Developing Cultural Connections Through Digital Media Play Presentation
Chris Prefontaine

Chris Prefontaine

Chris Prefontaine has worked as a teacher, Education Officer, educational consultant and writer since 1990. She is passionate about her students and using technology to engage them and improve their learning.  She loves to hike, rollerblade and ride her motorcycle on warm sunny days.

Table of Contents

Purpose of Learning Object

The purpose of this Learning Object is to use technology as the vehicle to expose students to the diversity within Canadian and world cultures so that they can better appreciate their similarities and celebrate their differences. I was inspired by a SchoolNet Project called Generations CanConnect.

Outcomes: By the end of this unit the students will be able to:

  • Build community within the class, school, and local society.
  • Learn about their family heritage.
  • Learn about and connect to other family stories.
  • Make connections to senior citizens in the community and connect to Canadian culture.
  • Develop interview questions.
  • Learn the role of the “critical friend”.
  • Use modern digital technologies as tools to produce digital products.
  • Create an audio podcast.
  • Work as members of a production team.
  • Create digital video.

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Description of Learning Tasks

Culminating Task

The creation of a digital recount in the form of a video file.

Students will interview a senior member of the community; capturing digital images and sound as the adult tells their story. Interviewees may be encouraged to use an artefact from their younger days that relate, in some way, to their stories.

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Curriculum Connections

Page 12 of the 2006 Ontario revised Language Curriculum states:

Teachers routinely use materials that reflect the diversity of Canadian and world cultures, including the cultures of Aboriginal peoples, and make those resources available to students.

The students themselves and their families can be seen as resources to allow us to connect to the diversity of Canadian and world cultures.

Grade 7 and 8 Oral Expectations

  1. Listen in order to understand and respond appropriately in a variety of situations for a variety of purposes.
  2. Use speaking skills and strategies appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  3. Reflect on and identify their strengths as listeners and speakers, areas for improvement, and the strategies they found most helpful in oral communication situations.

Grade 7 and 8 Media Expectations

  1. Identify some media forms and explain how the conventions and techniques associated with them are used to create meaning.
  2. Create a variety of media texts for different purposes and audiences, using appropriate forms, conventions, and techniques.
  3. Reflect on and identify their strengths as media interpreters and creators, areas for improvement, and the strategies they found most helpful in understanding and creating media texts.

The focus is on strong opening and closing statements as well as the trait of word choice.

Topics that specifically connect to the History curriculum include:

Grade 8 History - compare family roles at the beginning of the twentieth century to family roles today (e.g., responsibilities and roles of men, women, and children).

Grade 7 History - compare and contrast historical conflict resolution strategies with those used today to resolve disputes at home, at school, and in the community.

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Required Technology

Teachers and students will need to be able to use digital audio and video equipment.

Hardware Requirements


Internal or external computer microphone

Digital still or video cameras

Software Requirements

Audio recording software (i.e.Audacity, Microsoft Moviemaker, GarageBand, etc.)

Video editing software (i.e. Windows MovieMaker, iMovie, etc.)

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Listen to the student’s explanation of the artefact, using the observational checklist (check on initial questions).


Observation sheets

Task: Creation of an audio “podcast” recount.

assessed using a rubric student self/peer reflection sheet (How did you feel about doing the podcast? Did you ask questions of your partners that helped them to add detail to their recounts? How did your partners help you to refine and improve your work? What went well in the process? Explain any difficulties.)


Task: Creation of a digital video recount.

Assessed using a rubric student self/peer reflection sheet.

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Scope and Sequence

This unit can be done at any time of year. However, introducing the unit in late September or early October facilitates early inclusion as students will get to know each other well. The required amount of time for the entire project is roughly 20 periods of 50 minutes.

Part 1 – Introduction to Producing Narratives and Podcasting

Getting to know us – Introducing artefacts.

