Monday, January 31, 2011

What My Son did over Christmas Break

For some of us, Christmas break is a time of relaxing and spending time with family and friends. For others, it involves projects of varying kinds.   As parents, we find ourselves asking what to do to keep our kids occupied during their time off from school. We don’t want our kids to necessarily sit around and do nothing, but we also don’t want to make them do things they are not interested in doing. I would like to share with you how one of my sons chose to spend his break.

Motivation: It all began with a contest on Youtube.  My son is a big fan of Legos, and was browsing videos of some neat Lego creations.  Another kid about his age had issued a challenge for others to build a Lego candy machine and post a video of it to his Youtube channel.

Process: My son opted to build a Starburst candy machine that would give you a Starburst for a nickel. It took him several days of trial and error to build the machine, but when he finished, he had accomplished his goal: a Lego Starburst machine that would take no other coin than a nickel. It even has a trash dispenser for the wrapper. He used his iPod Nano to record a video of the project, he used iMovie to edit the video, and published the video to Youtube.

Outcome: He won the contest!  He was very pleased with the result of his hard work.  The interesting part is, the prize was recognition - a recommendation from the contest host to “subscribe” to my son’s Youtube channel, and almost 300 views of his video to date.  Of course, this success lead to several other Lego creations with videos on his own Youtube channel.

What’s the educational point? This is a great example of how kids learn in the 21st century.  In this case, video (Youtube) was used as the delivery of instruction in coming up with Lego project ideas. It was also a tool in accomplishing his goal, and was an excellent method of evaluation from his peers.  

How can teachers use video to motivate students?  The great thing about using video is it can be used cross-curriculum. From creating video book reports to viewing science experiments, from creating history reenactments to viewing specific steps in a building process, using video to deliver instruction or to record student work is a powerful technology tool!  Teachers can create a Youtube channel for their classroom’s videos with very little effort.  Is Youtube blocked at your school? There are a host of very similar video sites available to educators for free, including,, and

Website of the month:  Next Vista for Learning  An online library of free videos for learners everywhere. Their goal is to gather a set of resources to help you learn just about anything, meet people who make a difference in their communities, and even discover new parts of the world. Next Vista for Learning wants to post your educational videos online, too. Everyone has an insight to share and yours may be just what some student or teacher somewhere needs!