3. They make learning last.

Years ago my then-16-year old stepdaughter arrived home from school and started pulling out cookware from the cupboards. All this while watching a movie on her iPod. ‘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. Olivia’s teacher had challenged the students to prove that they really understood new vocabulary. No test. No quiz. No worksheet. Their task was to create a product that communicated a persuasive understanding of the vocabulary. Since 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 is now 24 years old and taught English in Japan last year. She recounted a time when she had a Japanese colleague over for dinner. As Olivia was explaining to her guest how she prepared dinner her Japanese colleague interrupted and blurted out : “Wait! Olivia, your Japanese is not that good!”

Olivia is not fluent in Japanese, but she remembered the vocabulary, verbs, and idioms she learned from the “Iron Chef” video she and her students created. By her own admission, Oliva “can’t remember much of anything else” learned in that course, but seven years later the Iron Chef lesson is fresh in her mind.

In these classes, students are not going to forget the projects. That Adam Smith/Karl Marx video is going to stay with Shawn’s former student for a long time—not just the process she undertook, but also the content behind it.

As Shawn would agree, his former student knows the works of these philosophers inside and out. The video is simply a manifestation of her knowledge, made possible with the help of technology; it’s actually the hours she has spent reading their works, analyzing their arguments, and outlining her project that are the foundation of her knowledge.

Tom Daccord is the director of EdTechTeacher, a professional learning organization.