21 April 2014 ~ 6 Comments

10 lessons Frozen can teach us about tech, teaching

10 lessons "Frozen" can teach us about #edtech, teaching

“Frozen” has caught the attention of movie-goers for its against-all-odds story line. It has great messages for educators, too. (Walt Disney Animation Studios)

My 6-year-old daughter found a copy of “Frozen” in her Easter basket this weekend, courtesy of the Easter Bunny himself.

She could already quote much of the movie before getting her own copy, so it’s no surprise that we watched it yesterday.

It’s the story of Ana, a princess whose sister, Elsa, has magic powers to create snow and ice. The two are separated because of Elsa’s powers, and Ana sets off alongside mountain man Kristoff, his reindeer sidekick Sven, and snowman Olaf, to find her.

As I watched it, I kept finding myself thinking, “Hey, that’s a good message for teachers,” or “Hey, that applies to what I do in the classroom.”

Here are 10 things we can take away from “Frozen” as educators:

1. Let it go — There’s a good chance that even if you haven’t seen the movie, you’ve heard this song, which won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. For years, teachers have held control in the classroom tightly and closely. As information becomes more and more widely available online, we wield less and less of that control, whether we realize it or not. It’s time for us to let it go, giving students more choice in the material they study, the tools they use and the products they create.

2. Do you want to build a snowman? — The “Frozen” sisters are makers! They create a fun winter wonderland — and Olaf, one of the movie’s characters — in a cavernous room in their castle. For fun or for learning purposes (or for both!), our students should create instead of just consuming what exists on the Web.

3. Conceal it, don’t feel it — This was the mantra Elsa repeated over and over to keep others from knowing about her snow powers. We see in the end what pain that ends us causing. When students mask their feelings and are uncomfortable, those emotions inhibit their ability to learn freely.

bammy award banner for DTT4. For the first time in forever — The family opens up the castle “for the first time in forever” for coronation day, bringing people inside the castle walls. There’s power in bringing out activities and ideas in class that you haven’t used for a while. Think back to what you used to do, and if it was successful, there’s a chance it may inspire someone now.

5. Great power but great danger — As Elsa’s snow powers become stronger, she’s told she will have great power but great danger. This may make me a geek (OK, I’m pretty sure it does), but that made me think of Web 2.0 tools and social media in class. They have huge potential to create learning activities and to connect students to ideas and people. But they can also expose students to risk if used unsafely. We have to keep a balance.

6. Don’t fall in love too quickly — Ana falls in love with Prince Hans of the Southern Isles in a heartbeat and right away they decide to get married. But Ana doesn’t realize her true love, Kristoff, is waiting right around the corner. How often do we get attached to a teaching tool without making sure it’s a great fit for our classroom and students? I did this with an infographics-creation site early this year, and my students still remind me about it!

7. Don’t be a loner — When Elsa’s snow powers caused trouble, her first impulse was to run away and live alone in an ice castle. As teachers, it’s so easy to lock ourselves up in our classrooms — our own ice castles (minus the fancy architecture and shine) — and miss the support of colleagues. Twitter and social media can help that (so can stepping out in the hallway more frequently!).

8. Rethink what you have around you — When Ana and Kristoff were confronted with a snow monster, they slid to safety down slopes of snow. They hadn’t planned that escape route, but they improvised and it worked. The status quo can be a killer in classrooms — an attention killer, an engagement killer, a passion killer. Don’t be afraid to mix things up.

9. You can fix this fixer-upper — The trolls characterize Kristoff as a fixer-upper, but, they say, he can be fixed with a little bit of love. As educators, we often get wrapped up in the day-to-day of planning, teaching and grading. We can lose focus on the life-changing power of our position with our students. Sometimes, fixer-uppers can be helped immensely with a little bit of love.

10. Open the gates — When the family opened the gates to the castle, it also made me think of opening our ways of teaching to other ideas. (OK, that one didn’t hit me right away, but eventually it did.) It’s scary to ask students what they like and what they don’t, but if we’re brave enough to seek that feedback, it can do huge things for student morale and motivation. There’s something to be said for using their ideas and not our own.

What else can you learn from “Frozen” about teaching? What ideas did this list bring to mind? Share your ideas in a comment below!

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6 Responses to “10 lessons Frozen can teach us about tech, teaching”

  1. D Blaz 21 April 2014 at 10:59 am Permalink

    I know Matt is not advocating doing this, but I thought I’d just post a caveat if you’re thinking of using it in your classroom> By law, as well as by intent, the pre-recorded videocassettes and DVDs (“Videos”) which are available in stores throughout the United States are for home use only – unless you have a license to show them elsewhere.
    Here is a posting from another site: “You can show a movie without a license if it directly relates to your instruction. For example, we used to read Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and then show the video and the students had to write a compare/contrast of the book and the movie. Directly related to the instruction.

    Other than that, it is a violation of the copyright law to show a movie without a license. Our school purchased one so that we don’t have to worry about it. Until then, we had to show in our lesson plans where the movie was directly related to instruction.

    Disney tends to be the one that gets mentioned because they have sued school districts for showing their videos without a license. However, keep in mind that Disney owns several other production companies – Pixar, Touchstone.. I’m sure there are others.

    If you check with the librarian/media specialist on your campus they should be able to give you the laws that support it. Ours did a whole training session on it and we all received a copy of the law and had to sign off that we had been trained… this was right after a law suit in a nearby district. In the nearby district, the district was sued because the teacher was an employee of the district. I guess this training was supposed to make the teacher the liable one, since we’d been told not to do it and signed saying we’d been “informed of the law.”

    • Matt Miller 21 April 2014 at 11:56 am Permalink

      Deb makes an excellent, excellent point. Sometimes we think we’re too small to be noticed and be sued, but this is an important thing to remember. Thanks, Deb!

      • Julie S 21 April 2014 at 10:08 pm Permalink

        A wonderful solution to showing movies in the classroom/library/school setting – http://www.movlic.com/. This licensing allows anyone in the school setting to legally show almost any movie. Disney movies are part of this licensing :). If a school system or multiple school systems work together, they can get even better pricing. Many schools in Tennessee are using this successfully.

  2. Kari Catanzaro 21 April 2014 at 3:13 pm Permalink

    Love all of these analogies and teaching lessons! The first time I saw the movie (in the theater with my daughter- we now own it so we can sing along), I was overcome with excitement. For the first time ever, I had a lesson on “fjords” that my students would understand! Besides all of the other great life lessons and historical connections, that 1 lesson makes it all worth showing parts of it in class- tundra climate and fjords! And thank you, Matt, for helping me repurpose how I see the movie from a teacher standpoint.

  3. Ken Keene 25 April 2014 at 2:44 pm Permalink

    Congratulations! One of the most creative applications of a media presentation that I have ever experienced. Your words have the power to transform. Although my classroom teaching career has come to en end, I plan to try out your suggestions in the rest of my life. Who knows how grandchildren and others will be positively affected?


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