storyboard for one unit
of study and wrote a
traditional essay for
a second unit. We reversed the order for
a second class.
On average, students
spent significantly more
time on the storyboard
task compared to stu-
dents who wrote an essay, but those
who created the storyboard responded
in notably different ways to the activ-
ity and tool. We corroborated student
activities recorded through the Web-
based tools with the student engage-
ment constructs from the Classroom
Assessment Scoring System (www.
classobservation.com). Four different
Media Engagement Profiles emerged
based on students’ engagement with
the storyboarding activity and with the
High technology/high content.
Approximately 40% were engaged in both the
historical content and the storyboarding
activity. These students demonstrated
a high level of content knowledge, and
their knowledge of the curricular material extended beyond the requirements
of the class assignments.
High technology/low content. Other
students were engaged by the storyboarding activity but not by the historical content. This group of students also
demonstrated a high level of content
knowledge but with some factual errors.
Low technology/high content. Some
students were interested in the historical content but were not engaged
by the storyboarding activity. These
students demonstrated a high level of
content knowledge and expressed a
desire to go beyond the requirements
of class assignments.
Low technology/low content. Approximately 15% of students were not engaged by either the historical content
or by the storyboarding activity. These
students demonstrated a low level of
Differentiating Instruction through
Student disengagement is an immediate and persistent issue for many
students and teachers. Consequently,
many school reform initiatives are addressing this problem by identifying
the qualities of academic work that
students find engaging, such as its authenticity, its alignment with student
interests, its real-world importance,
and the degree of student choice.
With careful planning, it is possible to increase student engagement
by incorporating student-authored
media into a formal classroom setting
without increasing the amount of class
time required to complete the projects. These conditions include tools
designed for teaching combined with
lessons designed to take advantage
of these tools. However, even under
these conditions, teachers may wish to
employ differentiation strategies.
Students who were engaged by both
content and media demonstrated
greater higher-order thinking and cre-
ativity in their work. Students engaged
by media but not by content required
additional scaffolding from the teach-
er to increase task management and
content mastery. Students engaged
by the content but not by media may
have preferred a more traditional
task, such as writing an essay. Finally,
students who were not engaged by the
content or by media required a high
level of structure to achieve success.
Glen Bull is co-director of the
Center for Technology and
Teacher Education in the
Curry School of Education
at the University of Virginia.
Curby Alexander is an assistant professor of education at the University of Illinois, Springfield. His interests include use of technology in history and social studies education.
Bill Ferster is a senior research scientist at the Center for Technology and Teacher Education at the University of Virginia.