By Alix E. Peshette

Cross-posted from EdTech Gold Rush

I’ve been absent from blogging lately as I’ve been consumed with writing an Enhancing Education through Technology grant. The proposal is to use digital storytelling with 4th–6th grade Special Education students and teachers as an English Language Arts strategy for achievement.

This latest grant has come down from the California Department of Education packaged as a research project to provide the state and the federal government with proof that technology increases the academic achievement of students. It seems that the connection between spending bucks on technology and seeing increased student achievement on standardized tests is unclear.

I’m the first to confess that I am not a numbers-and-research sort of technologist. I come to my understanding of the role of technology in the classroom by observation. My on-going observation is that there is a chasm between what kids are doing with technology in their personal lives and what education allows them to do with technology in the classroom.

Everything I read or see about 21st century learners speaks about their engagement through digital learning. What goes on in most classrooms are teaching styles that rely on textbooks, lectures and multiple choice tests.

A blinding flash of the obvious is that most school board members and district-level administrators have not been in the classroom (as students or teachers) since the advent of the Internet. They can mouth the words about the importance of technology, but deep down, they just don’t get it. They haven’t seen the engagement that comes from letting our students work in a modality that is second nature to them.

During the course of last week, I met with a 4th grade class in the computer lab to help them create digital stories about the California missions. Any parent or student who has lived through 4th grade in California knows that the mission project is legendary for replicas of missions made with sugar cubes, cardboard, modeling clay and bamboo skewers.

The class arrived at the computer lab holding their worksheets with answers from the textbook. I arrived with a flashdrive containing mission images, maps, sailing ships and period music files. This was transferred to the shared drive in the lab. We opened up Photo Story 3 and learned how to import images and sequence them on the story line. Next class time, students learned how to create pan or zoom motion on the still images. Third meeting on Friday, I taught them how to record narration for their story, based on their answers from the worksheet.

In the space of five minutes, as each 4th grader recorded their voice and then listened to it, magic happened. The excitement rose, smiles were wide and friends were listening to each other’s recordings. All this with three-dollar microphones and free software!

I’m really excited about the grant proposal to use digital storytelling with Special Education students and teachers. It provides tools for students who won’t be writing 500 word essays to show what they know through narration, images, video and music. We used to call this constructivist learning and authentic assessment. Too bad those are dirty words in the land of NCLB and standardized testing.

If you are interested in some resources around digital storytelling and the role of technology in the classroom, take a look at the links below.

Creating Lifelong Learners – Digital Storytelling Carnival #3

Mapping Our Food

The Journalists’ Toolkit: What you need to know to make better video

We Tell Stories: 21 Steps

Stories for Change: Story Writing Prompts

Private Art – A Collection of WWII Letters to and from the Home Front

Marking Time – Back to the Future on Web 2.0

Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling

DigiTales – The Art of Telling Digital Stories

Digital Storytelling – List of links and resources

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Tags: 3, Photo, Story, audio_recording, digital_storytelling, language_arts, resources, teacher


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