The fourth grade students of Philadelphia teacher Robert Rivera-Amezola produced podcasts about water pollution and conservation as a service learning project, sharing the resulting work with their community through a portal on a school district website. In a thoughtful reflection, Rivera-Amezola describes the process, giving a vision of how participatory work can happen with students and what it means for them to contribute to their community. The interdisciplinary work of Rivera-Amezola's students took the traditional learning of the classroom and transformed it into part of the solution of a local problem.
In this video, a teacher of fourth-grade English learners describes how he integrated service learning and digital literacy in a civic engagement project. They used "My Voice," a service-learning framework, as a guide to choose a project about water conservation and pollution. The teacher made information accessible to his students via videos and images as well as language by using the website Discovery Education. The students wrote blogposts, and completed webquests, podcasts, and digital presentations. The resources that supported this work along with the student outcomes are made available on the video as models for teacher study groups.
During the 2008-2009 school year, my class was involved in a service learning project. The project utilized various technologies and digital media to complete the task. These tools proved to be invaluable for the English language learners who comprised the majority of my classroom.
As my class explored many different options for a service learning project, they discovered more about themselves and built a strong community of learners. When they finally settled on water conservation and pollution, they were eager to begin. Their selection of this topic also aligned with Pennsylvania fourth grade science standards.
Podcasts as Practice and Presentation
Podcasts give English language learners a nonthreatening way to practice English.
In my experience, podcasting (like other digital modalities) often motivate English language learners to extend their new language skills as they tackle complex subjects. Working with a local not-for-profit group called “Need in Deed” that helps students apply academic skills with solving social issues, my fourth-graders decided to investigate water pollution and contamination. In the process, they conducted research, wrote scripts, and recorded audio broadcasts for publication on the Internet.
Linda Christensen shares a method for reading and dissecting a poem as a group, then using that as a jumping off place for their own writing. Originally published during the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020, Christensen also highlights the importance of centering the learner in the lesson, something that will always be relevant.