The SPARKY Awards - A Contest to Promote the Open Exchange of Information
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If you have an apple and I have an apple, and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea, and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.
- George Bernard Shaw

Educators’ Guide to Using the Sparky Awards in Your Classes

The Sparky Awards offer a fun and engaging way to expand your curriculum this fall. Undergraduate and graduate courses in a wide range of disciplines are working to explore new media and the intricacies of re-using content with students. Incorporate the Sparky Awards as a formal assignment or extracurricular activity to take the discussion a level deeper and prepare students to navigate this new territory effectively, creatively, and legally. Educators at all types of institution – including 4-year colleges and universities, community and junior colleges, art and film schools, etc. – are invited to incorporate the contest into your fall curricula, whether as a formal assignment or extracurricular activity.

The contest will be especially relevant to classes in subjects including:

  • film and video production
  • media and cinema studies
  • digital arts and media
  • library and information science
  • computer science and information technology
  • public policy, law, and economics (especially information policy, science policy, technology policy, education policy, intellectual property law)
  • education
  • science, technology, and society
  • history of science

Students at any type of institution and of all study levels are eligible to enter.

How to use the contest

  • As a class assignment: Assign students to work individually, in teams, or in pairs to produce a short video or multimedia presentation.
  • As an extra-credit opportunity: Offer extra credit for students who choose to produce a video.
  • As an extra-curricular activity: Mention the contest in class to students as an extra-curricular activity.
  • Point students to the contest Web site at for details and how to enter.

NEW: Thinking Creatively about Video Assignments - A Conversation with Penn Faculty

This informal conversation in March 2008 brought five Penn faculty to the Weigle Information Commons to discuss their experiences teaching classes that have included video assignments. The first video is a preview and the others are in-depth discussion of specific aspects. We thank our participants for sharing their expertise:

  • Regina Austin, Penn Law
  • Peter Decherney, English and Cinema Studies, SAS (facilitator)
  • Louise Krasniewicz, Anthropologist, Penn Museum
  • Andrew Lamas, Urban Studies, SAS
  • Jacqui Sadashige, Center for Programs in Critical Writing, SAS

Visit to view these videos now.

Benefits of participation

The contest structure is flexible, and adaptable to different course structures. The contest requires that students go through copyright and permission processes in detail before using material created by others in their video. Participating in this contest will help students understand and develop their own personal perspective on copyright laws. In addition, the contest provides national recognition for student creativity with video.

Participating students will exercise their research and critical thinking skills when considering the topic, and their creative skills in selecting a premise and producing the video. If students work in teams, they will also develop skills in group collaboration, interpersonal communication, and project management. Through their research on the topic, students will learn about issues in information policy, systems in scholarly communication, knowledge ecology, etc.

Students can also earn cash and cool prizes.

We hope you’ll consider integrating the Sparky Awards 2008 contest into plans for your fall classes. If you have any questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to let us know.

Jennifer McLennan SPARC Director of Communications jennifer [at] arl [dot] org