Content Creation Tools and Learning Curves

How do I use this?

During the last few weeks of school my students have been working on their last projects. These projects are student-driven, as students ask a question, conduct research and present their findings to the class.  Through this project I’ve attempted to add a genius hour philosophy to math class.  For the most part students are excited to participate in this learning experience. At the beginning of the process I gave them options in how to present their findings.


Most of my fourth and fifth grade students are presenting their projects using Explain Everything, a poster, Power Point, or iMovie. Even though all of these options were given to grades 3-5, all of my third graders chose one way to showcase their learning. Last year, third and fourth grade students used many different apps and content creation tools to showcase their learning. Each unit had a content creation component and students took full advantage as they explored the different features of the apps/programs. So now these particular students are in fourth and fifth grade and have had the experience of using a variety of presentation tools.

Regardless of the grade level, I allowed students to pick a presentation tool for their projects.  Every single third grade students decided to use Power Point. I don’t feel like this is negative, but it also has me wondering if their reluctancy to try a different tool resides in not understanding its functions. It also has me wondering what happens if students aren’t introduced to the tool? My current third graders haven’t had the opportunity to use other technology presentation tools. I think that’s part of the reason, but not necessarily the entire picture.  What happens if that exposure is limited or doesn’t happen at all?

Giving students options is important, but if they don’t know how to use all of the options then that often reduces choice. In this case, familiarity trumped the intimidation of using something for the very first time.  Now I could have had a brief introduction to each tool and then maybe some would try to use it, but I didn’t try that.

Why this post? I feel like students need to be given the opportunity to use a variety of content creation tools in the classroom.  Not for the sake of using THE tool, but the experiences using the tool often empower students.  Students also become more confident and find different ways to showcase their learning in doing so.  I’ve found certain tools to be valuable in showcasing student learning far beyond a typical bubble test.

Although the technology opens up more doors, I feel like Bill makes a great point by saying, “technology is a tool, not a learning outcome.” At some schools these types of tools are introduced in the media center, at others the introduction depends on the teacher. The tools don’t have to be digital or complex. Even a brief amount of exposure on the functionalities of the tool can go a long way in encouraging students to move outside of their comfort zone and create. Despite being digital natives (I’m not a huge fan of this term), at times, students struggle with being able to adapt a tool to fit their project. Students may know how to use an Ipad for enjoyment, but not so much for editing, creating, re-editing, exporting, sharing, or saving. Being able to use technology tools for a specific purpose is important. Direct exposure to these tools may provide long-term benefit. With everything expected, it’s a bit silly to put the responsibility of this on just one teacher. I feel like a collective effort is needed to provide students with opportunities to explore different content creation tools.

Sidenote: I did have a few third graders ask what these “new” tools were, but they decided to go to Power Point when finding that they’d have to research the tools on their own.

Author: Matt Coaty

I've taught elementary students for the past 14 years. I enjoy reading educational research and learning from my PLN. Words on this blog are my own.

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