‘Iron Chef’ parodies: A perfect use of ed tech?

Here’s my vision for using tech in the service of learning.

Our homework activities too often ask students to do rudimentary tasks that computers can be programmed to do.

‘Leading Change’ column, January 2014 edition of eSchool NewsA few years ago, my high-school-age stepdaughter arrived home from school one afternoon and started watching a video. Nothing too unusual. But Olivia was walking around the kitchen and pulling out cookware from the cupboards. All this while watching the video. “What is going on?” I thought.

Olivia was watching a cooking show created by two students in her advanced Japanese class. She was preparing to cook the meal herself. The assignment was to learn new vocabulary. On other occasions, students might have had to write out vocabulary definitions on a worksheet, or choose a correct definition on a multiple-choice quiz. But today, the teacher had provided an unstructured problem for the students to solve: How would you prove that you really understand this information? No test. No quiz. No worksheet.

Their task was to create a product that communicated a persuasive understanding of the vocabulary. Because much of it involved things found in the kitchen, the students decided to create “Iron Chef” parodies and developed humorous skits using the vocabulary to teach viewers how to cook various meals.

Olivia’s Japanese teacher had served up a challenging assignment for her students that inspired them to engage in real, meaningful work (and to cook a real, tasty meal). One of our fundamental commitments as educators is to prepare students for the world in which they live: to be active citizens, reflective individuals, and productive members of the working world. Yet, the 21st century provides different challenges than the 20th century. Olivia’s teacher was addressing those challenges.

(Next page: How not to prepare students to be outsourced)

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