The Perks of Empowerment

This past week was a blur of activity in the library. The end of the semester brings a barrage of students busting through the library doors frantic to “finish” which in many cases is slang for “begin” semester projects. I spent a great deal of time directing them to the research and creation tools links I had organized on the library web site and helping them decide how to best utilize the tools they wished to use in their projects.

But the highlight of the week had nothing to do with my instruction. It was when “Doug,” a normally quiet, socially awkward student, interrupted my demonstration of a video tool to say, “why don’t you share the One True Media site I told you about before break.”

Gulp. The truth was, I hadn’t even looked at it. Who’s socially awkward now? I had made the conceited and myopic mistake of assuming that the tools I was sharing were the best available, and I dismissed Doug’s input and subsequently forgot about his suggestion over break. Now, however, his question was alive, staring me down in a room full of 25 attentive students anxious to get to the business of creating. “Well, sure,” I stammered. “I can share that one too. One more resource can’t hurt.”

When I pulled up the site in question, all it took was one quick scan of the home page to see that the features available here were better than on the tools I has so carefully selected. In fact, this tool solved the biggest problem/complaint associated with the tools I was teaching: this one allowed unlimited length projects. Brilliant!

Doug could tell that I was ignorant of the obvious capabilities of the online software, since I didn’t immediately dive into demonstrating the tools on the Smart Board. So he did the opposite of what I expected  him to do. He locked eyes with me and said, “I could come up and show them how to use it if you’d like.”  Oh, yes, Doug. I would like!

And he did. And it was beautiful. And some of the students in his class were motivated to immediately try the new tool.  And in an instant, this socially awkward young man was transformed into a confident content Expert, answering the questions I was used to answering. In the end, he showed the project that he had created with this tool, and the result was a group of students with stunned expressions who immediately began working furiously to create their own pieces of magic.

Doug had inspired his peers and raised the proverbial bar of project quality. And I smiled as I feasted on Crow.