Capable Creators

Preparing students to produce digital content.

GUEST COLUMN | by Joseph Sanfilippo

CREDIT TeqWith technology becoming more prevalent in schools and the need to prepare students for the 21st century workplace becoming more pressing, understanding how to prepare students to create digital content is now more important than ever. Whenever I speak with educators about digital content creation, I always refer to a Common Core Anchor Standard that calls for students to produce writing in a digital format:


Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

Here are some things to consider when shifting your classroom into the digital age, and preparing your students to become capable digital content creators.

The classroom is an important place for students to learn the skills they’ll need to communicate and thrive in today’s digital world.

Distinguish Between Digital Content Consumption and Digital Content Creation

Do you know the difference between using devices such as iPads and other tablets as consumption devices, versus leveraging them as creation devices? While simply giving a student access to an app or an educational game does expose students to technology, it may not lead to the higher-level thinking that should be the goal of incorporating technology into the classroom.

While there are plenty of great applications that are useful to students to consume content, using applications that allow them to create and share content can completely change what a student’s end product is. This can be as simple as using an online storyboarding tool for students to collaborate, or as advanced as using video editing software to create a book report as a digital story.

Student Ownership of Content

A student-centered activity that ends with the creation of a final project engages the student because of the sense of ownership to the final piece. This is common practice and has not changed today, where students are surrounded by digital content and rich media. Think about the level of engagement you can achieve with your students when the projects they produce are digital and can compete with the digital world they live in every day. Tools like iMovie, Windows MovieMaker, or collaborative tools like SMART amp, can all be used to create exciting digital content.

Same Skills and Content, Different Medium

The process of research, planning, scripting, storyboarding and presenting information has not changed in the digital world. What has changed is the medium in which we have students create the projects. Building a diorama in a shoe box or creating a poster board, may have been something we all did in school, and the research that goes into these projects remains extremely valuable.

Today, we can replace these projects with online tools to create multi-media posters that can include interactive web links, videos and more. These tools are more engaging to students simply because they incorporate technology into the creation process. For example, when I was in high school (circa 1999) I wrote articles for the school newspaper, which was then printed and distributed. Today, I would most likely be writing articles for a classroom blog or website. The process I go through to write the article is the same—only the medium has changed.

Global Access

Now that the medium has changed, so has who can access it. My high school newspaper probably did not make it past the cafeteria, but with an online blog and social media, the range of people who can obtain access to student-created content can literally be global. While it was very unlikely that another student from Australia could have read my high school newspaper, today being able to comment back and forth on my article with a student from across the globe is a very real possibility. Giving students a louder voice with their creations allows them to see how small the world can be, thanks to the Internet.

Digital Citizenship

Along with the benefits that digital content creation brings, there are also new responsibilities. There are many facets to being an upstanding digital citizen, and one of the most important when it comes to digital content creation is proper sourcing and citations. Would you allow a student to write a research paper and not source or cite their research? Then why allow students to use an image or video without citing the source, just because they were able to find it through Google Images?

While a student may not be penalized for using a copyrighted image in your class, they would be in the workplace. Understanding the rules around using “creative commons” or rights -free media is just as important a skill as the project itself.

Preparing Students for the 21st Century Workplace

It is a safe assumption that technology and digital content will not just disappear once the student reaches the workforce. In fact, it will most likely be a prominent skill that is in high demand by employers. With many online creation tools lending themselves to collaboration between two people without ever needing to actually be together, putting students into this situation as early as possible will not only give them the technology skills to create digital content, but the interpersonal skills it takes to be able to collaborate through technology.

Keep these concepts in mind when teaching students how to approach creating digital content, from activities as simple as formatting a letter, to drafting an email, to creating multi-media projects and more. The sky is the limit when it comes to digital content creation—and the classroom is an important place for students to learn the skills they’ll need to communicate and thrive in today’s digital world.

Joseph Sanfilippo is Director of eLearning for Teq, a leading professional development and educational technology firm. During his three years at Teq, Joseph Sanfilippo has been instrumental in launching the Teq Online PD (professional development) platform. Before his promotion, Mr. Sanfilippo held several positions at Teq, including eLearning Specialist and Instructional Technologist. Prior to Teq, he was Vocation and Technology Coordinator for the Center for Developmental Disabilities. He holds a Masters in Special Education and Training and a B.A. from Wagner College, in Staten Island, NY.

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