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St. Croix Central sixth grade literacy teacher Karen Loenser used technology to help engage her students in their third-quarter book report assignments. Instead of traditional book reports, the students created video "Digital Book Talks," which have now been posted on the school district's YouTube channel.

St. Croix Central book reports go digital

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Third-quarter book reports for some St. Croix Central Middle School students were a bit unusual. Students in Karen Loenser's sixth grade literacy class created "Digital Book Talks," instead of traditional written book reports.

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"One thing that was really, really neat was the time the kids were engaged," Loenser said. "They were on task 100 percent of the time. It's pretty amazing."

Loenser said projects like this help students learn better, because they engage multiple senses.

She said the project involved students speaking, listening, reading, writing and working collaboratively.

"And then turning it into their own masterpiece," Loenser said.

The students first drafted a script for their book talks. The students then recorded their scripts and selected photos to accompany the scripts. The students used Microsoft Photo Story software to combine the images and the recorded scripts. Then, the students added music to match the tone of the book report script.

Loenser said more emphasis has been placed on technology in the common core curriculum adopted by St. Croix Central last year. She said the new curriculum meets state standards.

"Technology is a huge component of where education is going," Loenser said.

In addition to the "Digital Book Talks," Loenser said she uses an online class discussion board every week in another of her classes. Next year, Loenser said she plans to assign "Digital Book Talks" again. She said she is also exploring the idea of posting assignments online.

Loenser's students' digital book talks have been uploaded to St. Croix Central's YouTube channel. They can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/stcroixcentral.

Podcasts

Loenser's students aren't the only ones to complete digital book reports this year. Seventh grade language arts teacher Laura Lee's students recently created book report podcasts.

This was a first for Lee and for her students.

"It was really fun for them to learn," Lee said. She said the whole process went very smoothly.

"We booked a whole week in the lab and it only took three days," Lee said. "Anything to do with technology they really excel in, because they're so familiar with technology and love using it."

Lee said library media specialist Amanda Olsen helped students learn to make podcasts. Lee said the students take easily to assignments involving technology.

"It seems as if it's just in them," Lee said. "They already know how to do a lot of the basic things, which is really helpful because you don't have to review them."

This is Lee's first year at St. Croix Central. She said she plans to assign podcasts again next year. She also would like to have her students create a wiki, a webpage users can edit easily through their browsers.

LOOKING AT COMPUTER (ACK OF HEAD): St. Croix Central sixth grade literacy teacher Karen Loenser used technology to help engage her students in their third-quarter book report assignments. Instead of traditional book reports, the students created video "Digital Book Talks," which have now been posted on the school district's YouTube channel.

TWO GIRLS LOOKING AT OCMPUTER: St. Croix Central sixth grade literacy teacher Karen Loenser used technology to help engage her students in their third-quarter book report assignments. Instead of traditional book reports, the students created video "Digital Book Talks," which have now been posted on the school district's YouTube channel.

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Gretta Stark
Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.
(715) 426-1048
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