Students wow lawmakers with video savvy

After spending many days and countless exhausting hours producing videos worthy of national exposure, the winners of eSchool News’ Empowered Education Awards–a national student video contest sponsored by the Pearson Foundation–celebrated their success with a three-day trip to Washington, D.C., highlighted by meetings with federal lawmakers to discuss technology’s importance to education … and their future.

eSchool News created the Empowered Education Awards program to discover and celebrate the accomplishments of some of America’s brightest young creative minds, while also spotlighting the key role technology plays in 21st-century education. To participate, students from all educational levels were invited to make three- to five-minute original videos on the theme “How Technology Helps Me Learn.”

“Our goal was to give talented young people a rich learning experience that expands their horizons with technology, while deepening their understanding of how America works,” said Gregg W. Downey, president and publisher of eSchool News.

Three semifinalists in each of three categories–elementary, middle, and high school–were chosen by eSchool News editors with help from visitors to eSchool News Online. From these semifinalists, a panel of esteemed judges, all experts in educational technology and/or video production, chose the winning entries based on criteria such as creativity, knowledge of technology, journalistic style, and overall quality in conveying how their schools employ technology to advance learning.

With support from the Pearson Foundation, winners of the awards were flown to D.C. to experience the city, take part in an intensive video workshop hosted by the Digital Arts Alliance, meet with their senators and congressmen , and be honored in an awards ceremony. (See video and photos of the trip here).

Arriving on a Sunday night, the winning student-teacher teams from Ernest Hemingway Elementary School in Ketchum, Idaho; Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School in South Burlington, Vt.; and Wyandanch High School in Wyandanch, N.Y., settled into downtown D.C.’s Marriott at Metro Center hotel, miles away from home and eager to enjoy what the nation’s capital has to offer.

“My intentions for competing were twofold,” said Jay Hoffman, teacher of the winning team from Frederick H. Tuttle. “I wanted to know if the skills I was imparting were adequate; in other words, are [my students] competitive on a national level with other middle school students? If not, I would readjust my approach to teaching technology to better equip them.

“Second,” he continued, “I hoped to have positive results so then the kids would see just how much they do know and how fortunate we are to have such great resources in our small Vermont schools. Often students underestimate their ability … much to my surprise.”

Meris Stansbury

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