Student-Created Digital Media and Engagement in Middle School History

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Boras]On: 07 October 2014, At: 06:43Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Computers in the Schools:Interdisciplinary Journal of Practice,Theory, and Applied ResearchPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/wcis20

    Student-Created Digital Media andEngagement in Middle School HistoryCurby Alexanderaa Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas, USAPublished online: 20 Aug 2014.

    To cite this article: Curby Alexander (2014) Student-Created Digital Media and Engagement in MiddleSchool History, Computers in the Schools: Interdisciplinary Journal of Practice, Theory, and AppliedResearch, 31:3, 154-172, DOI: 10.1080/07380569.2014.932652

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07380569.2014.932652

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  • Computers in the Schools, 31:154172, 2014Copyright Taylor & Francis Group, LLCISSN: 0738-0569 print / 1528-7033 onlineDOI: 10.1080/07380569.2014.932652

    Student-Created Digital Media and Engagementin Middle School History

    CURBY ALEXANDERTexas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas, USA

    In this study, student engagement during classroom activities wasinvestigated where sixth graders created digital media projectsusing historical images. The study employed a qualitative de-sign involving observations, student artifacts, and interviews whilestudents were creating digital storyboards using a Web-based ap-plication developed for this research. Several patterns of studentengagement were identified, such as time on task, level of detail,and extra effort, which subsequently led to the development of fourdistinct profiles among the students. Applications of these findingsand directions for future studies are discussed.

    KEYWORDS social studies, digital media, student engagement

    Student disengagement is an immediate and persistent issue affecting bothteachers and students (Newmann, Wehlage, & Lamborn, 1992). Students whoare not personally invested in their learning are at greater risk to drop out ofschool (Bridgeland, DiIulio, & Morison, 2006). Lack of student engagement isalso associated with teacher burnout and contributes to the national problemof teacher attrition (Hastings & Bham, 2003).

    Efforts at increasing student engagement have traditionally beentargeted at teacher effort and student incentives (Newmann et al., 1992).However, contemporary approaches to increasing student engagement havefocused more on learning environments (Brush & Saye, 2005; Ioannou,Brown, Hannafin, & Boyer, 2009) and the academic tasks that studentsperform (Heafner, 2004; Schlechty, 2002; Tomlinson, 2001). Newmann andWehlage (1993) identified the following characteristics of engaging learning

    Address correspondence to Curby Alexander, PhD, College of Education, Texas ChristianUniversity, Palko Building #345, 2800 S. University Drive, Fort Worth, TX 76129, USA. E-mail:curby.alexander@tcu.edu

    Color versions of one or more of the figures in the article can be found online atwww.tandfonline.com/wcis.

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  • Digital Media and Student Engagement 155

    environments and academic tasks: the level to which they are perceived asauthentic by students, the extent to which they are personally or situationallyinteresting (Murphy & Alexander, 2000; Renninger, 1992, 2000), the degreeof student choice, and the appropriate level of challenge and rigor.

    Technology-enhanced student projects potentially address many of thecriteria for engaging learning environments or work. Although technologycannot solve all challenges associated with student disengagement, it doeshave a proven track record for capturing students attention (Lenhart &Madden, 2005). An in-depth study by the Pew Internet and American LifeProject (Arafeh, Levin, Rainie, & Lenhart, 2002) found that teens regu-larly use technology autonomously for both school-related and personallearning.

    However, teachers have customarily been resistant to disrupting theirteaching environments and practices with technology (Cuban, 2001; Oppen-heimer, 2003). This is particularly true in history classes, where technologyhas not traditionally been part of the curriculum (Martorella, 1997). Tech-nology presents challenges to classroom management and typically requiresextra planning (Hofer & Swan, 2006). Furthermore, teachers must adhere tostrict curricular pacing and ensure they cover required content before end-of-year testing (van Hover & Pierce, 2006), either eliminating the introductionof technology-based projects or delaying them until the end of the year.

    As a way to address some of the challenges associated with implement-ing technology-enhanced projects, PrimaryAccess Storyboarda Web-basedstoryboarding tool, or gamewas created for use in the history classroom(see Figure 1). Using primary source images as a background, students re-search the context of the images, then layer speech bubbles and animatedcharacters on the background to create an historical visual narrative. Eachstoryboard can have multiple frames, and projects can be shared using aunique URL. Implementation of this tool requires less time than would berequired to create other forms of digital media, such as movies or pod-casts; yet, the storyboarding software still includes features that students findinteresting and fun.

    The purpose of this study was to investigate student engagement duringclassroom activities using PrimaryAccess Storyboard.

    THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

    The design of this tool was guided by the technological pedagogical contentknowledge framework (TPACK). Adapted from Pedagogical Content Knowl-edge (Shulman, 1987), Mishra and Koehler (2006) developed the TPACKframework to describe the interplay between a teachers content, pedagog-ical, and technological knowledge when planning instruction. Teachers donot develop their knowledge in each of these areas independently; rather,

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  • 156 C. Alexander

    FIGURE 1 PrimaryAccess Storyboard. A screen capture of PrimaryAccess Storyboard(www.primaryaccess.org), a Web-based tool designed for students to create narratives us-ing primary source images, text, and characters.

    these areas of knowledge intersect and work together as teachers visualizeand develop instructional activities.

    Shulman & Grossman (1988) believed teachers organized their content-area knowledge within a field of study differently from other professionalsin that same field of study, in that teachers categorized their knowledge interms of transferring it to others. Pedagogical content knowledge representsthe blending of content and pedagogy into an understanding of how par-ticular aspects of subject matter are organized, adapted, and represented forinstruction (Mishra & Koehler, 2006).

    Building on this framework, TPACK operates from the belief that inorder for teachers to effectively teach with technology, they must continu-ally foster growth in all three knowledge domains: content, pedagogy, andtechnology. Teachers rarely use technology in their instruction for its ownsake. Rather, technology is used within the context of instruction for thepurpose of communicating concepts and skills to students, or allowing thestudents to build and convey their own knowledge back to others. Tech-nology, by nature, always fulfills a purpose for those who choose to adoptit (Rogers, 2003). Teachers have a different purpose for using technologyfrom professionals in other fields. Therefore, they organize their knowledge

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  • Digital Media and Student Engagement 157

    of technology differently from those in ot