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Technology turns biography reports into multimedia efforts

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It required a few takes for Parkview Elementary School third-grader Yaretzi Martinez to record her presentation in front of a green screen, so she shared directly with a visitor the details about Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas.

“Gabby Douglas showed us to follow our dreams because she followed her dreams. Gabby won the gold medal when she was 16,” Yaretzi said.

Yaretzi and her novice tech crew, including third-graders Aiyana Velez and Yamileth Ramirez, were recording in the school hallway. She completed her piece after a couple snafus: poor lighting, an accidental press of the delete button and a few noisy passersby.

Third-grader Manuel Gomez Perez plays his finished presentation on Harriet Tubman on an iPad

“She got hurt and didn’t give up,” Yaretzi said of the Olympic champion.

Students in teachers Julie Tessier’s and Michele LeMieux’s classrooms took a multimedia approach to writing biographies. After researching and writing about historical figures and famous people — including Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Michael Jordan, Johannes Brahms, Helen Keller and Amelia Earhart — they recorded their work like mini-broadcasters.

They edited in photos of their subjects to be projected behind them on their recordings. They used iPads, a green screen app called Do Ink, a teleprompter app and a website called Flipgrid to create their work.

Many students chose African-American historical figures, tying their work to Black History Month.

Parkview Elementary third-grader Yaretzi Martinez records her presentation on gymnast Gabby Douglas in front of a green screen

Third-grader Manuel Gomez Perez chose Harriet Tubman. “She led 300 slaves to freedom,” he said.

About using the green screen: “It’s fun!” he said. “There’s a giant picture behind you.”

Tessier said she wanted to challenge her students to bring their projects to life, combining writing and technology. She said many of her students studied people who overcame remarkable obstacles, offering a message of perseverance for students.

Multimedia tools support learning in a way students — savvy in technology — are used to. “This is the world they live in,” she said.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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