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'Buddies' boost learning
Kids produce class videos
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Greg Hackenberg presents a program about 'Virginia Buddies' that he created for his fourth grade class at Albert Harris Elementary School. (Contributed photo)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

By KIM BUCK - Special to the Bulletin

A teacher at Albert Harris Elementary School hopes an educational video project his class piloted this spring will take off with other classes and across the state.

Greg Hackenberg, who teaches fourth grade, was awarded a Partners in Excellence (PIE) grant from the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce’s Education Foundation in January to buy an iPad mini for his classroom.

Students have been using the iPad to film original songs, dances, skits and lessons about the Standards of Learning, using Garage Band software to write music and iMovie to edit the videos, then posting them on YouTube to serve as a teaching tool for others.

Hackenberg and his students premiered the videos Monday night to about 30 parents and families, school officials and chamber representatives at Piedmont Arts, which donated use of the facility as part of the grant.

“I decided to write a grant for an iPad so my students could utilize 21st century technology and work in collaborative learning groups,” Hackenberg said during the presentation. “In the process, they created projects such as posters, Powerpoint presentations and skits to film. The iPad was an ideal tool because it’s easy to use to film, edit and publish work.”

The project was called “Virginia Buddies” as a play on Virginia studies, which are part of the fourth-grade curriculum, but it has grown to encompass videos in all core subjects, Hackenberg said. He designed a logo with children in historical costumes in front of the Virginia map, and an artist friend turned it into a computer graphic that appears at the beginning of each video.

Hackenberg started a Virginia Buddies YouTube channel that he hopes other teachers will use in the future to post their own educational videos.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Superintendent Pam Heath said of the project, after viewing the videos and hearing several students from Hackenberg’s class speak to the group about what they had learned. “In addition to reinforcing academics, the students are learning digital fluency, collaboration, oral presentation skills and how to communicate clearly. These are the kinds of skills that don’t get tested, but we know are important in the world of work.”

By completing creative projects about curriculum concepts, Heath said, “I know they will feel a great sense of pride and remember the information they learned for a very long time. Plus, the kids can go back and watch themselves to review the SOL concepts.”

Fourth-grader Anijah Hairston was part of a group that created and acted in a video called “The Great Argument,” about the hostilities between the Powhatan Native Americans and the Jamestown settlers from England. Inspired by her experience dancing in Minds in Motion, Anijah and her classmates did a back-and-forth dance about Chief Powhatan and Capt. John Smith fighting.

Anijah introduced the video and said, “This year has been amazing since we’ve gotten the iPad mini,” which she said “changed the way I learn. At first, I learned things by using packets and books. Now I can learn by using music and funny videos.”

Jennifer Cedillo introduced her video, in which the group acted out the story of Pocahontas rescuing John Smith and then marrying an Englishman, John Rolfe. Jennifer was the narrator.

“I decided to do a play because I thought it would be fun. It can be hard — you have to practice the moves, you have to tell them what to do and sometimes they don’t listen,” Jennifer said. “I liked being the narrator because you can tell the story, and it’s really awesome.”

Michael Hairston and Manjuan Dudley did a video lesson explaining a strategy for determining elapsed time.

“Virginia Buddies is really awesome. We can do a lot of things. I learned that Virginia Studies isn’t so boring after all,” Michael told the audience.

Laura Washington thanked the Chamber’s Education Foundation “for giving us this opportunity to show other kids what Virginia is about. Also, thank you for the opportunity for a fun education,” she said.

Priscila Hernandez Lopez said, “The iPad has changed my life because I did not want to be seen on YouTube, but when Mr. Hackenberg showed the video, I realized I should be happy for me, and if I want to be on TV, I can do it.”

“The iPad means a lot to me because we can record the class and put it on YouTube and let our parents watch us on YouTube, and laugh because it’s funny that I am on YouTube,” Geovani Lassiter said.

 

 
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