On Oct. 26, four students from the West Tisbury School were given the opportunity to speak at a statewide educational conference about a video-learning project they have been working on since June of this year.
The program is called “Our Learning Academy,” where the students create video tutorials on various math and science lessons, which can be accessed by the public at any time. Many have student narrations to be used for live instruction, to play along with a slideshow or an animation related to the lesson.
Each video was written and produced by one of four students, Nate Story, Olympia Hall, Georgia Magnarelli-Magden, and Maia Donnelly, then posted on a Google website. In the videos, the students work out math equations or demonstrate elementary-level math concepts. Students also learned Adobe Spark, which they used for videos on weather and erosion topics. Their supervisors, Susan Miller and Al Mahoney, both teachers at the West Tisbury School, assisted the students by helping them record their voices and animate their handwriting.
After submitting a proposal, their website project was selected to be presented at the Massachusetts Computer Using Educators (MassCUE) conference at Gillette Stadium, which annually hosts teachers and students from around the state.
According to a press release, this year there were more than 1,600 educators in attendance, and over 200 50-minute sessions where teachers shared best practices, as well as some longer, in-depth, two-hour sessions. The West Tisbury students’ presentation was featured as part of CUEKids, where students from 30 different school systems across the state highlighted projects that focus on connection with global education.
According to Ms. Miller, the idea for “Our Learning Academy” began when she herself used tutorial videos in her fifth grade classroom. For the past five years, she has assigned videos for the children to watch and respond to. This is referred to as the “flipped classroom” model, where students first teach themselves by watching a video and writing a summary, and then ask the teacher questions about it. “There are several advantages to this model,” she said. “Students can work at their own pace, pause the teacher, rewind the teacher, watch at home when they are sick, watch from far away when they are on vacation, etc. The list goes on.”
A student later approached her and asked to make a video of his own, which they created together after school. Soon others joined, and the project grew.
“Students can make short lessons on anything they are passionate about or feel that they can teach to another student,” Ms. Miller said.
They were, of course, excited with the prospect of traveling to Gillette Stadium, and according to Mr. Mahoney and Ms. Miller, the students spoke eloquently about their project to Massachusetts educators, and received many compliments.
“It was much larger, with many more people than I expected,” said Nate Story. “It was exciting to be at the stadium. It was interesting to show and explain to teachers what we had been building with videos and the website.”
The conference also provided a chance for the students to learn about other projects going on around the state. They were able to try out vendors’ technology-in-education equipment. “At one booth, I was able to see and manipulate a virtual heart,” Maia Donnelly said. “I could rotate it and peel layers back. It was like dissecting a heart.”
“It was a great experience to be at that large an event at Gillette,” said Georgia Magnarelli-Magden. “It was much more elaborate than I thought, with so many professionals to see and talk to.”
The students continue to create new videos, and the group will form a video club to run for six weeks this winter, which interested students may join.
The site is available to view at bit.ly/learningacademy.