Through various readings and interactive demonstrations, my students became aware last fall of the impact digital media and constant connectivity have on their personal lives. As part of this unit, students kept track of their contact with digital media for a 24 hour period. The results were stunning. For example, one student noted that she sent over 2,000 texts per month. She was taken aback but simply said, “I’m addicted to my phone.” I challenged her to give me her phone for one school day. She was apprehensive but accepted the challenge. I told her she would end up having a fabulous day, feeling more connected to her courses, peers, and teachers. By the end of the day, she was crying and depressed. She said she couldn’t concentrate in her classes. She just wanted her phone back: Digital media became her identity, her “outer brain,” which she became acutely aware of during the course of the My Digital Day project.
After being introduced to the concept of Digital Citenzenship, so that students would understand the implications of their digital media use, the assignment began with students making a tally sheet to keep track of all contact with digital media during 24 hour period. Students kept track of every text and tweet as well as their teachers’ uses of technology in instruction. In a written essay, students reflected on the pros and cons of their digital life. As the next step, students took photos or screenshots of their digital activity. Finally, over several days, students combined their written work with their pictures to create a Voicethread.
Research and Writing Objective
Students will analyze the impact that digital media has on their personal lives by becoming aware of the frequency of their contact with digital media, the purpose for each use, and determine the strengths and limitations of media “connectedness” in their own lives.
Standards Addressed Through Voicethread Creation
SL.11-12.5. Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.
SL.11-12.5. Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating a command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
Avon High School librarian Robyn Young stepped in to teach students that they are leaving their Digital DNA behind them with their use of social media and search engines such as Google. As stated in her lesson objective: Students determine what their digital footprint looks like and discover tools that will help the student maintain the appropriate digital footprint in the future. This was an eye-opener for students as they found the value of their home online as well as maps showing their backyard. Rants about former boyfriends written in middle school showed up when students searched for their Digital DNA, shocking – appropriately – the students .
Click below for Robyn’s materials, found on the Digital Learning Day website:
Video Introduction / Lesson Plan / Supplemental Materials.
Voicethread Work DayIn a large lecture hall, allowing every student’s screen to be visible to me, I taught students how to make a Voicethread, a tool which allows users to combine video, documents, photographs, voice, and music into one presentation. An asynchronous conversation can then take place as visitors make comments on what they see. The objective for using Voicethread for this project was to design and create a multimedia presentation to communicate, both pictorially and orally, research findings. For absent students, or students who needed reteaching, I created a Voicethread about how to make a Voicethread, which can be found here.
A day was devoted to creating the Voicethreads. Headphones with built-in microphones were obtained from the library which students used while they spread out all over the school cafeteria. While each student was on his or her “island,” s/he would repeatedly practice reading aloud their essay to get the recorded portion of the Voicethread “just right”; what could be better for fluency practice? This was also a meaningful way for students to learn that their syntax, especially punctuation, can either help or hinder a reader’s comprehension: Many students made edits while they were practicing. It was important to students to match the written sections to the appropriate picture. Once the students had practiced several times, this became easy for them, and most students created their Voicethreads within one day.
A Final Word
That student who cried during the day she didn’t have her phone experienced a paradigm shift as a result. Shortly after our project was finished, she dropped her phone in the toilet. No longer carrying her cellphone, she found herself calling an old friend using a landline, hanging out longer after school with friends, and actually talking face-to-face with people. She responded to her dad’s offer to buy her a new phone with this: “Can I have a horse instead?”
She had found time to return to her childhood love.
Click here to visit my Voicethread Webpage with student samples.
Podcasted directions with written handouts are available on my podcast page.
Create a free VoiceThread account and experiment with the program. Be sure to utilize the resources that Catherine shared in her post. If you have used VoiceThread, or a similar tool, in your classroom, please share what you've done and your VoiceThread tips and tricks.