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Green Screen Tools Give New Life To Social Studies Projects

Persell Middle School eighth graders, Lynea Silk and Abrielle Monaghan, work on their green screen project created in Jayme Genco’s social studies class.

Most people know green screens are used to create some of the coolest movies you see in a theater but Persell Middle School eighth graders in Jayme Genco’s class are using the same technology to learn more about social studies. Students love using technology to reenact history, make their claims more persuasive, or simply develop a more creative product for their project than some of the traditional options. This generation has grown up in a digital age so heavily influenced by video that creating a video of their own is second nature. Most of Genco’s students spend a lot of their free time on sites like YouTube, so making a video seems less like “work” and more like fun.

“I really like performing and using the green screen. It is a great way to learn about something,” said Persell Middle School eighth grader Isaac Sinatra, who has used the green screen technology with his partner, Jackson Root, on projects about the Spanish-American War, Transcontinental Railroad and the Panama Canal. “It is so much more fun than a normal social studies class.”

When students do a project in Genco’s class, they have a choice in how they demonstrate their learning. The green screen is one of many options including stop motion video, journal/scrapbook or interview. Before starting the project, students have already learned the basics of the topic and time period. So when it comes time for the project, students are challenged with a more enduring, higher-level question, which is what they will use the green screen to answer. Students can insert photos or videos into the background and utilize a microphone and tripod to help increase the visual and audio quality. Using technology like green screens builds real-life skills such as: technical writing, video production, video editing, working as a team and project management.

“One of the most important things I try to get across to students is that we want to be producers of content as much as possible and less consumers of content,” said Genco. “Students are going to need these skills in their professional careers, as well as in their lives as responsible citizens. In order to be able to navigate a digitally-heavy world, our students must be well versed in what it takes to produce these types of projects.”

When it comes to the green screen, students are able to use technology to show their creative side including the element of acting and design.

“It is eye-opening to see students who are relatively shy embrace the opportunity to reenact history or show their creative side in a way we could not otherwise emulate without this technology,” said Genco. “We have students who take a traditional, news-like approach to their videos and others who take it so far that they recruit extras to make it a full scene out of a movie. The beauty is they are developing a passion for the topic as they create their videos to demonstrate their knowledge.”

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