I think I'm addicted to educational contests and so are my students. Every year I say we're too busy to participate in the annual Historica Fairs (sadly no longer sponsored by Historica itself this year in my region) and every year the students convince me that we should enter their projects. A few years ago, a grade 5 class I worked with won a Charlotte's Web / Toronto Raptors contest and got to watch an advanced screening of the film for free with some of the basketball stars. Last year, the junior/intermediate home school class won the Best Buy Best In Class Fund grant worth $30 000. We like the authentic learning that takes places, the firm timelines, and the prizes. Oh yeah, we like the prizes.
Right now I'm working with a small volunteer team to submit our school entry to the Microsoft-MindShare Learning 21st Century Digital Classroom Challenge. I sacrificed coming home early after a workshop so I could go back to school to meet with the group. They've spent hours tinkering, fiddling with sounds and images to make it "just right". The ISTE NETS standards are being used as criteria for judging. I must say the logistics of music acquisition are complicated; my students were very proud to say they were digitally responsible and ethical by using FreePlay Music for their soundtrack, but I had to point out the fine print: it's free for educational use only if it stays in the confines of your school. In this virtual landscape of today, how likely is that? It makes me think that Cory Doctorow and the "copyleft" movement isn't so crazy or radical. I've promised them that if we win, I'm taking them out to Mandarin for a buffet lunch. Since the grand prize is $15 000 in materials (including a trip to Denver), I think it's a decent offer. In my 100 word description that I must submit with the video entry, I describe the work the students and learning community has done, both in preparing our submission and in the work it highlights with wikis, interactive avatars, video manipulation tools and such, as "digital learning at its finest". We'll see if the judging panel agrees; wish us luck!