National Writing Project

Colorado History Lesson Gets the Tech Treatment

Publication: The Coloradoan
Date: June 12, 2010

Summary: In partnership with the Colorado State University Writing Project, teachers and students in Fort Collins are using technology to create podcasts and multimedia shows to produce the Save Our Stories history program.


Text from Article


Spread among three classrooms in Johnson Elementary, about a dozen students sat in groups around Macbook computers Friday, editing photos and choosing music to create a story.

Sixteen students from Johnson Elementary and Rivendell School spent this week learning how to use technology and brushing up on their writing skills to capture the stories of Fort Collins' Hispanic community, as well as creating their own, said Cameron Shinn, one of three teachers leading the program.

The weeklong Save Our Stories program held at Johnson taught students to create podcasts and photo slideshows, using Macbooks and Apple software, Shinn said. It's the first time a program like this has been used in Poudre School District schools.

"This utilizes the tools of technology and writing ... to enhance the message," he said.

The program was created through a partnership with Colorado State University Writing Pro-ject, which helps train teachers and students from across the state to improve their writing skills, said Jason Malone, assistant director for CSU's Writing Project.

"We teach them that they can take control of writing in their own mode," Malone said.

This summer program is a pilot for others that may be held in future years, he said.

Over the week, students learned about the history of Fort Collins' Hispanic community from residents who lived it, Schinn said. The students were tasked with using technology to help capture the stories of the city's Hispanic community while also creating their own stories.

The students visited the Museo de las Tres Colonias in northern Fort Collins and interviewed Hispanic community members who have spent most of their lives in town, Schinn said.

Students took flip cameras and digital cameras with them to capture the mood, sounds and voices of the museum and its tour guide, Betty Aragon, Schinn said. Upon their return to Johnson, the students created short videos of their field trip that were put on a closed website along with the blogs, podcasts and other videos created by students.

Renee Lopez, who just finished fifth grade at Johnson, said she learned what it takes to make a slideshow, from downloading the photos and making the album to syncing background music to the photos.

"I love that we did poems and used iPhoto and Garage Band. I didn't even know what it was before," she said. She's been using her parents' Macbook at home now that she knows how to use it, she said.

Jared Rickey said the technology he's learned is what will be most memorable to him.

"What we did with the technology was a lot of fun," the 11-year-old said.

Jared wrote an ode about moving from one state to another, which he said he did when he was 2 years old. He also recorded his ode and added jazzy music to create a podcast, he said.

Each of the three teachers leading the students has undergone training through the Writing Project, Malone said. Every afternoon, a group of soon-to-be teachers also had the chance to work with students and learn multimedia technology, he said.

The program was free to students, thanks to a grant received by the national Writing Project, Schinn said.

Miranda, Marcy. 2010. "History lesson gets the tech treatment." Coloradoan, June 12.  Available at

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