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Teams tie for first place in ASU iCademy competition

April 20, 2009

It should come as no surprise that two teams of students in Arizona State University Professor Keith Wetzel’s Technology in Early Childhood Education tied for first place in the recent iCademy video and photography contest – last year, his student teams took the top three prizes for their digital stories.

Winners this year are junior early childhood education majors Joanna Wisniewska, Kiah Summa and Katherine Laufer for their history of the Rosson House in downtown Phoenix, and Pamela Mofford, Mika Daniels and Katie Wakeford for their look at Arizona history through the eyes of former Arizona Governor Rose Mofford.

“This has been a very successful and rewarding experience for the students,” says Wetzel, who earlier this year was part of an ASU College of Teacher Education and Leadership team that was honored with a prestigious Best Practice Award for the Innovative Use of Technology from the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE).  “The competition is important to the students because it provides a real audience for their work outside of class, and it gives them the chance to work on a significant project over the course of the month.”

The project and competition is a unique experience sponsored by the Applied Learning Technologies Institute (alt^I) at ASU.  Students were asked to communicate an Arizona story providing a unique personal perspective on a piece of Arizona history through the creation of a digital video.  The project was broken into five strategic categories, with points awarded in each: project orientation and the value of technology, project planning and conceptualization, footage and image collection, video editing, and completion.

“The planning process is most important because it requires the most thought,” says Wetzel, who served as a facilitator and helped his students trouble-shoot editing glitches.  “The phase includes locating an elder to interview, researching the topic and creating the questions, and writing the script and the storyboard.  It’s a bit like a rough draft when you publish a text-based story.”

As Wetzel’s students went through their paces, they were asked to consider a two-pronged focus – as a student to create a digital video using prescribed movie-making software, and as a teacher to understand the student perspective of technology use during project-based learning such as academic readings, personal reflections, and conversations.

“By participating in this competition, I have learned how to edit videos,” says Joanna Wisniewska, a native of Poland who moved to the Valley in 2003.  “Since the competition, I have used the knowledge I gained from the project to create videos for my other classes in the form of presentations.

“This is also beneficial for when I get into my own classroom, because I will be able to incorporate technology into my lessons and create unique projects with my students. And, because we live in a technology-driven world, I feel that in the years to come we will see even more technology integrated into our curriculum.”

For at least one student – Pamela Mofford – the project was a learning experience in more ways than one.  She is the great-great grandniece of former Governor Mofford, but had never met her famous relative.

“We were asked to pick a key figure in Arizona history and, because of my name, Professor Wetzel commented that I should ask Rose Mofford.  I thought it sounded like a good idea because I thought it would be interesting to hear from someone I am related to but have never met.

“I also thought she’d have some interesting information and stories about Arizona.”

What the student Mofford and her teammates learned and shared in their digital story was the governor’s childhood in Globe, Ariz., where she played softball, basketball, tennis, and “whatever they had to offer; her sense of humor, which, she says, is a prerequisite for entering into politics; and her proudest moments, including the separate visits to Phoenix by Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa.

“It was nice to hear her stories about Arizona and see that our state is as important to her as it is to me,” says Pamela.

“I had never known what a great sense of humor she has.  But, everything in the video and everything she stated in the interviews were new to me because, even though we are related, we had never met.”

On the project side, the younger Mofford found the competition rewarding and educational.

“We had some problems early on because this was our first time working with the Windows Movie Maker software,” says the 2001 graduate of Moon Valley High School in Phoenix.  “In the end, we felt we had mastered the software and, since then, we have made other movies.

“Participation in this project benefited me because it taught me how to use movie-making software, which I will be able to use in my future classroom; I can see many projects that I can do with my future students that will involve movies.”

She says technology in the early childhood classroom is a way of life now, and young students will benefit from it from the start.

“The most important piece of technology in the classroom is a computer.  There are so many things students can complete on a computer, and so many lessons that can be learned.  In early years, children can use software that allows them to play and paint to get used to working on a computer.

“It is very important for children to be able to work a computer because in the time we live in you will fall significantly behind if you can’t operate a computer.”

For Professor Keith Wetzel’s students, the lesson is an award-winning one…again.