Ancient Egypt with modern technology

Modern technology recently aided Ray Middle School sixth-graders as they studied an ancient culture.

Students in Elizabeth Formoza's social studies classes learned how to use Photo Story 3, computer software that enables users to create digital stories with photos and music. Using the computer, they were able to synthesize their research materials and knowledge into reports on ancient Egypt.

Formoza was impressed with her students' efforts with the software.

"They all did well with Photo Story, considering that for most of them it was their first time using the program," she said.

She noticed that many of her students were enthusiastic about using the computer to create a story, and they also seemed to retain more of the information that they'd been studying in class and that they'd found in their research.

Each of Formoza's students worked with a partner to create a digital story and groups were randomly assigned topics related to ancient Egypt. After three days of researching topics in the library, students spent about a week using the computer to create their digital storyboards with their research information. Formoza said the digital stories required students to use their researching skills, analytic abilities and organizational skills. Students then created projects based on their research, which they presented, along with their digital stories, to their classmates.

The Photo Story software, which is only available for use on PCs, is a free download from Microsoft's Web site. Currently, it's installed in all of the PCs at Elden Elementary and Reynolds Elementary, all of the PCs in the elementary school libraries and at Ray Middle, Durgee Junior High and Baker High. District technology plans to have it installed on all of the PCs in the elementary buildings by the next school year.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of the Photo Story software is the excitement for learning that it's generating.

"Students are having so much fun, and they're learning from these research projects," said Darelene St. John, Ray's library media specialist.

Elizabeth Formoza agrees.

"My students really enjoyed making their digital stories," she said.

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