The Galapagos Project: Multi-Media Curriculum Resources and Production Notes.

The teachers and students at PS 334, The Anderson School, a gifted-and-talented K-8 school Rhys has been consulted with since 2008, were presented with a unique opportunity to integrate multiple technologies into an exciting project bridging media literacy, traditional classroom learning, and natural science studies. All grade levels collaborated to create multimedia products that would transform their traditional curriculum and embrace the challenge of creating new learning materials to inform their own understanding of the world, while combining new acquisition and practice of technical literacy skills like video production, web development, Internet-based and collaborative annotation resources, with new literacy skills like researching information on the Internet and composing text-based documents on a computer, as well as traditional and real world competencies, like public speaking, teamwork and community building, and persuasive writing.

Productions

Example: Symbiotic Relationships Video, with Voicethread student response questions

Collaborative Video

The team demonstrated a capacity for distribution of their work for parents, educators, and students in a concisely edited video that was made available on the Anderson School's Blip.tv website. The videos are brief snapshots of each topic that all of the students in grades K-8 studied, like Important Dates, Charles Darwin's experiences on the islands, the tortoise named Lonesome George, and many more.

Voicethread Inquiry and On-location Teacher Interaction

Each grade presented their content on Voicethread.com, so that the students could demonstrate their expertise, and have a forum to pose questions quickly for the teachers. Fortunately, the Voicethread projects were completed before the teachers left for their trip. Students from the K-5 classes did have an opportunity to leave feedback and pose some questions on Voicethread before the culmination of the school year. The teachers could then answer in the same venue once they landed on the islands.

Online Curriculum and Resources

 The teachers created a dedicated Galapagos Diaries blog and Shutterfly photo page where students were able to view uploaded pictures, video, and text written by teachers about their observations and experiences. The content provided material for the students to see first-hand that what they had been studying had real world application and allowed the teachers to teach despite spatial and temporal limitations. Both the teachers and students were using new technologies in different ways to learn, teach, and understand from each other throughout the journey to the Galapagos Islands.

The Videos

The Process

The students began the process working with teachers to select topics that were relevant and appealing, and would cultivate an interest in finding out more information about the Galapagos by the students. This followed with the students conducting research in a number of ways, utilizing print materials as well as Internet resources, including text, photography, and video productions that represented, depicted, and informed the students about their topic. Through close reading of websites, the students became familiar with the process of looking for reliable and valid sources for information, disregarding sources that were not credible in favor of those that provided accurate information. For many students, this was their first time building background knowledge, let alone using a computer and the Internet to do so in conjunction with print materials. They were also gaining valuable media literacy skills to be able to think critically and disseminate reliable information from unreliable information, and to learn that sources must be supported before they can be deemed credible, skills that are in line with core principles of media literacy and core 21st Century skills. Once they gathered their information, the students in each grade created a unique piece of work that would be recorded on video to provide the basis for the Voicethread presentation to which the teachers would respond. Some grades wrote and performed skits, while others prepared slideshows using pictures and video in iMovie.

The Galapagos Diaries blog (no longer online, 8.2010) has served as an Intranet within the school to be able to share materials and resources between staff and students, and functioning as a portal to demonstrate proficiency and contribution to a field of study, and is available as an online open-ended curriculum to be used and developed by educators at Anderson, or beyond. The videos compile all of the work produced by each grade into one product that can be used to market this curriculum and presents the student's unique perspective and voices on the topics related to study of the Galapagos Islands. All the students were working collaboratively in teams, making decisions about what content and information was important to include and exclude, creating materials for specific audiences. The students communicated new ideas and new learned information to their peers and teachers, building on language skills they already possessed, and developing new skills using technology.

A breadth of new information and resources were created and developed through this process. The resulting resources can be used to teach students and teachers at Anderson, and beyond, about the Galapagos islands, while additionally providing a model for integrating school technology and media literacy skills they cultivated through this process.

Future Evolution of this Curriculum

One of the exciting things about creating this program for the staff and students is that it is something that has the potential to evolve and adapt in the future. Since all of the resources and materials are housed primarily online, they can be updated and reworked by staff as new information and ideas are generated, as well as from the larger educational community, who will be able to leave feedback on Voicethread projects and Blip.tv videos. This makes the resources valuable not just for the Anderson students, but for students all over the world. Visit Anderson's Galapagos Diaries blog for more resources from the teachers' trip to see how the students have learned from the experience and for ideas to incorporate some of these activities into your curriculum.

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