Digital cameras capture images that can be uploaded to a Web site, printed, or included in student projects. Digital images offer a new medium and mode for students to document understanding, analyze change over time, or alter for creative expression. Many cameras also record sound and video, additional methods for gathering data.
Digital cameras increase student self-concept as high achievers.
Sarah Carlyle teaches third grade in a small, rural elementary school. The school is located on the outskirts of farmland and a National Forest. The remote location has limited students' access to experiences and interactions with the larger world. Carlyle is the first new teacher the school has hired in five years, and she is concerned about her students' low motivation and interest in learning.
Carlyle used to be the language arts teacher in a large, suburban middle school. She has been an enthusiastic technology user, but his new grade and school have prompted her to revisit her teaching practices. The school has little money for extra resources, but recently received a donation of 10 digital cameras equipped with basic features. She sees power in the technology for motivation and change.
Carlyle's focus is on improving her students' reading and writing skills. Her students' scores in these areas are very low. She planned a project to encourage her students to be inspired and motivated to write, while learning about the effort it takes to succeed.
Increasing student motivation involves creating tasks that are engaging, manageable, arouse curiosity, and involve imaginative play (Covington, 1992; Marzano, 2003). They need to stimulate the student's sense of possibility, as well as control over the outcome.
Carlyle began by introducing her students to a successful writer—their teacher! Using four digital pictures of herself accompanied by pieces of text from her own writing, Carlyle created a digital "story" of herself as a successful author. She presented her slide show to the class, and shared how her effort and writing practice had paid off—she had published a short story. She showed a copy to the students, and summarized the story. Then she told them how many times she had to ask companies to publish her story, and how many times she had been rejected. Her students were surprised, which led to a discussion of effort, perseverance, and success. Then she gave them all an assignment.
The students were to imagine themselves as successful authors. They were to take pictures of themselves as famous authors and create presentations about their lives.
They answered questions such as: What will I look like? What will I write about? Where will I live? How much writing will I do each day? What kind of effort will it take? Then they were to add samples of their own writing. With the students, she developed a rubric that described the qualifications of a successful presentation and outlined expected writing quality. The students discussed whether her presentation "met their criteria," and then began to plan.
The next weeks were full of writing activities. Each morning, Carlyle started with a story of a successful person. She talked about someone she saw working hard, and outlined how the effort could be seen in the results. Often she used a story from one of the students themselves, as she observed their individual effort in class increase daily. She wanted to reinforce the connection between effort and success.
The students were to include samples of their best writing. Students looked critically at their earlier writing pieces and consider whether their effort "showed." They became more critical consumers of writing as a result.
The day of the presentations, the young students presented detailed stories of their lives, writing and traveling around the world.
The digital cameras provided an added bonus of interest and engagement. These young students became competent camera operators, and since they were digital, there was no additional cost. Students also became quite competent with the slide presentations software, adding images and sounds that added impact to their stories. The presentations they shared with each other were added to their new portfolios as records of their goals and effort. The cameras became a constant tool in the classroom.
The final event was a family night at the school. The students presented their "Success Now and in the Future" project to the parents. This fostered discussions between Carlyle and the parents about writing, books, reading, and many important topics that the students had raised in their showcase. Increased awareness of the student work was a result, and Carlyle built positive relationships with parents.