Last year, an Eastmont Middle School sixth-grader claimed the top prize in the first Utah PTA digital wellness film contest, which was held only in the Canyons School District.
This year, the film contest is extended statewide to sixth- through 12th-grade students with the submission deadline March 15.
“The purpose of the video contest is to promote digital wellness and awareness and to promote healthy use of devices with students,” said Melinda Rosevear, Utah PTA Digital Wellness Committee member who is directing the video contest. “Our theme is ‘being safe, kind and responsible online.’ We wanted to make it broad so students can take any of those aspects they want to focus.”
Currently, information is being shared with career and technology education teachers in schools throughout the state.
“Every student in Utah is required to take the digital literacy class in eighth grade, unless parents choose to opt their student out, so that seems like a good place to get the word out to students,” she said. “I would love for the teachers who are already doing things in their eighth-grade digital literacy classes to participate in this.”
Last year, in its pilot year in Canyons School District, many Albion Middle students in classes taught by CTE teacher Bethany Hanson participated.
“I’d say about 60% of our entries were from Albion Middle School because the digital literacy teacher there jumped on it and it caught the kids’ interest,” she said.
Rosevear said that Eastmont winner, Jake Despain, “really knows his technology. He had all these cool special effects, he was very concise and very creative in his message.”
The contest allows students to have an engaging way to teach and to learn.
“It’s more impactful when kids are teaching kids and when they’re using their creativity to convey a message about digital safety and awareness. It’s such a powerful tool when they use their own videos to help teach concepts and while they’re making the videos that helps them think about these issues that help them process what is appropriate, say what’s responsible and express that in a way that’s creative and uses technology for good,” she said.
The film, which has a maximum time length of 90 seconds, can be worked on as a group, but only one student will be allowed to enter it. If that student wins local or state prizes, which may be up to $500, it can be shared with other participants, she said, adding she appreciated the support of generous donors.
Rosevear said the idea emerged from when she held White Ribbon Week film contests as a PTA leader at Quail Hollow Elementary and Albion Middle School.
“I thought it would be fun to do a video contest because I think kids love to make movies and they love to use technology to express their ideas and their creativity. So, I thought how cool it would be for the kids to create videos and then to show those videos in the school,” she said.
Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out as she planned.
“We had that video contest, and it was literally the week before COVID closed the schools. We still had winners, but we didn’t get to share the films in person. We may have put the videos on Canvas or something for other students to see,” she recalled.
When Rosevear proposed a film contest to the Utah PTA committee, “they loved the idea” so it was tested last year in Canyons District.
“Now we’re ready to roll it out to the whole state,” she said.
The Utah PTA Digital Wellness Committee, coordinated by Utah PTA Digital Wellness Specialist Linda Zenger, has about 15 digital citizenship and industry experts who will judge the entries. By the end of April, the committee will send certificates and winning prizes to students’ schools so they can be recognized at the school in front of their peers.