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27 Jan, Friday
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Montreal Families

Students embrace history with modern technology

Students at Edinburgh Elementary School are bridging community, education and technology by producing podcasts about the history of their borough. The initiative is the first of its kind at the elementary school in Montreal West. Grade 6 students will research, write and record podcasts in both English and French on notable monuments and venues.

A podcast is a digital audio file that is available for download on smartphones, tablets or computers. It can also be accessed through streaming from a website, where an individual can simply listen to the recording without downloading it.

Principal Sonia Marotta says each podcast will last between 45 seconds to one minute in an effort to keep the final results short and sweet. “The kids are born in a digital world, so we might as well incorporate it in our school life as well,” Marotta said.

The approach will allow students to branch out into the community while utilizing technology in the classroom. The students are split into groups of four and are responsible for producing a video and taking photographs of various historical aspects of the town.

The podcasts will explore pillars of the community, such as city hall, the fire station and the War Memorial of Montreal West which is dedicated to fallen soldiers. Students will do online research, personal interviews, write, edit and finalize the podcasts, which will be accessible to anyone visiting the community as of May.

For teacher Jean-Michel Brunet, who teaches French immersion to the Grade 6 students, the project pushes students with different passions to create something unique while working together. “It’s about cooperating and working with everybody’s strengths,” Brunet said.

Pina Trengia, who works alongside Brunet as his English counterpart, believes the initiative strikes a balance between traditional learning and modern technology. “It’s basically combining old and new style teaching as well as getting the kids to really appreciate where they live,” Trengia said. “And it’s about raising community awareness.”

Edinburgh students have the support of the town of Montreal West and the English Montreal School Board (EMSB). Marotta has met with Mayor Benny Masella, who she says is very supportive of the project and feels members of the community will benefit from the students’ work.  The podcasts will be inaugurated in the spring at the town hall.

Visitors will be able to scan Quick Response (QR) codes at the historical sites with their smartphones to have direct access to the podcasts. The school board’s pedagogical consultant Kish Gue will help create these codes for the final versions of the podcasts so anyone who visits the landmarks can listen to the students’ work for years to come.

The first-time initiative is one that both students and parents have been responsive to because it goes beyond the conventional curriculum.

“Students are talking about the project, they are excited about it and it will be something they can really sink their teeth into — it’s not just another math sheet,” Trengia said.

After this year’s test run, Marotta hopes to introduce the initiative to younger students. She says that Edinburgh is collaborating with Roslyn School, another EMSB West End school pursuing the same project.

“Kids are going to be graded on it and it’s a great way of learning. It’s not just simply a project, it is a part of their curriculum,” Marotta said.

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