Thursday, February 23, 2012

Using Digital Media to Share Learning Part #2

My Principal recently gave me a usb camera (camera that connects to a computer) to use for a variety of purposes in my classroom (e.g. take digital photos of student work and project images onto the white board using the Brightlinks projector). My students and I put it to good use right away! I took some time to talk about my digital camera and to use the usb camera to project the different parts of my camera so that all the students could learn about the my camera at the same time. One of my students commented that it was like looking into a microscope - meaning that we could  now examine small things by magnifying them using the usb camera.

With two digital cameras in the room I told my students that I would let my camera float around (release of responsibility) the room but that I would stay close to the web cam (gradual release of responsibility) and guide them through its use.

 We are working on Measurement in Math right now and the use of the cameras seem to come naturally with this subject matter. I think that the use of manipulatives and an inquiry model for their learning allows them a certain freedom to continue their experimentation with the technology.

For whatever reason, our first attempt using the two cameras to capture their knowledge/understanding and thinking was a complete disaster. While my digital camera was off in a corner somewhere I had students sitting with me trying to show their "work" to their classmates (their work was being projected so everyone could see it). As I began to question the students about their work - as I would normally do - I could see them becoming upset. I had several students breaking down, feeling sad and disappointed that they were not able to talk about their work as everyone watched and waited to hear their explanations. In order to relieve some of the stress I decided to shut down the computer camera and let the students do their work the "ole fashioned" way! As the small group that was with me got back on track I went searching for the other camera and to check on the progress of the students that were away from us. I quickly discovered that the camera was not being used to document learning but that it was distracting the students from their work. I took that camera away and instructed the students to re-focus on the task at hand, which was to use non standard units to measure objects around the room. At the end of their discovery time I brought them all together and reiterated that 1) the use of the technology is optional, 2) it is available to them only if it is benefiting them, and 3) we will have growing pains and that I am learning about how to integrate just like they are learning how to use it.

The next time we had Math I asked them to do the same task - this time I didn't mention the use of either camera and simply got them started and began to move around and check in with them. One of the groups of students approached me and asked if they could use my camera to record their work. I obliged and sent them on their way. This is what they did with the camera:

To my amazement, they did this on their own. Although it is rough around the edges, I am quite pleased to see that they 1) worked together, 2) used a paper and pencil to record their findings, 3) made an ESTIMATE!, 4) showed us what they measured, how they measured it, and what they used to measure it, and 5) their end result. It didn't end here....they wanted to use the digital pictures they took to create an Animoto video! Here is the fruit of their labour:

The students did the majority of the work to put their Animoto together, I simply helped with the text portions. One of the three students working in this group was involved with the last Animoto I posted here. She led the way with this and is showing me that she is engaged in her learning and eager to integrate the technology in her Math work.

My students and I are on a journey with the technology that we are using in class (iPod Touch, Digital Camera, Brightlinks Projector) and it is both exciting and frightening. As I introduce and learn about different ways to use these new 'tools' I talk to my students about being patient with me and that I promise to the do the same with them. Never forgetting that we are a community of faith we pray and reflect on our work and are reminded (me to them and vice versa) that our faith will guide us to success through trial and error and hard work. Please keep my students and I in your thoughts and prayers as we travel on our technological journey. 

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