Magazine article Multimedia & Internet@Schools

These Lessons Pop!

Magazine article Multimedia & Internet@Schools

These Lessons Pop!

Article excerpt

A 9 -year-old girl is poised on the surface of the moon, a spaceship and stars in the background. Her fellow voyager, in the form of an orange, cylindrically shaped robot, responds to her conversation with an unintelligible mechanized beep. These two space pioneers are engaged in a lively discourse about the nature and origin of constellations. Is it a Nickelodeon special? The latest remix of Lost in Space? A juvenile version of 2001: A Space Odyssey?

It might look out of this world to us, but it's just business as usual in the fourth and fifth grade combination classroom that Robert Miller and Donna Cady share with 39 students at Port Orange Elementary School, located on the east central coast of Florida. The class is in the midst of producing yet another Pawprint Production educational video. If the orange guy in the scene sounds familiar, it may be because you have seen him in the role of Moby on BrainPOP (, an animated, curriculum-based website aimed at intermediate-level students. Originally developed by Dr. Avraham Kadar, a pediatric immunologist, as an engaging way to explain medical concepts to his young patients, BrainPOP is now aimed at the school authence and has expanded to encompass a wide range of standard based subjects.

Cady's and Miller's students warmed to the creative and immersive lessons produced by this educational resource. "BrainPOP has become one of our core sites for background and review material," explained Miller. "As our class moved through the district curriculum, we would occasionally encounter a science or social studies topic that had not yet been covered by BrainPOP. That's when we got the idea to develop our own teaching videos in their style. The site provides an excellent model for research, writing, communication, and presentation. It's also a tremendous opportunity for meaningful technology infusion."

The two teachers dedicated a corner of the double classroom for student production, furnishing it with a green screen, a small bank of computers, production lighting, still and video cameras, and tripods. With the addition of enthusiastic students and some thoughtful instruction, Pawprint Productions (or P3, as the students have christened it) was born. You can view their work as well as a student-produced video on the making of these projects at Just click on the video tutorials button on the left side of the screen.


Today, Joe, Josh, and Drew, all age 10, are collaborating on a claymation sequence to be included in their latest Pawprint Productions piece. "You're developing the bridge between these two frames of your storyboard, but you've got to remember, we are talking about sequence here - 10-12 pictures per second," Miller reminds them. "It's very intricate. Forty pictures will yield 4 seconds of video. "OK," acknowledges Drew, "I get it. So we can't take Moby right from a smile to a frown - and this is a pretty simple sequence. Guys, see what we need to do? We have to move the arm just a little bit. It's just place, snap, place, snap."

"Can we make a glog on this claymation?" asks Josh. Josh and his classmates recently used the educational version of Glogster ( to develop a visual field guide of the central Florida biome, and he was eager to apply this new tool to another project. "Sure," smiles Miller, "but let's see this sequence through first."

Observing the students at work, it is obvious that this is an independent, tech- and production-sawy group. How did they gain these skills and learn to apply them so meaningfully? "One step at a time," says Miller. "It's important to remember that it's a process. Don't start out with a Gone With the Wind mentality and go into technology production thinking that you are going to create an end-all masterpiece. That's not what it's all about. Begin with a simple concept. Use a simple tool or software. You have to make sure that you focus on one skill. …

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