The Revenge of Brentwood
written by Julie Garbus
That’s the name of the movie trailer that Brentwood Middle School 6th graders made in Ryan Fitzpatrick’s computer technology class using their new iPads. It looks professiona—and creepy. “We took the rumors about the school being haunted and put it in the movie,” the students explained. “We put the video up on YouTube and it’s getting a lot of hits”–two hundred, in fact, by 9:30 am the day after Halloween.
Students Evelin, Victoria, and Evelyn told us that the process wasn’t hard to learn. The iPad’s iMovie program walked them through it. You choose a theme, insert titles, graphics, and audio, shoot and insert video clips and photos, and learn effects like fade and slide. Students served as film director, photo director, casting director, title editor, and cast members. Evelin, who was casting director, enjoyed the experience because “you get to feel like a professional director.”
Students in Fitzpatrick’s classes are the iPad vanguard at Brentwood Middle School. Brentwood’s principal, Nicole Petersen, said that because many Brentwood teachers and students aren’t familiar with the uses of iPads, the school chose a gradual rollout process. This trimester, students in Fitzpatrick’s technology classes and in the gifted and talented program are getting to know the iPads. Next trimester, the devices will debut in other classrooms, and these students will serve as in-class experts.
At the same time as they learn new technology and prepare to teach their teachers and peers, Fitzpatrick’s students get to produce individual projects that reflect their interests, feelings, fears, and joys. The creative expression that iPads foster seems especially important for middle school kids, who are pondering who they are, who they want to become, and how they fit in with others. Middle school kids keep photos around of their favorite celebrities—so Evelyn’s favorite app is the Aviary photo-editing app “because I really like [singer] Bruno Mars and I got to make a picture of him.” Middle school kids must leave the comfort of the familiar. So Samantha and Emily are making a trailer about “girls going to middle school—how hard it is to come into middle school and not knowing what you’re doing and getting lost.” Middle school kids want to investigate life’s options—so Evelin enjoys iMovie because “you get to explore and feel special.”
Information literacy, collaboration, and invention (creativity, innovation)—the skills Fitzpatrick’s students are practicing—will help students succeed in today’s world. Educators call them “21st century skills.” New statewide assessments that students will take beginning spring 2015 will track these skills more closely than current tests do. So the Success Foundation’s iPad project could very well not only improve students’ lives, but also their test scores.
“The Revenge of District 6.” Now that has a nice ring to it.