icon_arts_09.gifIntegrating Technology, English Language Arts, and Social Studies through Digital Documentaries

by Carolyn Semet

Students today not only live in a multimedia world, they are legal citizens in this world. They are intrigued by technology and all types of new technologies. Marco Torres, California’s Teacher of the Year 2006, states that “Media is the language of kids.” (http://myhero.com/myhero/hero.asp?hero=marco_torres) As teachers, we need to tap into this interest and incorporate media projects into the school day. “Chalk and talk” can no longer be the primary method of teaching and learning. Students retain more information and remember projects they've worked on, long after the projects have been completed. I remember many projects I worked on as a student and as a teacher, as opposed to individual articles I’ve read or lectures I’ve listened to. I've witnessed students absorb and recall more information through project-based learning. One way we can incorporate media into the schools is by having students work on projects that integrate technology into the curriculum. One type of project that addresses these needs is digital storytelling. Digital storytelling can be incorporated into the classroom through either fictional or non-fictional content. Computers become a tool that students use to express their thoughts and ideas.

According to Wikipedia, digital storytelling refers to the use of “new digital tools to help ordinary people to tell their own 'true stories' in a compelling and emotionally-engaging form”. Creating a digital documentary enables students to express what they have learned about a topic through a medium they are very familiar with – video. This type of project motivates students to research and investigate subject matter in a more thoughtful way that creates deeper connections and understanding. A digital documentary project is multidisciplinary. It incorporates language arts, technology and social studies (or other subjects such as science, art, and math).

Digital Documentaries incorporate many language arts skills such as critical thinking skills, understanding perspective, presenting facts and supporting details, sequencing, drawing conclusions, writing for an audience, interpreting images and choosing appropriate images to portray information visually, researching and evaluating information about a topic using a variety of sources (Internet, books, pictures, video clips, audio files), creating a storyboard plan for their project, communicating information to others, persuading the viewer to apply the information, developing author’s voice, and conveying a message and/or teaching a lesson.

A digital documentary project can present information in a more compelling way that will attract student attention and result in increased learning. Students improve their information literacy skills by utilizing a variety of Internet video & digital image resources found at websites such as United Streaming (US), (NOTE: United Streaming by Discovery.com is now subscription-only. New York City Teachers have full access to a similar site offered by public TV: www.thirteen.org/edonline/itv You will need a school passcode like with US - contact thirteen.org for this info: 212-560-6613 OR itvrequest@thirteen.org. If you have a US logon, it is preferred that you use it to logon to edonline - Tessa Noverr-Chin), PowerMediaPlus, and the Library of Congress. They learn about copyright issues. They learn how to make a topic come to life when they create a documentary video and present it to others. As students incorporate many language arts skills, they improve their technology skills when they learn how to research on the Internet and evaluate websites. They also learn how to edit video using software such as iMovie or Windows MovieMaker. Finally, subject area content in Social Studies (or other subject areas) is reinforced. Skills are developed across many different subject areas and through many different mediums. This is truly multidisciplinary project-based learning at its best!

Resources icon_arts_05.gif
Here are some useful websites to help you get started:

Region 4 site: I’ve compiled many resources together for this project on the Region 4 website: http://www.region4.nycenet.edu/instruction/projects/documentary/

iMovie Tutorial
Windows MovieMaker Tutorial

Great websites with a warehouse of information on creating digital documentaries with your class:
Teaching Matters
Kids Vid
Adobe Digital Kids Club
Stages of Video Production

Examples of Movies from Marco Torres' students

Images obtained from: [[http://teacherfiles.com/icons_arts.htm|]]

A great web site for information on how to create a Digital Documentary can be found here:

http://www.atschool.org/digidocs/ [Jason Feliciano]

Yes I agree this is a great site and the link is listed above as Teaching Matters. [Carolyn Semet}

Feedback From Steven Schnee:

Digital Storytelling is a tool that definitely can be used in a science classroom to enhance student learning and instruction. We can incorporate video into the classroom to present science demonstrations that may be too dangerous to perform before a student audience in a classroom not equipped with precautionary devices like a gas hood or shower head. Constructing lessons that are more visual is the wave of the future. We have to find more ways to make instruction more captivating to our audience. Project based learning exercises are definitely thought provoking and memorable. My students always finish the year with a science fair type thesis project, which they all frown upon at their first notion. At the end, they all are excited with their products and is definitely a piece of work they will bring out of their school days remembering. Every day my previous students run into me and their first order of conversion always pertains to the project. It is such a large motivating device and a great applicator to instruction. (Steven Schnee, July 15, 2007)

This is a great way for students to maybe even get to role play and recreate different events in history. They get to act out different parts maybe civil war battles and then present them to each other and students always love to see themselves on the television or in pictures. (Doug Luciano)

My thoughts about these digital documentaries brought to mind my passion for video conferencing. How awesome for students to share these DDs with students across the district, across the state, across the nation and even greater across the world. Many schools I know and have been in in the past 10 years have videoconferencing connections. This powerful tool is accumulating inches of dust. Get those camers working and get those students sharing those wonderful DD with other students around the globe. Children love to be on camera and act so give them the tools to do it.
Great work Carol!
deirdre doherty 7/25

Digital story telling sounds like a great way for students to express their ideas from the material they learned about. Students are allowed to syntheses these thought and reshape them and requiring them to use critical thinking skills. I had one student that wasn’t interested in anything we were doing except when he was able to use his thoughts and present them through media he began to show a great deal of interest. It was a little weird but he was learning.
Art Schnee