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Bryan Nielsen


"My goal is to encourage students to use newly-acquired technology skills by incorporating them into curriculum-based multimedia projects," says technology teacher Bryan Nielsen. "Many of our students get free and reduced lunch and have limited exposure to computers at home. The skills theyre learning are as difficult as the multiplication tables, and some students carry a similar loathing for them."

Other students in Nielsen's classes at Bayside Elementary in Sausalito, California, and Martin Luther King Jr. Academy in Marin City, embrace technology as a new way to express their thoughts and ideas. They enjoy adding sound and motion to presentations such as the third-grade video production "The Grasshopper and the Ants."

Students build computers from scratch.

"The students practiced and learned their lines during their own class time," Nielsen told Education World. "During computer lab time, we went out into a grassy field that had not been mowed yet. It took several takes, but eventually the class had some good footage."

The project exercised the technical skill of video editing. Nielsen did most of the filming and intentionally left much to be edited and trimmed. He and his students went back into the lab and downloaded the video. They trimmed and deleted clips from the timeline, and each student placed a copy of the video on his computer and got to work. The process proved to be tedious, but after a little time, the movie revealed itself.

"Most of the concepts I teach give immediate feedback to the students so they don't get discouraged," Nielsen stated. "With video editing, its easy to play back your video at any time and see the rewards."

Constructing a computer in two hours is hard work.

In his position as technology teacher, Nielsen wears many hats. At Martin Luther King Jr. Academy, he also teaches math. Nielsen's eighth grade algebra students decided to make their own "Quadratic Rap" after watching a few raps online.

"After writing the script, we started filming," he recalled. "The students had fun making the video and were surprised at how hard it was to get good footage. They also wanted to do some more creative editing with blue screen techniques. They built a Flash animation -- another skill I teach -- with fireballs dropping out of the sky onto an x and y graph. During the editing process, they overlaid that on top of the video footage they created."

The students' first cut had original sound, but it was too broken up, so they changed their approach and made it into a music video with a single track for the audio and matched it with the video.

"It was a real blast making the video and now we are all over the world," observed Zhane A., who plays a role in it. The rap has been released on YouTube and TeacherTube.

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When Nielsen accepted his position, he knew he would be working with a new demographic population, but he expected that teaching technology classes would be simple because "everyone loves computers." Today, he admits he was wrong. Many of his students initially did not appreciate the concepts and skills he introduced.

"I attribute that to the same factors that are developmentally important in the traditional classroom," he reports. "Parents who read to their kids, do puzzles, dig for worms, and help their kids thrive while learning give their children a strong foundation in the classroom. Parents who have technology jobs or who use computers at home create an environment for their children to appreciate the computer and its many benefits."

Nielsen had to "reinvent" the content and delivery of the material he presented to make it more interesting for his students. When they created spreadsheets, he invited the students to choose popular songs they liked and put the title and score in separate columns. They generated a chart and analyzed the data. The students were more engaged as the project became "real" for them.

"Students can be very creative with multimedia projects," Nielsen added. "Let them adapt, build, design, and radiate, and you will have lifelong learners who appreciate technology."


Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
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