pencils - part two - the end product

A girl stands before a crowd of parents, the projector flickering a fuzzy image of a bird.  It sharpens as she begins telling a poem of migration, weaving in and out of metaphors, a series of seemingly unrelated pictures tying into the story of movement.  It's our story.  The Guilded Age.  The Age of Industry.  A time of gray smoke stacks and gray graphite  and gray steal trusses and gray trains barreling through our landscape.

She moves to her story, with images of her home and her neighborhood.  It's the story of migration as well.  She cries when she speaks of learning a language and no one knows if it's acting or if it's reality or if maybe it's both.  

*     *     *

The photography project was part of our larger unit on migration.  Mr. Brown and I tied together concepts from math, from science, from literature and from social studies.  Though we often read the same texts and engaged in similar dialog, students chose their own project.  

One boy compared the movement of a child to the movement of an adult - the migration from free movement as a youngster to the restrictive movement of school on up through the factories, where the machines move and the people are confined.  Another student charted the migration of ideas by taking pictures representing various methods of story-telling.  A girl chose the migration of nature - from the animals to the seasons and the cyclical nature of it.  

Some chose to present in a scrapbook.  Others chose slideshows.  Still, others chose to use SmartCharts and present it in a larger poster board.  Some integrated painting or drawing into their photography.  It wasn't so much differentiated instruction as it was empowered instruction.  Students chose not only the concepts but also the media and the presentation methods. 

*     *     *

Mr. Brown stops comments, "Photographs are pretty powerful, huh?"

I answer, "The power was not in the photography.  I'm doubtful that any of my students will become the next Ansel Adams . . ."

"At least not yet! You never know."

"Right. But the novelty of the medium wore off quickly, with each flashing bulb losing its magical luster.  It was replaced, though, with something deeper."

"I know what you mean. I'm getting to where I love technology.  However, I love technology, not for the flashing bulbs or the instant access or the efficiency.  It has to do with the ability to relate and create and communicate.It has to do with mixing media meaningfully so that learning grows deeper."

My students used text-based resources and they used pencils and photography and the parents were moved to tears in the oldest, perhaps most foreign of all media - the voice, orally spoken, memorized and rehearsed and delivered as if it were the first time.

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