A lot of times classroom teachers are chefs. We look in the cabinets, gaze at our ingredients, and then quickly conjure a dish, a little like house elves in Harry Potter—that is the perception at least. In real life we are tired chefs and somehow are covered with more ingredients than what actually goes into the mixing bowl. How exactly did thyme get in my hair?
Sure, the teaching equivalents of cookbooks and culinary competition shows exist, but they fail to take into account the many variables of day-to-day operations and innumerable mental stressors. At the end of the day, many of us chefs look through the cupboards, skim through tantalizing pictures of tantalizing masterpieces, and then those mental images of past miscues percolate to the surface—do we really need more paprika trapped under our fingernails—when we ultimately decide to order some fast food.
It’s easy to get excited about technology as we ponder SAMR, but it’s a lot harder to apply it effectively and purposefully. After a while, our trusty old paper-and-colored-pencil project looks more and more appetizing. All these thoughts bubbled through my brain as I was about to reach out for an old, reliable project at the end of my literature unit: the newspaper. Luckily, I have an iPad cart in my room, and my thoughts turned to the ingredients I had in there: Book Creator, TouchCast, Green Screen by DoInk, Tellagami, Shadow Puppet, and Spark Video. Then I wondered about creating a digital version of the newspaper, an interactive one.
For context, my students had just finished Night and the Holocaust. With nonfiction articles on Stanford Prison Experiment, Milgram’s Obedience Study, and the Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes classroom experiment, my goal was to show the psychology behind the perpetrator’s actions in order to demonstrate that this type of atrocity was possible anywhere. Therefore, I wanted them not only to cover the Holocaust but also to explore another genocide. I wanted them to be reporters and cover not the entire event but one small aspect of it so as to dissect it even more.
Book Creator came in as the receptacle for all the information. However, it would not only hold the text and pictures but also allow for videos and music. Through the capabilities of this app, I was able to require the students to shift from a static medium and to a dynamic one. It also allowed me the possibilities of using green-screen apps that would place them right there at the scene as reporters.
In order to tackle this project, I had to stagger out the directions. First, we covered just the research and scripts that we would need. Then, when we were almost ready to film, I walked them through Touch Cast by first showing them a project with my daughter and then demonstrating how to add the different Vapps and features. This helped the students think of different possibilities and structure their scripts accordingly. Meanwhile, we had already used Tellagami, Shadow Puppet, Spark Video and Green Screen by DoInk throughout the year.
For the recording part of the project, space proved to be key. Due to the increased sound level of working in groups, a classroom setting was unmanageable, so I needed to reserve the auditorium or gym to make it work. If neither of these were available, I would have to spread the groups far apart, which make monitoring difficult. Luckily, though, the gym was open for the times I needed. Then I set up the green screens. For this part, I used an actual green screen kit for one space, a green table cloth for another, and a collection of lime-green poster boards.
After my students filmed, I went over the process of placing the different elements inside Book Creator. They spent the last couple of days putting in their formats and then airdropping their results to me. From there I opened up the books in iBooks Author, pulled the best materials, and compiled them into one interactive newspaper that I then published on the iTunes Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1116487727.
Throughout this process, did I end up with ground cumin and fresh cloves sprinkled unevenly throughout my hair? Yes, I did. But the students had a dollop of technology, a smidge of fun, and a pinch of research that led them to create something meaningful and memorable.