Comments from Alamance-Burlington School System Officials
Movies in Production or Post Production
The goal of the project is to work closely with teachers and students to help create a process for producing and archiving instructional videos to support the middle school curriculum. Also I spent the month helping Hawfields Middle School shape their vision of how technology could be used to enhance instruction in the classroom.
Students helping students is one of the greatest learning tools that is underutilized in our schools today. Under the present accountability model for our state, primarily scores and end-of-grade tests measure students. I wanted to explore all possible avenues to provide students with strategies and skills to enhance their performance on the end of grade tests required by the state. Even with the diversity in the classroom, students often need supplemental review or instruction to master or practice new skills or strategies. Perhaps while doing homework at night, writing, a paper, or preparing for a test, a student may wish to revisit instruction or to access writing or test-taking tips. Quicktime content can provide this benefit as needed, even after school hours. Today's student lives in a media-saturated world-it makes good sense to employ visual media and computers in order to give them the instructional support they may need. There were some additional tasks that I took on at the request of the support staff at the school system during my sabbatical. These tasks included helping the Broadcast Studio Team produce a daily show, giving a "Digital Media in Education" presentation at a monthly staff meeting, and consulting district-wide staff on conversion of all desktop machines from OS 9 to OS X.
The "Casting a Wide Web" was the vision of Laura Williams, Media Specialist at Hawfields Middle School. Bruce Middleton, Executive Director of Media and Technology passed on this proposal for me to review from a technical standpoint. This was prior to me receiving the Project Pericles Service Sabbatical. After I was awarded the service sabbatical Bruce set up two initial meetings of key people to discuss the project. John Heise, Senior Systems Analyst with PTI provided key support information during these initial correspondents and during the project. During these meetings the main concern was completing the goals that were set forth by Laura Williams. I secured commitments from Education and Communication Majors with helping Hawfields Middle School students in creating the content for viewing. The vision and the purpose were in place. What I brought to the project was the technical experience to complete the goals envisioned by Laura. My service sabbatical corresponded with my down period at work, which happened to be Winter Term. This timing turned out to be costly in maintaining student help. All but one student backed out at the last minute due to time constraints during Winter Term. The backbone of the project is an Xserve from Apple Computer. Mac OS X Server is the software that makes the entire project possible. A key feature of the OS X Server software is the QuickTime Streaming Server. What the streaming server does is nothing short of amazing. To create the media to be placed on the server we used iMovie. iMovie is based on Apple Computer's QuickTime technology. Once the media is created it has to be uploaded to the QuickTime Streaming Server. From there it is accessible to anyone on the network.
My last day at Hawfields Middle School was January 31, 2003. The project was shortened a bit by the school system having to take off four days due to snow or ice. The results of the project will not be seen instantly. The production and presenting of digital content is an ongoing process that hopefully will never end. The "Husky Help" web site that I created is currently accessible only inside the Alamance-Burlington School System's network. Beginning next school system the service will be opened up to anyone who has access to the Internet. By this time we should have enough feedback from the end user (parents or students) to confirm the results that we predict.
Having Kimberly Bolton helping me in creating the digital content was a crucial piece of the project. Kimberly is a Senior Education Major at Elon University now student teaching in the Guilford County Public School System. With her totally dedicated to creating projects I could focus on finishing the technical end of the project. Kimberly's first day at Hawfields consisted of an overall orientation to the project. That initial orientation was followed by an instruction period on learning how to use iMovie. She picked it up very quickly! One particular project that she worked on with students was entitled "The Pendulum Project". These projects brought together different types of media including Power Point slides, still photographs, digital video, music, sound effects, and voice-overs. Kimberly's finished product was recorded on a VHS tape and burned onto a CD -ROM. In the future she can use it in the classroom for instructional purposes as well as embed it into a web page.
Her commitment and devotion to the students will surely continue in the future. Whichever school she decides to teach at in the future will be very lucky.
