My wife showed me this video the other night. If you haven't seen it, consider taking thirty seconds to watch it. I'll wait.
At the time, I was entertained. The ending really surprised me, and the video itself was engaging. But, as soon as it was over, I wasn't thinking about buying a refrigerator or dishwasher any more than I had been before the clip.
How often are our classrooms like this? For me, I'm constantly asking myself whether or not a particular tool or activity is a gimmick (edutainment, if you will) or if it really has substance. There's a very fine line between the two, and I've definitely been duped in the past.
To determine if its going to make a long-lasting impact, I have to be able to connect it to the unit-at-large. How will the tool or activity come full circle from the initial hook? I think Dan Meyer does this better than anyone I know with his Three Act Math website. He begins with a short video or image that prompts a question from the students. Teachers then work to scaffold through the questions to help students build meaning. I'm amazed at not only how thorough his work is, but also that he shares it for free. (For proof that these aren't gimmicks, check out Dan's post from December 12.)
In science, I need to make the move to labs before instruction. Terie Englebrecht wrote a short post earlier this week about how she's moved to labs before instruction. Students move through the unit having been exposed to the "real" part of the content. I stink at this, and as I work on bring labs to the front of the cycle, I need to really make sure to build a program that feeds back on itself.
If you have ideas or suggestions on how to accomplish this, I'd love to hear about them.