One of my recent research projects has involved screencasting, the process of capturing computer screen video with audio narration. I've specifically been observing 5th grade math teachers using it in a project-based learning environment. They had their students produce tutorial videos explaining how they used different types of graphs to represent the distribution of colors in a skittles package.
First, students had to collect their data (i.e. count number of total skittles and respective colors of skittles in the package). They then worked out all of the math: fractions, decimals, and percents of skittles in the package. They then made graphs showing the distribution. The students then began designing storyboard slides using SMART Notebook, a slide-based program not unlike PowerPoint that is made by the company that makes SMART Boards. The students also wrote scripts for their presentations.
The screencasts were recorded using TechSmith's Jing (free program Mac/PC - www.jingproject.com). You don't even need to record audio if you just wanted to do a silent video tutorial.
This project generally spanned 4-5 days, and their projects can be viewed on the school's internal website.
Here's a sample: http://www.screencast.com/t/NTllMzhl
I've decided to use Weebly to host this website. It's a free website creation tool with some great templates and an easy interface. I bought the "constructivisttoolkit.com" domain from GoDaddy, and Weebly made it very easy for me to point the domain to this site. You don't have to purchase the domain name, I just chose to. If I didn't the site might have had ".weebly.com" in the URL name.
Creating a site on Weebly might be a great alternative to a traditional report or paper, or even to a PowerPoint presentation. Kids would be able to organize their thoughts, use images and video, and even host discussions using the the many pre-designed elements that are available in Weebly.
I think that kids from 3rd grade up would have no trouble with this highly multimodal interface. The thumbnail images for the elements and design layouts do not require programming knowledge to understand the functions they perform.
As I add more to this site, I plan on testing out every feature available. Stay tuned!
Header photo by Robert S. Donovan