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Virginia Journal of Education


Your Classroom


Spice Things Up
With Multimedia

by Kevin T. Brady

Incorporating Web-based and interactive media into your lesson plan can be one of the best things you do for engaging your students. Particularly when it comes to teaching history, short video clips, judiciously used to supplement lecture, can provide meaningful impact. But how do you define “judiciously”?

Multimedia content must always augment and clarify classroom lecture and reading history, never replace it. If you become over-reliant on video, without the context of historical works, primary sources, activities and lecture, then you’re only providing a partial picture.

The American Institute for History Education offers the following five things to consider before incorporating interactive media into your curriculum:

How much multimedia is too much?
Forty minute movies are not effective, but a five-minute video clip, along with reading, processing exercises, audios, performing art or writing activities, brings variety to the lessons while still providing the consistency and stability that comes from focused objectives. You always want to make sure you’re giving students a digestible piece that they can focus on, and one that will stimulate thought.

Which source of content is right for my classroom? What should we look for in content, specifically?
Teachers always need substantive, quality content, along with methods to help students organize, analyze and process that content. Sources of content should satisfy at least three criteria. They should be reliable, meaning that the source is reputable. They should be accessible, meaning that students can get to it, and that the content is intellectually accessible (for example, the language is age-appropriate). And the content should be appropriately challenging; good history content should help students improve in other areas such as reading, writing and geography.
 
How do we know whose content is trustworthy?
Educators must apply the same rules as in the days before the Internet: look for the use of both primary sources and secondary sources, and judge those sources by who they are, and how well known they are. Then try to answer internal questions about the material – was it written for the author’s own information, or for publication? Does the provider have any reason to distort or hold back any information? How often is the material updated? A textbook becomes dated once it’s printed; a website can constantly revisit and upgrade information. But websites can also become stale. See if the website has a date showing the last update, or look for copyright dates on the materials.

How do we determine budget for content, and is free content acceptable?
Budget should be considered in three ways: First, look at immediate needs of both the teacher and the district. There’s a lot of technology that’s already budgeted for (e.g. DVDs, CDs, primary sources, document readers, physical equipment), many of which are already included in some resources. When you consider that these tools are available not only to the individual teacher but to the entire department, and maybe even the students, there’s no comparison in terms of cost.

Secondly, consider time requirements. Any teacher who’s pored over a video catalog knows that it can be time-consuming to pull together all the required resources. Wedded to that is wait time for delivery of the material, and availability issues. You want to be able to say, “I can count on that video, that website, or that document being there next year.”

Finally, budget in the drain on your school’s current technology infrastructure. You don’t want to commit to a resource that will crash your system, nor spend money on increasing your infrastructure to accommodate that system.

The biggest problem with free content is that you often get what you pay for.

School media specialists should be involved in the process from the very beginning in determining what database or resource to use.

Does the school have enough bandwidth to accommodate multiple classrooms at the same time?
The school’s IT personnel will need to be involved, to ensure sufficient bandwidth so as not to slow down or grind to a halt if multiple teachers attempt to stream video at the same time.
 
Brady is president and founder of the American Institute for History Education (AIHE), which provides social studies professional education, helps school districts apply for the federal Teaching American History Grant, publishes history and history education works, and provides “virtual tools” for history and social studies teachers under the brand name CICERO: History Beyond the Textbook.

 

Help the New President

No matter which candidate finds himself moving into the White House come January, he’s going to have to deal with some very pressing K-12 education issues. The American Society for Quality, the administrator of the annual Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, is offering educators an online chance to suggest what they think should be the top education priorities for the next federal administration.

On its website, ASQ has a five-minute, three-question survey that asks your opinion about our country’s most important education issues. In addition, there is space to share your personal thoughts and feelings about the things that most need to be changed in our schools and communities. ASQ will compile the results and forward them to the new president following the election.

To participate in the survey, visit www.asq.org and follow the link for the K-12 Priority Survey, or go directly to www.asq.org/media-room/press-releases/2008/20080815-must-do-president.html.

 

Contest Challenges
Young Scientists

Renewable alternatives to petroleum-based plastics, a device that could remove carbon dioxide from automobile exhaust, and a “wavemaster” that harnesses the power of the ocean: all were among the top entries in last year’s Toshiba/National Science Teachers Association ExploraVision Awards program, which is now accepting entries for the 2009 competition.

ExploraVision challenges teams of students to research current technologies and come up with a new one of their own that might exist in 20 years. Uup to $240,000 in savings bonds will awarded to members of the winning teams, and the top eight teams will receive a free trip to Washington, D.C. for an awards weekend in June 2009.

Entries are due by January 28, 2009. For more information and application forms, visit www.exploravision.org.

 

More Time to Teach

Here are several tips that can help you make better use of time in the classroom, from ChildSense (www.childsense.net):

Think before you act. A teacher’s response to student misbehavior can sometimes be more disruptive than the student’s behavior.

Do what you say. Teachers sometimes struggle with holding students responsible for their own behaviors. They may believe that by giving students another chance they can improve the student-teacher relationship. Unfortunately, this usually just confuses students. The student-teacher relationship is actually strengthened when teachers do what they say they are going to do and respectfully hold students accountable for their behaviors.

Respond to the behavior, not the child. Tired of students complaining, “That’s not fair”? By learning how to respond to the behavior and not the child, we can avoid the fairness game.

Predictability breeds good behavior. Effective classroom management is founded on predictability. Students need to know what the teacher is going to do when they misbehave so then only need think about what they are going to do.


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