Recent assignment: Tarrant Institute at Edmunds Middle School

I just completed an editorial assignment for Education Week magazine featuring the work of the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education with Edmunds Middle School in Burlington. The magazine wanted both still photos and video. Video? Sure, I can do that. Right?

First, some background. The Tarrant Institute, part of the University of Vermont’s College of Education and Social Services,  seeks to increase middle school student engagement and success by providing a technology-rich, engaging and relevant classroom experience.

From the story in Education Week, “Now the institute—which has given Edmunds a four-year, $250,000 grant—aims to provide technology-rich, personalized learning to a wider range of students, research the impact of the approach, and use those results to make teaching and learning adjustments. The six tenets of the approach—all linked to the developmental needs of young adolescents—are that learning be technology-rich, personalized, relevant, authentic, diverse, and active.”

In short, these students are assigned a laptop for the year that they use in class and can bring home with them. Their classrooms feature SMART boards and other technology, and they are assigned and submit work online. From my brief visits to these classrooms, I can say that the students are more focused and attentive than students I’ve seen in other middle schools. And having a laptop for each student levels the playing field as many of these students don’t have computers at home.

The cover photograph features students in Jim Monahan’s math class using SMART boards to work out algebra problems as part of a small-group exercise. The cavernous math class features four such interactive white boards.

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As I mentioned above, part of the assignment was to capture video for the publications website. I’m still a bit new with producing video on assignment so I called a few area photographers who have been juggling still and video on assignment for years and got some fantastic advice on formats and audio. I learned that while I can hold a camera still for 1/10 of a second to capture a still image, in reality, I shake like a leaf. You can’t hide anything with video. Audio? What a headache. I chose to capture audio on a separate digital audio recorder with a small, camera-mounted shotgun microphone as the Nikon system’s audio isn’t very sophisticated. When I remembered to hit the record button on the unit, it worked beautifully. Thirty minutes of video and six sit-down interviews for about four minutes of final product. All in all, I think it worked. The client is happy, and thankfully, they did the final edit.
 

 
The students in the Navigator Team at Edmunds produced their own videos highlighting the program they are participating in. Take a look here.

Some photographs from the assignment.

 

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