Every school district seeks to be on the cutting edge in the use of instructional technology. As we provide new tools and expand access to resources, however, we run the risk of leaving our teachers and student behind as they are not always at the same state of preparedness. It is only when we are moved forward at the request of our schools, when they are indeed ready, that we are assured of success. That is the case with our recent project at Hawfields that was initiated by the school in response to an employee "on loan" from Elon University. During the month of January, David Morton spent his sabbatical at Hawfields Middle School helping to shape their vision of how technology could be used to enhance instruction. David worked closely with the media specialist and her students to help create a process for producing and archiving instructional videos to support the middle school curriculum. With David's assistance, students learned how to use digital equipment to film critical "teaching moments", edit the videos into captioned movies, and archives the movies on the district video streaming server. They are currently sharing the process with teachers in the school who are providing the content for variety of instructional support videos. These videos will ultimately be available to students both at school and at home to bring about a better understanding of difficult curriculum topics.
David's leadership has proven critical in beginning a process that will serve to enhance instruction for Hawfields Middle as well as students at our other schools. Our hope is to build on this seed project by providing the same instructional opportunities to our other schools in order to build our resource archive. We plan to reach all areas and levels of our curriculum. Downloadable movies or movie streams that target specific areas of need within the curriculum will enhance and extend learning opportunities for all of our students.
Executive Director of Media and Technology
Alamance-Burlington School System?
This project has great potential, though it has yet to be fully or even substantially realized. The interest and support exhibited by our administration and staff has proven even greater than hoped. Our principal got everyone on board with plans to produce curriculum-related QuickTime mini-lessons and student-support videos, and the staff has responded with enthusiasm and creativity. I think I may have underestimated the scope of the undertaking, however, as well as the amount of time required to go from idea to finished product. I guess one just has to expect that such an extensive enterprise will develop incrementally.
David Morton's contributions were vitally important. He was able to shepherd me through the production, compression, and uploading routines, making the process understandable to a lay person who lacks the vast expertise he possesses. He enthusiastically tackled any and all tasks during the month of his sabbatical with us. His contributions included designing the interface for our "Husky Help" web page. His work was so appreciated our technology specialist redesigned our entire web site to match!
I think weather and some technical details hampered our progress. We missed a number of school days due to snow or ice, which shortened the planned duration of our cooperative venture. Additionally, some of the technical requirements to create and stream the QuickTime videos were not in place at the start of January, through no fault or lack of communication on David's part. We had hoped to experiment with software called Live Channel, which allows for live web streaming and digital broadcasting, but a vendor proved elusive. There were addition glitches with the proxy server and our ability to stream over the Internet without being hampered by it.
I also believe it would have been fruitful if I had already recorded some video content prior to David's arrival, so we would have had material ready to upload and test drive. Instead, I waited until he was stationed at Hawfields to get the ball really rolling with our staff; and due to the complexities of our school schedule and teacher availability, this meant we were unable to generate much real content to get the "Husky Help" page well established before David returned to his regular duties at Elon.
Right now the demands of my schedule, with classes and Battle of the Books and other responsibilities, have forced me to put the streaming project on a back burner. It's also been hard to get teachers to give time to the production phase when they are swamped with grades, meetings, and other duties. I think it's going to be a step-by-step process, with more work accomplished after testing, science fair, and other competing demands have been discharged (probably over the summer).
I can't begin to express my gratitude to Elon University and all the supporters who made it possible for David to work with me in January. It's easy to conceive of an idea, like the one behind the "Husky Help" web-based support-on-demand for our students, but bringing the idea to fruition requires a lot of hard work and skill. David was instrumental in getting this whole concept rolling, and his transmitted knowledge (and offer of ongoing consultation) will guide its progress and development. I'm very excited about the possibilities, but I recognize now that it will evolve more slowly than I expected. At least I know I can count on administrative support and the knowledge that David is just a phone call or email away!
Laura Williams, Media Specialist
Hawfields Middle School
Math - Fractions, decimals, percents (conversions), geometry, area, circumference, volume, formulas
Order of Operations
Predictions and Inferences
Propaganda techniques in writing (bias for and biased against)
Inferences vs. Observation
In the book vs. in the head questions
Study Skills (note taking, outlining)
Middle School Transition from Elementary School
Day in the life of a middle school student (transitions, responsibility, basic principles)
X and Y Coordinates
Math - Proportions, Pythagorean theorem, Word Problems
Social Studies - Research
How to do a Science Project
Documentation for Research
Evaluating Web-based resources
Historic Documents (Primary vs. Secondary Sources)