Teachers teaching with technology: Practice what you preach (or teach)!

To all teachers with technology in your classrooms…walk the walk!

As I have noted in earlier posts, I feel very strongly that educators need to practice what they preach in terms of class assignments, rules, technology and behavior.  Recently, I have been giving students choice in the tool they choose to make a digital presentation with their iPad.  I believe they need to learn the benefits of and drawbacks to certain apps and tools for certain presentations.  That said, our school provides students with the iMovie app on their iPad which overwhelmingly is chosen as the tool they want to use.

My thought is that if I am not only asking students to make a product on their iPad and present it, but also asking them to document their thought process, I should do the same.  So here goes my stab at documenting the making of an iMovie.


For my 7th grade social studies class, we have been studying the World Wars for roughly two months.  As we are now toward the end of WWII, I would like them to examine several primary source documents, make a claim and support it with evidence (got to love CCSS!) regarding America’s decision to drop the atom bombs in Japan.

Chosen Tool

I could easily present the documents in a teacher-centered way, or I could do a jigsaw or carousel activity to expose all students to the documents, but I really want to try to hook them with something they both enjoy and are familiar with.  To do this, I’m choosing to create a digital story to put together a short introduction to the topic, followed by an explanation of the activity.

There are many tools to tell a story, as Alan Levine point’s out in his Wiki.  Because my students have iPads (w/iMovie), I feel it is best to use a tool with which they’re familiar.  Additionally, I believe iMovie would best enable me to incorporate all media types I’d like to use.

Getting media files

Now that I have my concept, I need to find pictures related to the Pearl Harbor bombing, the ensuing war and the Manhattan Project.  I am finding it hard to find creative commons pictures which accurately show what I plan to show about each area.  Would this fall into fair use?

Rather than stringing consecutive pictures from google images together for the entirety of the story, I want to liven it up.  I have seen students using an app called “funny movie maker” to record themselves as another person, so I figure I’ll give it a try.

Accompanying audio

One big point of emphasis I am trying to drive home with my students is to have appropriate music to help convey the mood or tone of the story or use it to shift the viewers attention to another “chapter” of the story. To do this, I plan to mostly use my audio and “dark” sound effects as the topic is not only very serious but very sad.  (It wouldn’t be appropriate to include “Call Me Maybe” or “Gangham Style” as students often do)

Sharing the movie

Lastly, I have developed a process for my students to “share” their movies with me using their DropBox folders.  So here’s my attempt.  Check out my completed movie here: Manhattan Project Looking Back

While “in the trenches” of education, I feel it is easy to forget what we are asking our students to do.  Too often, we assume that because they’re digital natives, they understand how to use the technology appropriately and because of this, there isn’t a need to model the processes which are “in their world.”  However, I found that through the process of doing it both live with students in the classroom and at home, as they would, I have more confidence that we are all on the same page.  I also have a newfound respect for them as learners and troubleshooters.

For what it’s worth, I think after seeing my movie and seeing me work through the struggles of the creation process, my students have more respect for not just me but for the learning process I am asking of them.

What are some other aspects of classes which could and should be modeled?


Spotlight: VoiceThread

This summer, I was turned on to the webtool VoiceThread through a class I took on Multimodality.  Though I had heard of the tool before, I was quick to dismiss it for lack of understanding its capability.

As the folks at VoiceThread say, it allows you to have “conversations in the cloud.”  Capitalizing on cloud-based software, designers of the tool are filling a need for people who would like to comment (and save the comments) online.  Once I found that not only was VoiceThread literally as easy as 1-2-3 but there was indeed “an app for that,” I was hooked.

With an increase focus on flipping the classroom, I have chosen to investigate this tool due to its ease of use, iOS device friendliness and cloud storage.  Check out my journey…

As you can see, VoiceThread has major implications for:

Recently, the impact of VoiceThread was fully felt when my 7th grade social studies class began collaborating with the 3rd grade class for a unit on debating.  After watching a lively debate in my 7th grade class, 3rd graders debated the answer to which is more important: rights and responsibilities?  Due to scheduling conflicts, my 7th graders were unable to watch the 3rd grade debate live.  Quickly thinking, the 3rd grade teacher recorded the debate to a flash drive.  However, this meant that my students weren’t able to comment…in comes VoiceThread…

I uploaded the video to VoiceThread and my students recorded comments to each team there.  The third grade teacher is planning to play these comments for her students in the upcoming days.

Stories like these could occur in any setting, whether in education or not, where time is a precious commodity.  With the help of VoiceThread, educators and professionals alike can move their conversations to the cloud…and store them for future reference!

Dive in!