Thursday, January 11, 2007

Honouring your classmate

It started last week, Tuesday night, January 2nd, with the news that one of our students was killed in a car accident. With school set to go back into session on the next Monday, it was apparent that a plan needed to be put into place to help students and staff deal with the tragedy. The school was opened for the remainder of the week for those who wanted to gather to share their grief and work with counselors. I felt that there need to be a way for students to express themselve digitally at a time like this, after all, within minutes following the event, the news started to spread on MSN.

On Monday morning I went to the school to give support in any way I could, including having the computer lab available for students to drop in if they chose to do so. One girl who knew he school was looking for pictures to put with a memory scrapbook that was being created came by to ask if she could go onto the internet as she had a website that she maintained on one of the popular social networking sites. Along with other pages typical of the sites created by 12 year olds, there was a page that was dedicated to the student who had passed away. Aside from her own writing and visuals, there was an area of comments where other students had written their thoughts.

What then transpired was a project idea to have a slide show to show at the memoria service. It was held this afternoon and three students began to collect words and phrases from their classmates. Digital photos surfaced and I spent a bit of time introducing the girls to ComicLife. As time permitted, between classes in Band, PE, Reading, Writing, and Math, the girls would come to the lab and chose images that fit various themes. They had never used the digital tools in their lab... they didn't even know they were there to use. With minimal instruction on my part they were off. From ComicLife to QuickTime movie, to iMovie with transitions and music their friend liked, they completed a wonderful slide show to honour their friend.
Three other students promoted a fashion show as the student who had passed away was often referred to as a "fashionista". Her goal in life was to become a designer. Thirty or so students participated in the show with digital images then put into iPhoto and a slide show created, again with background music from their classmate's collection.

Today at the memorial there was a station set up with music, including a piece recorded in GarageBand by one of the students, another with the fashion show, and finally during the service the Remembering Brynnie video. I couldn't have been more proud of these students.

One of the legacies of this tragedy is that there are now a group of students who have quickly learned to use the tools the school has to offer them and all have said they would like to use them more for other projects and to teach others. A very positive outcome to a seriously tragic event.

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