I am helping out this week in a classroom where the teacher wanted to do something other than the posters they had done in the past. We decided on allowing the students to choose what they use to do the project as long as it could be shared with others and met the contextual guidelines.
This can actually be a tough thing for many teachers to do, to open up the assignment to how the students want to do it. The content was pretty much the same for every student but how they go about representing that content will vary. Many teachers get used to grading the same assignment the same way and like that control they feel when everyone is turning in the same thing. That however is not what many students want. Many students want to express themselves in ways that are more personal to themselves. Some may be better writers while others may be more visual. Each student has different traits and we should let those students use those traits to best guide their learning.
Some students may still just do a simple Google Presentation or some other tool that they are comfortable with. You will however see some students use this opportunity to expand their knowledge by trying something new. One student in that class was even going to create an app for smartphones to share their information. That is awesome! The teacher does not need to know how to create an app, they just have to know their content and how best to encourage and support the student. The student may stumble along the way but isn’t that part of the learning process?
Yes this may take a little more time, but it will be worth it in the end if the student has truly owned what they produced. They will be more engaged and more likely to actually learn what it is they are working with. If they were just following the steps like every other student, they might just remember the info for a bit and then discard it once the test comes. By giving students a choice in what/how they produce, we are giving them a chance to truly own their learning.