Digital Video Camera
Digital video allows the user to record video sound and images and then easily and quickly import this information to a computer. Video editing tools (like those included with Microsoft Windows or Apple OS X) allow the users to add titles, transitions, voice-overs, and music. This makes the movie-making process accessible for the classroom. Students can use video to demonstrate their understanding, express ideas, and create authentic products. Teachers can use video to create digital portfolios or provide new opportunities for feedback. Like digital still cameras, digital video cameras have dropped in price in recent years, making them more accessible for school use.
Integrating math, science, and tribal culture, fifth-graders use technology to document their learningDavid Atwater teaches fifth grade at a small K-5 school near a tribal reservation. Many of his students are Native American. Atwater, who is non-Native, is always looking for ways to make his teaching more culturally relevant. Atwater learned about a curriculum designed to meet state standards in math and science. Developed as a collaborative effort by teachers and researchers, the curriculum teaches core concepts at the elementary level. What grabbed his attention was the theme of canoes. Hands-on activities involving canoes would interest all his students, especially Native learners whose families have built and paddled them for generations. He also saw how technology could be integrated into the unit.
Thematic instruction helps students make lasting connections to ideas by showing how content connects to the real world.
Thematic instruction allowed Atwater to narrow the focus when he wanted students to learn fundamental concepts or practice essential skills. For example, in exploring a broad question such as why canoes float, students used models and other hands-on activities to investigate concepts of density, volume, and balance. They also practiced applying essential math concepts of ratio and measurement by analyzing canoe dimensions.
The curriculum created opportunities for Native experts to talk about the math and science involved in building and navigating canoes. Culturally congruent teaching methods and curriculum contribute to improved learning and outcomes, especially for bilingual and American Indian students (Reyhner, 1992; Stokes, 1999; Tannenbaum, 1996).
When the principal visited the classroom in the spring, she asked students to describe what they had learned from the canoe project. She could hear from their detailed answers that students had gained a solid, lasting understanding of essential math and science concepts. The principal supported Atwater's plan to use the school Web site as a repository for what students had learned. The artifacts were culturally significant and served as authentic indicators of Native knowledge.
Throughout the thematic unit, Atwater integrated technology whenever it offered potential to increase student understanding. For example, students used graphing software to model scale, studying how to make changes in size while keeping the same ratio. His students used word processing software to document, plan, and write reports. Students used spreadsheets to track measurements and make calculations. Once, Atwater used a video camera to document a visit by an expert carver. Though Atwater wasn't a technology expert, he had enough experience with basic software that he was able to integrate it meaningfully, and, except for the graphic software, the students were all familiar with the tools.
Prior to the visit of the carver, Atwater spent time with the students discussing the oral history traditions of Native people. He stressed the importance of storytelling as a means of conveying the knowledge of a culture. He also pointed out how those cultures that had no documentation had lost some of their specialized knowledge. The students wanted to document the carver's skill and how he used his tools. The students had a record of the experience, and the video would serve future student carvers as a source of knowledge.
Atwater wanted students to use technology to document and communicate the important information they had learned. As part of their final project, he had his students create a short presentation. The students created a set of slides in which they told the story of their canoe and retold how they accomplished some of the specific tasks of their project.
As a culminating activity, Atwater photographed students' canoe artifacts, then had them write about each object's significance. He used their words and photos to create an online gallery about the canoe curriculum on the school Web site. Others would be able to learn about their discoveries involving math, science, and canoes. He also told them that they could visit the site in the future to help them remember what they had learned.