Aspects of Learning: Using Technology Creatively in the Classroom [Arthur A Leach Junior High School, Winnipeg] [Tantramar Regional High School, Sackville] [Tom Baines Junior High School, Calgary] [Parkdale Elementary School, Calgary]

By Fraser, Colin | Teach, January/February 2003 | Go to article overview
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Aspects of Learning: Using Technology Creatively in the Classroom [Arthur A Leach Junior High School, Winnipeg] [Tantramar Regional High School, Sackville] [Tom Baines Junior High School, Calgary] [Parkdale Elementary School, Calgary]


Fraser, Colin, Teach


Young students in Canada are some of the most technologically savvy in the whole world. The children and teens attending primary and secondary institutions across the country today are growing up immersed in the language of technology. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA -- www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/021029/d021029a.htm), a typical 15-year-old Canadian student in 2000 attended a school where there was one computer for every six students. The same PISA report finds that nine out of every ten young Canadians had a computer at home, and seven out of ten had access to the Internet at home. Educators in this country are on the front lines of this explosion of technology in our children's lives. The evolution of computer software and access to the Internet has created a whole new world of opportunities for teachers and students alike. The following is a snapshot of four Canadian teachers and the impact of technology on their classrooms:

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The movie playing on the television monitor suspended from the ceiling in James McLellan's classroom has all the hallmarks of a Hollywood production. In fact, anyone watching the young actor on the screen struggling through a snow laden Winnipeg forest shouting out his friend's name in panic, shot from a multitude of angles and seamlessly edited, would think they were watching the work of a seasoned, professional film crew. But that would not be the case. Walking Wounded is the fourth major feature film production from the grade nine students taking the digital filmmaking course at Arthur A. Leach Junior High in Winnipeg.

"I walk through the whole process of making movies," says McLellan, winner of the Prime Minister's Certificate of Achievement for his program. "We teach students expression through the language of film." The innovative program has garnered all sorts of acclaim in the prairie city, winning awards in local film contests and being featured prominently in the local paper. Last year's Walking Wounded, clocked in at 1 hour and 40 minutes, has been screened commercially at a downtown theatre. There are even copies for rent at local video stores. The horror story about a werewolf took nine months to complete, including script writing and shooting times, which took place mostly on weekends and after school. The course covers a full year and early on McLellan guides students through all the technical aspects of filmmaking, lighting, camera positioning, sound, and many other details essential to the process but unknown to the novice film student. In January, the students begin the arduous task of creating their own film.

McLellan, also teaching Art and Drama, bristles when he hears people making the assumption that the course is completely focused on computer software and high-tech gadgets. He would run the program with a camera and two VCR's if he had to.

"The content is driven by technology, but technology is not the course. You master the technical side of things so you can master the art form."

But the Winnipeg-born educator and amateur filmmaker does admit that evolution in computer software and the advent of digital film have made things much more accessible for his students. And with the program in its fifth year of existence, he has translated his trial and error experience and the high-tech comfort level of his students into larger responsibilities for those taking the program. For the first feature film project Dracula, done four years ago, McLellan had to do all the editing. Now with the help of the Final Cut Pro 2 software, the students are responsible for the whole editing process. A script break down program also allows assistant directors to input scenes, special effects, sound effects, and characters, categorizing them to create a shooting schedule. All that McLellan does now is direct. The cost factor for outfitting a digital film lab has also been dramatically reduced over the last few years.

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Aspects of Learning: Using Technology Creatively in the Classroom [Arthur A Leach Junior High School, Winnipeg] [Tantramar Regional High School, Sackville] [Tom Baines Junior High School, Calgary] [Parkdale Elementary School, Calgary]
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