TouchCast-Enhanced STEM Class

How can student-created videos be presented in an innovative and transformative way?

Mrs. Shoustarian uses flexible grouping to separate her 2nd graders into small groups to show them how to record video.

King Springs Elementary School STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) teacher Joannah Shoustarian reached out to me in early August expressing interest in collaborating on such a lesson.  She had seen that the Georgia Science Teacher Association (the GSTA) was conducting a video contest for students.  Fashioned much like TED Talks, which are well-known throughout the education world, these STEM talks were asking students to share how and why they liked STEM.  Interestingly enough, we created a similar competition within the Cobb County School District in May of this year, so Joannah and her students had already been exposed to the idea.  Once Joannah conveyed this as her goal during our initial conversation, we got to work outlining an action plan.

First, we set up an initial meeting to discuss this project in detail.  After discussing her overall vision beyond the video task itself, we took time to brainstorm the teaching strategies and tools that would
best support this project.  Thereafter, we created the framework for the lesson in which she would introduce her students to the power of video production and ultimately to TouchCast.  Since she teaches students in grades 2 through 5, the lesson had to be one that could meet the needs (and attention spans) of 7 to 11-year-olds.  Since this introduced an element with which Joannah had not fully explored, she asked me to co-teach this lesson with her.

Knowing that all of her students had a soft spot for baby animals, we decided Piggy Gets a Warm Bathupon the perfect hook: a showing of the video “Piggy Gets a Warm Bath.” After a brief share out of what the students saw, she and I each shared our written accounts of the same story.  The students were then asked to compare how seeing a story and hearing a story can change how one would interact with and understand that story.

“In the video, we could see the story,” one student offered, “but when you read it aloud, we don’t see it.”  In each of the classes, regardless of grade level, the students recognized the need for imagination to see images within their minds versus how a video requires them see with their eyes.  In effect, the students received a watered-down example of communication theorist Marshall McLuhan‘s quote “the medium is the message.”  The way in which a story affects the story and how it is received.

Two 4th grade boys work together to record each other's TouchCast videos in front of a makeshift green screen.
Two 4th grade boys work together to record each other’s TouchCast videos in front of a makeshift green screen.

In our follow-up meeting a week later, Johannah and I sculpted her second and third lessons using TouchCast.  During the second one, the students would draft, revise, and edit what they wished to say in their STEM Talks and in the third lesson, they would rehearse and record their talks.  With these final two lessons outlined, Johanna was able to set her class up in such a manner that it allowed for self-differentiation.  The students who finished early could work ahead, while those needing more time and support could receive exactly that.  Feeling more confident with teaching her students how to plan their talks and use this new app, Joannah excitedly facilitated the last two lessons on her own.

I was able to stop in to visit her classroom during the second lesson, where some students who worked ahead were able to produce their videos in class that day.

“How has this lesson helped you in STEM and in your other subjects,” I asked one fourth grader.

“I like writing more because of STEM,” she revealed.  It was so exciting to see how the students “got it.” Though they were in STEM class talking about STEM class, they saw the connection between this subject and Language Arts.  They also saw the connection between writing and the rest of their educational experience.  Of the students I asked, this one young lady was not the only one who had grown to love writing as a result of creating a video.  More importantly, the students were creating connections between STEM and their future goals and aspirations.

“I want to be an engineer for NASA,” one fourth grade girl shared.

“I want to be a veterinarian and will have to use technology to help my animals,” another student offered.

Through the use of TouchCast to help students share their thoughts about STEM, many connections were made to their future selves and current experiences.  The most transformative part was in seeing these 2nd through 5th graders find and assert their voice in a new medium.

A look into Mrs. Shoustarian’s TouchCast-centered lessons:

https://sway.com/s/kJQRW1YQOsfaS_Cq/embed

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