Yes, if used inappropriately, technology can be a detriment to our students’ minds and academic achievement. However, when technology and innovative teaching methods collide, moments of inspired learning occur. Fourth graders in Clayton, Missouri were tasked with completing a book report in a very non-traditional fashion.
For this assignment, students were asked to create iMovie trailers for their chosen book. Their objective was simple, excite potential readers to the point that they were compelled to read it. Pairing cutting edge technology with traditional teaching methods proves beneficial on many fronts. For starters, student engagement sores when you provide a tech-savvy method for completing traditional assignments and students’ skill sets expand when pushed beyond their normal interactions with technology.
The students learned to write persuasively. They captured different parts of the books — from the Hunger Games to Bridge to Terabithia — and built suspense with sound effects, the tone of the voice and photos they used in the trailers. And they learned to give and take constructive criticism.
The fourth-graders’ alternative book reports are an example of how Wilson teachers are using the school’s new so-called Immersion Wall, a Centennial Campaign project. The school is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and was recently renovated after a fire last year.
The wall has 18 monitors forming a single total screen area of 24 feet by 6 feet 9 inches, curved on an 9-degree radius. A company that sells the displays says Wilson is using it to collaborate with students in a way that is unlike any of its other clients.
“They actually use it as a truly impressive educational tool — instead of just presenting what’s for lunch that day,” said Aaron Leiker of
CineMassive Displays in Atlanta, who mostly works with company executives to use the screens for security operations centers.
The ultra-high definition Immersion Wall can capture and display the desktop from up to 18 students and teachers simultaneously. For example, while listening and watching a student’s book trailer, the class was typing feedback into Mac laptops that would pop up on the screen for everyone to see.
“The music was really intense. That really captured me,” student Phoebe Philip wrote. “Next time, though I might try having some sound effects to really finish it off.”
And while a class period filled with typical book reports might put some students to sleep, 50 minutes in, all nine of the students stayed interested through the last presentation.
The students’ book trailers will ultimately find a home on iPads in the library. When students search for new books, they can click on the trailers and watch what their fellow students have to say.
The Immersion Wall and the technology to support it cost about $200,000, said head of school Thad Falkner.
“We asked ourselves, ‘How do we make the most unique educational experience possible?’ ” he said. “We took a leap.”
Teachers in all subjects have been excited to incorporate the new space and technology. One class used Skype to talk with a NASA scientist on one screen while sharing projects on Mars research on another, with a chat displayed as well. Music classes are composing and playing songs. And just for fun, the students competed in video games of “Just Dance” on the huge screen during field day before school ended last month.
It has allowed for a huge level of collaboration and student-teacher interaction, and is a way to prepare students for the interconnected world, said Melika Panneri, technology teacher for the school.
“It’s not just about the technology,” she said. “It’s that the technology is helping us achieve goals in a different way.”