Teachers & Technology: Greg Camenzind

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Teachers & Technology is a regular column featuring teachers who share specific technologies or strategies that have made positive differences in their students.

It's not all about technology; sometimes it's about trust, too. Greg Camenzind discovered that trusting his students to learn the equipment with his guidance--not with his lectures--helped them not only to master the hardware and software but also to produce high-quality work.

Vital Stats: Greg Camenzind

Schools:St. Thomas Choir School, New York; The Harbor School, Vashon Island, WA
Grades:5 to 8
Subjects:Science, math, language arts
Started teaching:2003
Formal technology training:Web development training using Dreamweaver; video editing with Final Cut Pro

What I use: Sony digital video recorders and iMovie (for Mac) editing software, for shooting short public service announcements (PSAs).

The results: Some very creative PSAs were produced. Academically, students were constructing their understanding of the content and gaining skills in using the equipment.

I remember this high school junior who was acting in a PSA where he was drinking at a party. The other students were commenting (and laughing) about how he didn't have to act too much to carry off his role (suggesting he had a reputation as a "party animal"). The "ah-ha" moment was when all of the students--including the "party animal"--realized how effectively their video project portrayed the un-cool and sad consequences of drinking alcohol. He was a very good actor. That being said, I often wonder what impact his participation in this PSA project had on his own behavior. I am hoping it made him thoughtful and aware of the risks.

My advice: My students universally had the same reaction when I took too long explaining or "lecturing" them on how to use the technology. Most students learn best "by doing" or experimenting with the technology on their own. Trying not to be a control freak when introducing your students to the technology is a very good thing (pedagogically) to keep in mind.

For most technologies that I have introduced to my students, my strategy has always been to provide support and instruction on the basic operations, but then to get out of the way so my students can explore and find meaningful uses for the technology. For example, when I was teaching students to use DV video cameras to shoot the PSAs, I gave them the fundamentals, had them do some games that would increase their familiarity and use of the equipment, and then turned them loose on planning and shooting their own video projects.

If I could have, free, one piece of hardware or one software program for my classroom, it would it be: A digital AV deck or Web development software.

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About the author: Neal Starkman is a freelance writer based in Seattle.

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