Teck Trek:
A Journey Into The World Of Multimedia

Fall 1996, Vol. 8 No. 1

by Kathleen Foster

Writing research reports in school is not what it used to be. Remember the days of organizing hundreds of index cards into coherent paragraphs only to discover you were two pages short of your 10 page requirement? For the students of the West Windsor-Plainsboro Upper Elementary School, those kinds of research reports are a thing of the past. The students have embarked on a journey through the ever-expanding world of multimedia and in doing so are creating research projects for the 21st century. The journey, known as Teck Trek, was created by Mike Courtney, the Media Specialist at the West Windsor-Plainsboro Upper Elementary School. The idea was first sparked over five years ago when he was approached by a sixth grade teacher about helping his students use resources in the library to put together a news show. The project was such a success that Mr. Courtney wanted to make the same type of information and training available to all the students. The program in place today is organized into three levels with each level building on the knowledge gained from the previous level. The three grades at the Upper Elementary School, 4th, 5th and 6th, have unique programs geared toward their academic abilities and educational needs.

Introduction to Resources and Research Materials

Teck Trek I - The Adventure Begins - is designed to familiarize the incoming 4th grade students with the resources available at the Upper Elementary School. For most of the students, the size of their new school can be overwhelming. This program is one way the students are welcomed into their new environment. Level I is geared toward orienting the students to materials they need to use in order to do effective research in the library. The course is broken down into four stations with the students spending approximately 20 minutes at each station. The students learn how to locate a book using the On-Line Electronic Card Catalog. They are required to determine the location of the book in the library using either the author, subject or title of the book. They utilize various on-line research resources, including three different electronic encyclopedias maintained by the library and the SIRS Discover CD-ROM (SIRS, Inc.). Finally, the students practice reading comprehension skills by using the Accelerated Reader Computerized Reading Management Program (Advantage Learning Systems, Inc.) to be tested on books they have read as part of the Teck Trek course.

Mastering Video

Level II of the Teck Trek program - The Adventure Continues - is designed for the 5th graders at the Upper Elementary School. Over four class periods, the students spend approximately 20 minutes at eight stations. They learn the proper connection wiring of a TV and VCR, as well as how to correctly tune, rewind and fast forward. They learn to properly utilize the counter on a VCR to find specific information. Students demonstrate their knowledge by independently wiring a TV/VCR and locating a previously assigned scene. Each student completes a 30 second videotape demonstrating their knowledge of various control buttons including record/pause, fade, and wide angle/zoom. The students are responsible for demonstrating proper handling techniques and recognizing the direction of the light source when completing their videotapes. Another station in the Level II program involves using a laser disc to cue up three individual frames on an assigned subject. Students must first properly connect the laser disc machine to a TV and load the needed disc. At another station, students work with overhead projectors and transparencies. They learn to create and edit overhead transparencies, as well as how to operate the machine, focus, align and load the transparencies.

Conducting Electronic Searches

Students also spend time using electronic media for searches. They use a variety of electronic tools to locate information on previously assigned subjects. An example of an electronic tool is the CD-ROM, Middle Search (EBSCO Publishing), which is a magazine index of over 100 magazines to locate text articles; they connect to the World Wide Web through Netscape and locate articles on assigned authors; they use the Columbia Granger's World of Poetry Index (Columbia University Press) to locate a poem by author, subject and title, and they learn to navigate through the many search methods of Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia (Compton's) to find the answer to an assigned question.

