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Technology Update


Making a Difference with Multimedia

Students, teachers and administrators in the Bucks County, Pa., school system are collectively pooling together an array of technology resources to make digital forms of multimedia more accessible, empower students to create their own content, and better align curricula to the world of "digital natives."

At the center of much of the progress being made is the Bucks County Schools Intermediate Unit 22, a regional educational service agency that works with the state department of education, 13 local districts in Bucks County, and three vocational high schools to provide programs and services in a cost-effective manner.

"We're like the Blockbuster or Netflix for the districts," says Beverly Carey, instructional materials specialist for the IU's Instructional Materials and Resource Services Department, whose services include providing media in multiple formats (VHS, DVD and digital streaming), training in Web media and video conferencing, and countywide leadership for advisory councils and student events.

Delivering the Goods

The IMRS Media Library contains over 10,000 physical videos as instructional resources, but what really helps put the county on the cutting edge of 21st-century learning is its implementation of Discovery Education streaming, a digital video-on-demand and online teaching service that has provided the county's 100,000 students and 9,000 teachers with more than 8,000 digital videos aligned to U.S. state standards (and to students' YouTube-styled standards).

School officials say they were getting approximately 4,000 hits a year for the streaming videos when the service was brought in, but now that number has skyrocketed to more than 86,000.

"We're seeing amazing growth," says Mark Hoff man, director of instructional materials, research services and technology applications at the IU.

Although the IU IMRS functions as a physical media provider, those who work there say they are transitioning to a "digital world," with more physical media being converted into digital formats.

Pamela Newman, IU instructional technology specialist, says it's "another very important way to reach students."

A Holistic Approach

Students in the districts partnered with the IU are involved in other multimedia projects that are helping to keep retention rates and test scores high.

Mark J. Klein, superintendent of the Council Rock School District, says they have multimedia projectors and digital whiteboards in "at least half" of their classrooms for core subjects, and students and educators frequently utilize Web sites such as YouTube and TeacherTube for class projects and curriculum supplements.

Student-created content is key at Council Rock, and Larry Kling, the technology coordinator for the district, adds that video editing programs and software such as Microsoft Photo Story serve as powerful learning tools for the students.

"It feels real to them," he says. Next month the IU is hosting a regional Day of Discovery in partnership with Discovery Education for county educators to learn more about digital natives, emerging technologies and best practices.

More Students Find Their Voice

Adobe Youth Voices, a global philanthropic initiative empowering youth worldwide to comment on their world using multimedia (covered in DA's May 2007 News Update), will be extended to additional student producers through a grant of $1 million to the PBS Foundation. Through the initiative, students have been involved in everything from digital photo essays to publishing a book on bias in standardized testing.


The award from the Adobe Foundation Fund at Silicon Valley Community Foundation will allow PBS to support qualifi ed professional and amateur producers in both creating original broadcast programming focused on youth-related subject matter and incorporating youth-generated media into public television broadcasts online, on air and in the classroom.