the software for themselves and their teacher, the company said.

If the project is selected as one of ED’s 10 finalists, the company added, PowerProduction Software will provide a free educational site license for StoryBoard Quick to the school’s media lab and will award $100 to the contest winner.

ActionBacks, which provides a collection of royalty-free motion graphics, is offering a similar promotion to students.

Students who submit their video by the deadline and mention their use of ActionBacks are eligible for downloading ActionBacks: Network Motion 9 at no cost. This collection is one of 63 volumes in the ActionBacks library and contains 20 looping motion backgrounds.

If the video is selected as one of the 10 finalists, the company will provide an additional 4-pack license from the ActionBacks library to the school’s media lab, as well as $100 to the contestant.

Soundzabound, which offers royalty-free music, is offering copyright-safe audio for participating students.

Students who submit their video on deadline and mention their use of Soundzabound will be awarded a free site license for one volume of music for use at their entire school.

If the video is selected as a finalist, the company will provide a free educational site license for Soundzabound Volumes 1-6 to the student’s school and will feature the video on the company’s web site.

All "contest versions" of these products will cease to work after the video deadline, and students are urged to sign up as soon as possible: PowerProduction will offer its software to the first 200 students who sign up, ActionBacks to the first 200, and Soundzabound to the first 100 student sign-ups.

"‘Contest versions’ mean that the software and products will be sanitized for younger students. For example, StoryBoard is used for many feature films and offers ‘contraband material’ like knives and other things. This will be taken out for the students," said John Churchman, publisher of School Video News.

Promoting 21st-century skills

"I think this [contest] is a great opportunity, not just for students, but for us as well," said Don Knezek, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). "Every time we listen to kids, we learn something. With this kind of focused message, we’re bound to hear the real voice of the digital generation."

Knezek noted that using a video platform is a great way to help students develop 21st-century skills.

"This gives students a chance to formulate a clear message, know their audience, communicate using digital tools, and use a medium that’s fast becoming the way to communicate in our society. This 21st-century communication skill is also one skill that’s part of ISTE’s standards," Knezek said.

He concluded: "Kids also don’t get a whole lot of chances to be creative. We’re all very excited to see the results."

Links:

Contest submission site

School Video News and software sign-ups

Pearson Foundation
http://www.pearsonfoundation.org/

International Society for Technology in Education

Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the Building a Cost-Effective Digital Classroom resource center. If today’s students are to compete in an increasingly global economy, schools will need much more than textbooks and traditional pencil-and-paper approaches to succeed. Students need the benefit of technology-rich classrooms to give them marketable skills that they will use throughout their professional lives. Go to: Building a Cost-Effective Digital Classroom


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