Byline: JOHN CARTER
Like any good teacher, Andrea Hernandez wants her young students to be literate.
But not just in reading and writing. She wants them to be visually literate. And she wants them to be technologically literate.
"I don't want them to become technologically proficient as an end in itself," she said. "But that's the tool we need today to communicate, to express ourselves creatively. And in a digitized world of graphics and instant video and photos, you just have to be visually literate."
If not, she says, students may as well be wearing a ball and chain.
"If you can't express yourself through modern technology, you're bound up. You're so limited. So how can you demonstrate your true potential? Technology and visual literacy are essential tools in a modern world," she said.
But she doesn't want youngsters to get so caught up in technology that they lose their focus. That, she says, would be like tinkering with your camera so much you forget about the images you want to capture.
"I want technological proficiency to be so ingrained, it becomes second nature - like speaking or breathing," she said. "So it's one less thing to think about when you go to create or communicate."
For the past four years, Hernandez has been integrating interactive technology and teaching visual and media literacy to fourth- and fifth-graders at the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School, a private Jewish school - part of the Jewish Center - in Mandarin, across from Crown Point Elementary.
She's so successful at it she recently helped the Gottlieb school win a Best Buy Teaching Award grant for $2,000. She used the money to buy six Flip video cameras, six digital still cameras and three tripods to supplement the cameras and computers the school already had.
Oh, and just to make sure the students got into the groove, she gave every student an iTunes gift card.
Then Hernandez scored again for the Gottlieb school and her students by winning a second technology award: the Teach4Learning Innovative Educator Award, which recognizes teachers who are effective and creative in their use of Teach4Learning materials.
Appropriately enough, Hernandez says she simply envisioned what the Teach4Learning tools could do.
"I knew it could help me create the type of learning environment I envisioned, one that features student-centered, project-based sharing and collaborations."
One of those student projects, called "Flabbergasted," shows a filmed skit that visually expresses the meaning of the word "flabbergasted. …