To assist early elementary school children in learning about community, teachers can visit important places in their town or city, videotape the facilities, show what people do there, and conduct short interviews with the workers. After editing the video, the teacher can show the students these places using a medium that even kindergarteners are comfortable with. This technique can also be used to introduce students to places they might be visiting in an upcoming field trip.
Today's digital video editing software is so easy to use that elementary children, even in the earlier grades, can edit clips into a story. Utilizing nonlinear video editing software (such as iMovie, preinstalled on Macintosh computers, or Pinnacle Studio 8 for Windows computers), students can use these same teacher-recorded video clips to retell the story of their community, developing their understanding of logical sequencing as they rearrange the clips into an order that makes sense to them and their audiences.
In the Hands of Kids
Making the connection between video production and the state instructional standards required in nearly every school today can be a challenge, since making video is rarely a part of the basic skills. However, J. Thomas McKinney, the principal at Audubon Elementary School in Rock Island, IL, says that strengthening writing and language arts skills is one reason his students produce a daily news program called WAUD-TV. "Producing television programs and recruiting reporters from every classroom motivates students to write more clearly and concisely," he says.
Students report over the school's closed-circuit video system on stories ranging from the local weather report, current events, and sports, to stories about camels and the planet Pluto. The program is also designed to address school-to-work issues as a way of connecting what children are learning in their classrooms to the real world they witness outside of school.
Linda McDermon, a technology facilitator at Rural Hall Elementary School in North Carolina, says her school's daily news broadcast is specifically designed to help students improve their skills in reading, writing, public speaking, vocabulary, science, and math. Her team changes every week as a different group of five students cycles in. They rotate through the jobs of newsreader, scriptwriter, sound, and camera tech positions. Everyone wants to participate.
Teachers have long known that asking students to teach is a powerful technique for helping them learn. Asking students to produce a video that will help other students learn something not only excites them with the opportunity to work with cool technology, but it also challenges them to think hard about the topic at hand and how best to organize and express the information in ways that a specific audience will understand.
Students at Barrett Elementary School use video production tools combined with visual and graphic arts to retell the stories they read and hear in language arts classes. They draw and color pictures in their art class. After their artwork is scanned into the computer, they use Adobe Photoshop to layer the scenes and characters to create animation frames for their video. The frames are then joined using Adobe After Effects and Apple iMovie, and the students record the audio based on the scripts they write. You can see their animation of Molly Bannaky, written by Alice McGill, at www.arlington.k12.va.us/schools/barrett/molly.
Victoria Deaton, the president of Digital Storytelling, a nonprofit professional development organization, says video production makes students better communicators. One teacher who attended her workshop reported that students now understand "from a real-world perspective the importance of planning, the need for logical sequence, and the value of one's ability to work in conjunction with others."
Digital Storytelling teaches digital production as a curriculum skill to be used within social studies, science, or other subject-area instruction. One of Deaton's best stories was of an elementary science class where the teacher asked her students to produce short video clips illustrating that week's vocabulary words. When they finished and shared their clips with peers, the class-wide vocabulary test scores were the highest of the year.
David Warlick (firstname.lastname@example.org), an educational technology consultant in Raleigh, N.C., maintains the Landmarks for Schools Web site.
Classrooms that compete with MTV? Why not? For more on the how to, visit the following:
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