Producing Multimedia Products

Level III of the Teck Trek course - The Final Frontier - continues to challenge the creativity of the students. "In sixth grade we try to go one step further. Now that students have had some experience with the equipment, we ask them to produce a multimedia product." Sixth graders spend five periods in the library working through four different stations. The first station, Laser Disc Presentation, allows students to further expand their knowledge of working with laser discs and create an oral and visual presentation. They use the CD-ROM, Encyclopedia of Animals (Laserdisc Corporation of America ) to choose an animal and find five specific pictures of their chosen animal. They then use information sheets from the CD-ROM, Middle Search, to write a two paragraph essay on their animal. Finally, they use a computer program called MediaMAX (Videodiscovery, Inc.), which allows them to type in the frame numbers for the five pictures they located on the laser disc. The final presentation is a combination of the essay and the corresponding pictures from the laser disc. At the second station students work (continued on page 13) with the authoring program, HyperStudio (Robert Wagner Publishing). Students work in pairs to create a three card autobiographical stack. They receive an overview of the basics of HyperStudio, how to add clip art and how to move from one card to another. They also learn to add clip sounds or their own sounds. The final stack includes the student's name, a map of the country and state where they were born, an autograph and clip art illustrations that describe them. At the third station, the students use a program called VCR Companion (Broderbund) to create a videotape production which includes titles and live film. They work as a group to learn the basics of working with a video camera, how to add titles using VCR Companion, and how to use storyboarding to properly design their skit and put the entire project together. At the fourth station the students create a 16-frame sound "filmstrip" on a state. They answer questions about their state in the form of a script. The script has cues for advancing the filmstrip already included. The students use overhead markers to illustrate an actual film strip. They are given certain requirements such as a map of their state and the state capital. For the final project, the students make an audio cassette of the script that corresponds to the film strip they have illustrated. As a culminating activity for the Level III course the 6th grade students return to the library for a fifth period and are allowed to choose one station at which they felt they did their best work. They then present their work to the entire class. According to Mr. Courtney, "You really get to see the creativity of some of these students."

Trained Peer Facilitators

One of the most exciting parts of this program is the use of peer facilitators. Students are either recommended by their teachers or chosen by Mr. Courtney to work as peer facilitators. Throughout the year Mr. Courtney may train up to seven groups of facilitators in an attempt to include as many interested students as possible. The students receive a full class period of training and then they put in a week of constant practice during their 8th period study skills class. They work with an outline of the requirements for each station and practice demonstrating the needed skills for that particular station. Mr. Courtney is making an effort this year to include special education students as a way to increase needed self-esteem and social skills. Two of the students from 6th grade teacher Mary Beth Penkethman's class were chosen because as classified students in an inclusion classroom she believed they could benefit from this type of peer interaction. "This is the type of setting where they can really excel, they seem to have a real affinity for the technology, and this has given them a chance to assume a position of authority and teach others." The ultimate goal upon completion of Teck Trek is for the students to use what they have learned through the course as part of a research project. They may, for example, use a poem they found utilizing Granger's World Poetry Index, or work as a collaborative group to create a videotaped presentation. The response to the course has been overwhelmingly positive. The program is beginning to receive attention outside of the district as well. Mr. Courtney has presented his program at conferences of the Educational Media Association, the Educational Technology Association of New Jersey, and the New Jersey Education Association. He will also be presenting at the International Reading Association's spring convention. Through his efforts, students at the West Windsor-Plainsboro Upper Elementary School are one step closer to successfully navigating the rapidly expanding world of multimedia.

Product Information:
SIRS Discoverer
Initial license $650, annual renewal $475

Accelerated Reader Computerized Reading Management Program
Advantage Learning Systems, Inc.
(800)637-6581 Approx. price: $1,400

Middle Search CD-ROM
EBSCO Publishing
(800)653-2726 Price: $899

Columbia Granger World of Poetry Index
(800)944-8648 Price: $695

Videodiscovery, Inc.
(800)548-3472 Price: $199

Encyclopedia of Animals
Laserdisc Corporation of America
avail. from Laser Learning Technologies
(800)722-3505 Price: $675

Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia
Price: $69.95 &
HyperStudio (Roger Wagner Publishing)
Price: $112.95; 10-user Lab pack $795 both are available from Educational Resources

VCR Companion (discontinued item)
Broderbund (800)474-8840 ÆÆ

Kathleen Foster is a graduate student in the Department of Special Education at The College of New Jersey.

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