  • Teacher brings in an object – models writing a brief outline of its significance (lesson 1).
    • Students may ask questions.
    • Questions are recorded on pieces of paper or using SMART Ideas.
  • Homework – Students bring in an artefact.
    • Share in small groups (lesson 2).
    • Students in the group ask questions and record them on post-its to be given to the presenting students. Questions are answered on the spot if possible.
    • Teacher uses the questions posed the day before to model question sorting – done as a whole class (lesson 3).
    • Discuss types of questions – probing or demand for more detail? (think vs. thin)
    • Students consider the questions that were asked by their classmates.
    • Student reflection – Did I do a good job, or were there many questions that I should have anticipated?
  • Read The Summer My Father Was 10 (author: Pat Brisson) –discussion about how this lesson stayed with the girl’s dad. [Mentor Text]
    • If her father were to share an artefact, what do you think it would be? What questions might she have asked? (lesson 4).
    • Homework – students have a conversation with a parent or preferably a grandparent. They can ask for any family story, or questions can be streamlined to match the history/geography curriculum.
  • Teacher models with a personal story – possibly a story that was shared by their parent or grandparent (lesson 5).
    • Students share their stories in small groups – group members make question post-its and share these with the speakers. Questions are answered on site if possible, or taken home.
  • Teacher introduces components of a recount (lesson 6).
    • Students may work in groups on deconstructing a text to understand what makes a text exemplary. Students may then create a list of Success Criteria or an Anchor Chart. (see Writing a Recount Checklist).
    • Share a second example of a recount and have the students use their Success Criteria to analyze it.
  • Students use their answers and point form notes to write their narration (lesson 7). They should use their Success Criteria to assess their own work.
  • Narrations, which include answers to peer questions, are shared (lesson 8).
    • Teachers may assign lengths for narrations which may be timed by members of the group. As well, group members should use the Success Criteria to assess the work of their peers and give feedback. (This should be preceded by a discussion on the difference between criticism and critical friendship.)
    • Homework – narrations should be rehearsed until fairly well known.
  • Partners are tasked to listen for intonation and voice as students retell their story (lesson 9).
  • Lesson on using the recording software (lesson 10).
  • Students create their podcast (lesson 11 – this may take more than one lesson depending on availability of computers).
  • Students fill in self/peer assessment sheets (lesson 12).

Part 2 – Continue to Practise Narratives and Introduction to Video

Notes: Arrangements will need to be made to invite seniors from the community into the school. The focus of the questions for the guests will need to be pre-determined.

The following is based on a guest working with a group of 3 or 4 students over two visits. A possible option is to set up an exchange of information, whereby students spend time teaching seniors how to do something on the computer.

  • Working in groups, students prepare questions to ask their senior (lesson 13).
  • Students get to know their senior during informal dialogue (lessons 14 & 15; double period).
    • Students share their own artefacts with the seniors.
    • Based on a pre-arranged understanding of topic, the seniors share artefacs from their younger days and the students ask their questions.
  • Individually, students prepare narratives (lesson 16).
  • Teacher shares rubrics for the videos (or develops them with the students), as well as any exemplars (lesson 17). Discussion of how a video recount is the same as a written one.
    • Working in their groups, students use a storyboard template to plan out their video recount.
  • Students receive a lesson in the use and care of a video camera (lesson 18).
  • The seniors return for videotaping (lesson 19 – the lessons may have to be staggered, depending on availability of video equipment).
    • Students receive a lesson in using digital editing software (iMovie or MovieMaker etc.) (lesson 20 to 23).
    • Students use the software to follow their storyboards and create their video memories.
    • Students respond to the self/peer assessment.

This unit could be celebrated with a group presentation for parents and seniors.

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Accommodations or Modifications

The activities can be modified to meet special needs in the following ways:

  • Interview questions can be prepared in advance and given to the students.
  • Students who do not have available family members could interview staff members.
  • Students may need a family member to scribe the story for them.
  • Students may work from prompts when recording their stories.
  • ELL students may record in their native language as well.

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Tasks may be differentiated in the following ways:

  • Students may use tape recorders instead of digital audio recording equipment.
  • Students may prefer to write their recounts instead of recording video.
  • Recounts can also be created in the form of songs or plays.
  • Students might use a digital still camera instead of a video camera.
  • PowerPoint could be used to create presentations instead of video.

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Research Base

Storytelling has been a human activity since the dawn of man.

Every generation has their stories to tell and today’s youth is no different. Moreover, this generation of storytellers has new sophisticated technologies that allow them to “design multi-modal narratives” (Skinner & Hagood, 2008) that are even more engaging and highly motivating than before. In addition, recent research by Mello (2001, in Vazquez-Montilla, Velasco, Spillman and Baylen, 2005/2006) suggests a relationship between storytelling and student success, especially when it enables links between the classroom and home.

