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Teachers Combine Classic Book, Technology To Engage Classes

Jamestown High School ninth graders, Rachel Lemke and Haileigh Rhodes play the actors in their Of Mice and Men green screen technology project as fellow students, Logan Devore, Julia Paxton and Adrianna Platt work as director, camera operator and cue card holder.

Jamestown High School English 9 students in Aaron Jessey’s and Sarah Davis’ class are using the newest district technology to engage with a classic book, Of Mice and Men, published in 1937. With the help of JPS Social Studies Instructional Coach Jeff Kresge and JPS Instructional Coach Jayme Genco, students are using green screen technology to create a video project focuses students to think about the themes of the novel and how they could now incorporate those themes into original videos.

“I came up with the idea to use technology in order to engage kids in a classic novel,” said Ms. Davis. “I was introduced to the technology at a new teacher meeting and instantly wanted to bring it back to the classroom. I believe digital literacy is an excellent way to apply the standard skills required for reading, writing and speaking, yet applying them with modern technological skills. I decided it was a fresh way to take the background they were learning prior to reading, which is also an engagement strategy, and help them use the content in a project they can present and even edit as we go throughout the book to add more information.”

Of Mice and Men, a novel written by John Steinbeck, tells the story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant ranch workers, who move from place to place in California in search of new job opportunities during the Great Depression in the United States. The videos the students create as a discussion starter to reflect on whether or not their predictions about the book were correct or incorrect, and why. students completed research on the Depression and the biography of John Steinbeck. They chose roles – director, camera operator, cue card person and on-screen speaker – to fit their interests. Mr. Kresge and Mr. Genco trained the students on use of the green screen technology including choosing a “background” photograph that shows on the green screen using “Green Screen” app by Do Ink. green screen technology also includes an iPad, a microphone, light, tripod and screen.

“Using the green screen technology with the kids allows them to feel as though they are part of the time period or the story they are learning about,” said Mr. Genco. “A lot of kids feel like they are doing something special because their final product can be so unique whereas a traditional assessment, like a multiple choice exam, doesn’t really allow for as much creativity as this type of project. When the kids are emotionally involved in the project, they tend to care more about their final product and therefore learn more as they are preparing.”

Davis isn’t the first teacher to use the green screen technology in the district.

“I truly think green screen can be used at any age level,” said Mr. Kresge. “Love School teacher Laurie Hind has a semi-permanent setup in her grade two classroom. Technology such as this is a win-win. Kids love actively working to create a video that they can show peers, friends and families. Meanwhile, to create a quality product, students need to research, write, revise, and speak – all skills of vital interest outside of the classroom. Hopefully, through the use of tools such as these, JPS is providing its students with skills to succeed beyond the walls of our buildings while allowing kids to have fun and be creative at the same time. JPS continues to wisely invest in technologies to bring new challenges to the fingertips of our students and teachers. The best of these tools ask teachers to actively guide and support students in their quest to create and succeed in real-life situations.”

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