For the educators and ed-tech advocates who work tirelessly to ensure their students have access to a 21st-century education, here’s the good news. We have yet more tangible proof that education technology is helping kids learn.

In the face of skepticism about the efficacy of ed-tech, eSchool News, after consulting with thought leaders in the field, decided the best antidote to the negativity often abroad in Washington, D.C., would be to gather evidence from those with firsthand experience.  We realized it would take more than just grownups in suits to make the case for education technology on Capitol Hill (and even at the other end of Pennsylvania Ave.) So we went straight to the source, asking those most directly affected–the students themselves.

That’s why, with major funding from the Pearson Foundation, eSchool News created the Empowered Education Awards (EEA): to give students the chance to answer the skeptics.

The program asked students to produce and send us three- to seven-minute original videos based on the theme "How Technology Helps Me Learn," illustrating how their schools are employing technology to advance learning. We received scores of entries from schools across the United States–and even one from Japan.

We’ve pared down these responses to the three most creative and original videos in each category: elementary, middle, and high school. The finalists’ entries are posted to our web site, and we’d like you to help us choose the winners. (To participate, go to http://www.eschoolnews.com/empowered, watch the student videos, and rate each of the nine finalists; winners will be announced in September.)

Here are the three finalists in each grade-level category:

Elementary School

– No Title (Elitha Donner Elementary School, Ga.): Donovan Harold-Husted demonstrates how technology has moved into every aspect of his life, and how it always proves useful.  Technology, he says, can help everyone learn and can also make our lives more exciting. 

– Detective Ashlee and My Missing Classmates (Skyview Elementary School, Calif.): Detective Ashlee Francis helps viewers solve the mystery of the missing classmates. Clues are left around the school, and only through knowledge of technology will Ashlee be able to find her friends.

– How Technology Helps Us Learn (Ernest Hemingway Elementary School, Idaho): According to Grace Gorham and Tara Burchmore, technology isn’t just about computers–it’s anything made by people to solve problems. Second-graders at the school program Roamer robots to travel through a maze and use a flight simulator to work on their accuracy, concentration, and attention to detail. 

Middle School

– Satellites and Us (Yokota Middle School, Tokyo): Christy Chanin, news anchor for White Tiger Network News (WTNN) on the outskirts of Tokyo, Japan, explains how students at her school are learning how satellites can improve everyday life. WTNN reporter Allison Jones takes viewers on a journey from her living room to the Miraikan to demonstrate how satellites work and how they affect our lives.

– Tech Magic (Creative Connections Art Academy, Calif.): Students are assigned to think about how technology helps them learn. One student says she listens to Spanish lessons on her iPod, while another student listens to English lessons. Many students in the class use PowerPoint presentations to share what they’ve learned in math, science, and history.

– How We Use Technology to Learn (Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School, Vt.): Reporters for South Burlington Network News (SBNN) travel back in time to 1983 to show the differences technology has made in the classroom. Instead of giving speeches with no materials, students now can use web applications, such as Google Earth, to spice up presentations. "Between the TV, internet, texting, video editing, and Mac applications, the question becomes, ‘How don’t we use technology?’" says SBNN news anchor Riya Patel.

High School

– Age in Technology (Parkway North High School, Mo.): Students and teachers use an array of new software and calculator technology to make math and science classes more interactive and personal. Students are able to plug the new calculators into a hub that connects to the teacher’s computer, allowing her to send data to her students from her desk. "The possibilities there are endless," the teacher said.

– Parkland Morning News (Parkland High School, Pa.): Parkland Morning News crew members not only experiment with the latest in video technology, they also document advances in classroom computer use throughout Parkland High School. The morning news program, started eight years ago, recently updated its equipment with six Panasonic video cameras and equipment that will quadruple the news team’s editing capabilities.

– Digital Technology: The Future is Now! (Wyandanch High School, N.Y.): Digital audio, digital photography, web design software, digital presentation tools, digital journalism–these are some of the technologies highlighted in this video report by Lena Cooley, who allows her fellow students to explain in their own words how each of these and additional technologies help them learn.

One winner from each grade-level category–along with his or her educator mentor–will receive an expenses-paid trip to the nation’s capital, a guided tour of national monuments, recognition at a gala awards ceremony to be hosted in downtown Washington, D.C., prizes for themselves and their schools, an international showcase for their work, free video mentoring from the Pearson Foundation’s Digital Arts Alliance, and press releases about their achievement for their hometown news media.

But perhaps the most prestigious prize is the chance for the winning students to voice their opinions about the importance of educational technology in the legislative arena. Winners and their teacher sponsors will have the chance to meet with their state’s lawmakers to explain why using technology leads to present and future success.

"I would love the chance to talk with educational leaders who will listen to my ideas on how to integrate technology, given our current restraints in public schools," said Jay Hoffman, teacher sponsor for Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School. "I have learned much about integration, what can work, and what does not work. I want to share ideas with those who can help change the way we deliver technology education today."

Along with the learning experiences that developed from using new and familiar technologies, students and sponsors revealed that making a video came with some unexpected benefits.

"Doing this project also helped with what I believe to be a life skill: communicating with others," explained Andrew Zheng, a Parkway North High School student. "[I] talked to teachers, I went places to take footage and cooperated with people and gathered opinions. Overall, I gained technological knowledge, life lessons, and most importantly, I had a fun time!"

Link:

Empowered Education Awards