A Simple but Powerful Tool

The document camera, a technology tool that although can be used in the simplest of ways (to enlarge), can change a lesson.  With this special tool, students in Ms. Basile’s health class were engaged.  Based on the SuperYouFUN Curriculum,  Ms. Basile has asked several third grade classes to create super power shields.  What is a super power shield?  A paper shield representing a student’s positive character traits through words, a variety of colors, and drawings.  As third graders work hard to discover their inner superhero, these shields have played a special role as each student can tell his or her story through an artistic creation.

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One at a time, students from Mr. Keane’s class came right up to the document camera and explained the stories behind their super power shields.  Classmates were engaged as they proudly witnessed each other project their shield for all to see.  Each detail was explained with pride, emotion, and maturity.  In twelve years of teaching, I have never seen anything quite like it.  Not only were students sharing their super powers, but several spoke about their goals in life and how their super powers would take them there.

For example, one brave student explained that he would like to create a sports team just for people with disabilities and that he was going to use his super powers of kindness and courage to make it happen.  He had two distinctive lightning bolts representing his super powers that came to life as his shield suddenly became a gigantic image.  Another student shared with us the impression his grandfather had made, empowering him to be brave.  He then went on to say what an honor it was to be sharing his shield with all of us.  Needless to say, I exchanged multiple looks with Ms. Basile during this magical lesson as both of us were in disbelief.

As we use the document camera or “Elmo” throughout the day, we witness student engagement increase dramatically. Not only can these special cameras enlarge, but capture movement in real time so that teachers can show students how to use manipulatives within a particular lesson, for example, within math or science.  Many also have features allowing one to freeze and save an image as well as record.

Teachers across grade levels utilize their document cameras to display writing samples as well as allow “read alouds” to come to life.  What I learned form Ms. Basile’s health lesson, however, is we should remember the power in students sharing who they are and encourage them to do so in a big way. That’s exactly what the document camera allowed Mr. Keane’s students to do.

I also learned that Ms. Basile is exceptional and inspiring.  Students are lucky to have the opportunity to learn from her, laugh with her, and gain experiences that truly make an impact on their lives.  Empowered by SuperYouFUN, she has taken an original idea and celebrates it every Wednesday, “Shield Day.”

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