Digital Storytelling Supports Literacy and Student Engagement

  • Through the storytelling process, students learn that their authentic voice and their message remain the most important elements of the narrative.
  • Technology that is meaningfully incorporated into the curriculum can strengthen student engagement which is so paramount to student learning. (Sadik, 2008)
  • Whether it is an audio podcast or a video, students bring their own perspectives and experience to literacy learning and benefit from an authentic audience when their creations are placed on the Internet.
  • Today’s digital-era students use a variety of multi-media tools in their free time and so see greater relevance to school when they can employ what they know – tools of the real world – to their place of learning. (Mullen and Wedwick, 2008)
  • The process of developing the skills of “critical friendship” as part of the digital storytelling unit helps students to establish trust, appreciate feedback, and develop a positive classroom environment.
  • By joining students and elders through storytelling both thrive as the seniors share their experience and wisdom, and the students share their vitality (and knowledge of technology). (Francis Kazemek, 2008)

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Evidence of Innovation and/or Exemplary Practice

Innovation is the introduction of something new. This project is innovative in that it uses 21st century tools to enhance the curriculum.

Students are recognized as technology experts who bring knowledge and resourcefulness to our educational setting. This concept replaces the traditional idea that the teacher is the “sage on the stage” who is the only valued source of knowledge in the class.

When associated with creativity, digital technology allows students to think at higher levels as they weave heritage stories into new modern formats.

Where the students write about greater issues that worry them, such as the environment, poverty or other global problems, the level of innovation reaches the higher cognitive levels of evaluation and creativity as they lift their voices up to effect social change.
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Other Applications (Extensions)

Once students become comfortable with the technology, they are able to apply their knowledge and create products that retell events in history. They may also use digital means to explain concepts in science or geography. Of course, many of the media expectations (Language Arts) can be met through the use of digital technology.

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Impact Analysis

This project has the potential to make a difference in many ways:

  • Students should demonstrate an increase in motivation and interest with a corresponding increase in participation and achievement.
  • Students should be better able to relate to their classmates.
  • The level of safety and feelings of inclusion in the classroom should increase. With this, students may be more considerate of each other and better able to get along.
  • Students should be able to make a connection with older adults in the community and hopefully be able to empathize with their lives. This should increase respect and recognition that all generations are valuable members of our community.
  • Teachers should get a deeper understanding of their students and their interests to help them better meet their group and individual needs.
  • This unit encourages teachers to make informed decisions with regard to their instructional practice.
  • On a school level, this project will give all teachers ideas of how to incorporate technology into their programs, as well as boost their media studies.

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Additional Resources


Podcast Example (Sarah’s Story)

Storyboard Templates

Self/Peer Assessment Checklist

Podcasting Rubrics

Video Rubric


Manual for Windows Movie Maker

Manual for Audacity

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Copyright/Paper Citation Considerations

Brisson, P. (1998). The Summer My Father Was 10, Boyds Mills Press. Honesdale, Pennsylvania.

Chung, S. (2007, March). Art Education Technology: digital storytelling. Art Education, 60(2), 17-22. Retrieved May 6, 2009, from Education Research Complete database.

Kazemek, F. (2006, October). Old and young: Using stories to make connections. Reading Today, pp. 22,22. Retrieved May 6, 2009, from Education Research Complete database.

Mullen, R., & Wedwick, L. (2008, November). Avoiding the Digital Abyss: Getting Started in the Classroom with YouTube, Digital Stories, and Blogs. Clearing House, 82(2), 66-69. Retrieved May 6, 2009, from Education Research Complete database.

Ohler, J. (2005, December). The World of Digital Storytelling. Educational Leadership, 63(4), 44-47. Retrieved May 6, 2009, from Education Research Complete database.

Sadik, A. (2008, August). Digital storytelling: a meaningful technology-integrated approach for engaged student learning. Educational Technology Research & Development, 56(4), 487-506. Retrieved May 6, 2009, doi:10.1007/s11423-008-9091-8

Skinner, E., & Hagood, M. (2008, September). Developing Literate Identities With English Language Learner Through Digital Storytelling. Reading Matrix: An International Online Journal, 8(2), 1-27. Retrieved May 6, 2009, from Education Research Complete database.

Vázquez-Montilla, E., Velasco, M., Spillman, C., & Baylen, D. (2005, September). Preserving Heritage Stories and Encouraging Students to Pass Them On. International Journal of Learning, 12(5), 157-165. Retrieved May 6, 2009, from Education Research Complete database.

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