Archive for Thursday, May 25, 2006

Students light up when camera comes out

May 25, 2006

This semester, Mary Ann Austin has been able to capture all the Kodak moments in her classroom.

The Lansing Elementary School second-grade teacher received a grant from the Lansing Educational Foundation Fund to buy a digital camera for her classroom. It seems simple, but Austin said it's made a great deal of difference in her students' level of enthusiasm.

"They just love to have their pictures taken," she said.

Austin has used her camera, a Sony FD Mavica, to take pictures of students of the week, field trips and classroom activities. She took class pictures to send with students' letters to soldiers in Iraq, and she used pictures to help explain a class project when she submitted an application for a Disney teacher award for which she was nominated. She was not one of the final 41 teachers chosen for the award, but the camera and pictures helped her to make her point, Austin said.

"It's definitely had a lot of use," she said.

"I was always thinking, 'Oh, man, I wish I had a camera.' Now I have one."

Before she received her own camera, Austin said she would have check out one of the school's two digital cameras from the computer lab in the Sallie Zoll building. By the time she'd have the camera, "the moment had passed," she said.

Now, she doesn't have to wait. Earlier this month, Austin said, her class was making Play-Doh to learn about measuring. She pulled out her camera and saw an immediate change in the students.

"If they knew I was standing there with a camera, they were doing it just perfectly," she said.

After taking the pictures, Austin said she prints them with a color printer on regular paper - photo paper gets too expensive, she said - and has them laminated. Then, when students earn $2 credit through the class's reward program, they can buy the photos.

"It's a nonexpensive way of giving something to the kids," Austin said.

And giving something to her students is a way to make school fun for them, Austin said. As a student, she hated school, she said, and she doesn't want her students to feel the same way.

"I have a strong belief that kids need to be awarded as much as possible," she said.

If she has the opportunity, Austin said she would look into applying for another grant, possibly for computer instructional materials to use as a learning incentive.

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