Jake Duncan is excited about technology in schools and even more excited about teachers and students working together, in order to create innovative technology projects that can teach real life skills.
Duncan, the technology integration specialist for Texas Region 6 Educational Service Center in Huntsville, recently staged a video contest designed to motivate teachers to integrate technology into their classrooms, and to get the students to "show off their technology skills" in the process.
The contest asked for videos in three categories: Technology as a Teaching Tool, Morning Announcement and My School is the Best. Each category had two levels – one for grades K-5 and one for grades 6-12. Up to three videos could be submitted per school.
Magnolia High AV Production Instructor Kathrina Martin won the category of My School is the Best with the video "The Magnolia Style," a fast-paced parody of the popular Gangnam Style video by the South Korean musician PSY. The video involved a huge cast of Magnolia High staff members and students, but above all, it shows a sense of accomplishment and pride that the students have for their school, Duncan said.
Texas Region 6 comprises more than 12,000 square miles across 15 counties in southeast Texas, including Montgomery County. Region 6 has 57 school districts, including Magnolia ISD, and a number of private and charter schools. More than 30 videos were submitted for consideration in this first video contest, and winners were announced this month.
"This is an example of how we want technology to work in the schools – classroom transformation with digital learning," said Duncan.
"We actually created the video before we heard about the contest," Martin said. "When I heard about the contest I knew the video would be perfect for that."
Martin sent the idea she had for the parody to former student Jeremy Fowler – now a college student in Austin – and he wrote the lyrics. Fowler and another former Magnolia student Austin Clark then put the song together, which the students lip sync in the video.
Martin said the students and faculty members that participated in the making of the video spent countless hours meticulously matching every movement and shot in the original video.
"The kids had to do research on getting the shots and framing just right," she said.
Martin's students and Magnolia High had already received some fame for a past video, in which they lip synced to Katy Perry's song "Fireworks." Perry then got word of the video and shared it with her Twitter and Facebook followers, with the video now having received almost 400,000 views on YouTube.
"Our students work extremely hard and are very creative," Martin said. "I am really proud of what they did."
Duncan is optimistic that the next contest will have more entries.
"The next contest is on the subject of teaching others to become good digital citizens," he said. "The videos will be due May 13. These contests are about collaboration and creativity, not just about who can produce the fanciest video. I hope more teachers and students get involved in the next one – they can learn a lot and it's fun."
Each video must be submitted by a teacher sponsor, but students are invited to get involved. The Magnolia Style can be viewed here.
Tribune Reporter Caleb Harris contributed to this report.