Videodisc Players Make a Difference in Urban Elementary School

At Edison Elementary School, sixth graders are being taught with technology as a matter of course. Yet itís not a row of computers with which they interact, itís the teacher, real-world objects and each other. 

In science and other classes, videodisc players from Pioneer are providing a multimedia edge to help impart rather complex concepts to young learners. Teamed with simple manipulatives (i.e., sponges and shells), a trained teacher and a good lesson plan, videodiscs supply engaging content and natural jump-off points. 

Itís not a bleeding edge application. It is, however, cost-effective and working well. 

It's About Sponges

In science class, for example, youngsters learn about differences between natural and manufactured sponges by seeing and feeling with their own eyes and hands. 

Using one of the districtís many videodiscs, teacher Jill Schutte leads students in a lesson about sponge characteristics. Schutte is one of the district's science teachers who have been trained in integrating videodisc-based material into "everyday" classroom instruction. After watching and listening to a short video segment, her students in this class  respond to questions involving science content, vocabulary and grammar. 

Students next turn to pans of water and two kinds of sponges on their tables for some hands-on work. Teacher Schutte keeps them focused by calling on each table, of four to six students, to answer questions. 

Technology is not the star, Schutte merely uses it as a tool. Sweeping a bar code wand to jump to specific video frames of different sponges, she poses questions. Kids tell what they see, or in some cases, donít see. Connections are made. 

All-Around Support for Teachers

This southern California urban school in the Anaheim City School District with a largely Hispanic student population is typical of many. With its resources squeezed, creativity is what gains new tools. 

In this case, a state grant in 1993 supplied funding to equip every district school with five LaserDisc videodisc players from Pioneer New Media Technologies (Long Beach, Calif.). These are connected to existing, in most cases, classroom TVs for whole-class viewing. Thus, one videodisc player instructs 25. 

Yet the real key to the change in the classroom is the districtís two-pronged training. First they developed detailed teaching plans for the videodiscs. Then they followed up with money and a timetable for faculty training. 

Laurie Rhodes, curriculum specialist in technology, led a project that resulted in the integration of a variety of videodiscs into the district-adopted core science program. Lesson plans developed as a part of that project apply a constructivist approach to use of the videodiscs; students are asked questions and make observations. These guides are flexible but structured frameworks, in part modeled after videodisc/text publisher Houghton Mifflin's ìEngage, Explore, Develop, Extendî approach, and supply clear, incremental activities plus optional ideas. 

These comprehensive guides help smooth videodisc integration, but for true naturalness, teachers need hands-on time as well as a resource to continue to call. 

Anaheim City School District uses a ìtrain the trainersî model to build site-level support by intensively training one science teacher leader for each of the 22 schools in the district. Schutte, for example, is one such teacher. The district also has trained a cadre of teachers as technology resource specialists to assist their colleagues. Plus, inservice workshops for all faculty offer lots of use of the Pioneer players, bar code wands and different curriculum materials. 

After nearly three years, the district has its training well underway, a large library of teacher-approved videodisc packages, and step-by-step lesson plans utilizing them. The effect in the classroom is becoming evident

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/1997 issue of THE Journal.