City Teachers Learn to Apply Digital Technologies that Dramatically Improve Learning in At-Risk Students

Project brings high-tech teaching methods to hard-pressed urban schools

Release Date: July 27, 2000 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- "City Voices, City Visions," a broad partnership involving the University at Buffalo, Buffalo Public Schools and the community, is attacking the learning problems faced by Buffalo students by applying multimedia technologies in ways never used before.

The partnership has several projects in development and the first -- a Summer Technology/Literacy Institute -- got under way July 24.

The institute is one in a series designed to instruct Buffalo teachers in how to use digital video technologies in ways found to improve dramatically literacy and social-studies learning.

The program continues from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through Aug. 4 in the UB Center for Applied Technologies in Education (CATE) in the Butler Mansion Carriage House, North Street at Delaware Ave.

The curriculum teaches the use of multimedia technologies and reading/writing strategies to help schools meet state learning standards and to foster student achievement in innovative ways. The teachers attending this year's institute not only will use their new skills in the classroom, but also will become UB/Buffalo school district technology/literacy facilitators.

Among the activities sponsored by the institute are oral-history projects using multicultural literature, modeling successful academic writing and the production of community-based video documentaries and memoirs.

To help them do their jobs, each teacher participating in the first institute will receive a digital movie camera and each two-teacher school team will receive an I-Mac computer loaded with i-MOVIE software and a TV-VCR setup with software to translate analog video signals to digital signals.

While the institute is in progress, members of the press are invited to visit, speak to the teachers about their experiences, discuss the research upon which their training is based and view the partially completed video projects. Call Patricia Donovan in the UB Office of News Services (645-5000, ext. 1414) to schedule a visit.

Institute Director Suzanne Miller, Ph.D., associate dean of the UB Graduate School of Education (GSE), says education research has proven that the innovative use of multimedia technology in schools can dramatically improve teaching and learning. All students benefit from skilled use of critical technologies, with particularly dramatic results among low-achieving students with literacy problems.

"Unfortunately," she says, "Teachers in financially strained urban districts and under-funded schools -- the very teachers who need help most -- have few opportunities to learn the effective use of these technologies. Access to advanced technologies is severely limited, as is training in their wise use in literacy and subject-matter learning."

Miller says the institute provides teachers with a new means to help students learn in an inquiry-based (hands-on), learner-centered, project-oriented literacy curriculum.

This method, which involves video and written documentation of community-based experiences, has been shown to be very effective in students to enthusiastically pursue higher-level literacy and social studies learning.

The pilot institute is unusual in that while other such programs frequently target teachers in Buffalo's magnet high schools, this one focuses on teachers from a grammar school, a vocational high school and two other non-magnet high schools.

The two-week institute involves teams of one English teacher and one social-studies teacher from South Park, McKinley and Kensington high schools and Black Rock Academy. They are learning how to use digital video technologies and incorporate them into their classrooms to help students meet New York State's new learning standards.

The project is co-sponsored by the Buffalo Public Schools and, at UB, the Graduate School of Education, the Urban Education Institute, the Collaborative Research Network and CATE. CATE, directed by Don Jacobs, is a program of the UB Division of Public Service and Urban Affairs that serves as a liaison between the university and the Buffalo Public Schools Technology Initiative.

UB faculty members involved are from the Graduate School of Education and the departments of Media Study, History and American Studies, all in the College of Arts and Sciences, and from the Department of Library Studies in the School of Information Studies.

As part of their training, the teachers are being instructed in the use of the brand new, very user-friendly, i-MOVIE software from Macintosh with which they are producing original videos about Buffalo, its schools, students and community issues.

The state-of-the-art software makes it easy to produce high-quality videos in very little time that are posted on the institute Web site,

The training and equipment will make it possible for the facilitators immediately to begin to share their new skills with middle-and high-school students, local teaching colleagues and teachers statewide through distance-learning events and Web-based, professional-development modules.

They will help their students study and document their own communities through research, interviews, writing and recording on videotape. These activities help students develop skills and strategies that will assist them in meeting new higher-level state learning standards in literacy, social science and other school subjects.

Their new skills also will be promulgated through the community-based UB/Buffalo School District Family Technology Clubs, in which parents and students will work collaboratively to analyze media and information, and use complex technologies to communicate family and community stories.

Using these stories, the project team will create an Urban Images Digital Library that will be a rich resource for curriculum development, teacher development and research in urban education. The team also will publish selected stories on public-access digital television and through a "City Voices, City Visions" Web site. Thus, aspects of the project will be accessible to researchers, educators and school reformers anywhere on earth.

Miller says the project also will continue to foster collaborations between university faculty and groups of teachers, community members, and future teachers through UB's GSE Collaborative Research Network. The network supports collaborative inquiries on improving teaching and learning through use of the "City Voices, City Visions" curricular projects and video products.

"As far as we know, the multimedia technology described has never before been used for the purposes outlined here," says Miller. "Our purpose is to build a strong, collaborative program to foster student achievement and enhance their prospects for success."

Media Contact Information

Patricia Donovan has retired from University Communications. To contact UB's media relations staff, call 716-645-6969 or visit our list of current university media contacts. Sorry for the inconvenience.