Not Your Dad’s Diorama: Using Tech Tools to Enhance a Traditional Assignment

Over 80 years ago, John Dewey said, “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” These words still ring true, especially in the implementation of technology in the classroom.

Dioramas have been around for a long time, and they have value in a lot of different contexts. But it’s time to go beyond the same projects that students have been doing for generations. In the most basic explanation, dioramas are physical boxes built to showcase learning on a subject matter or topic. They are a way to incorporate craft projects into the understanding of a topic. They allow students to illustrate an academic subject, the plot of a story, or an event in history.

However, a diorama is a scene that captures a single moment in time. Yes, creating one may give some students voice and autonomy, but once the glue dries, the project is stationary, and enhancement or further extension of the scene is impossible.

To create a dynamic project, a teacher must offer students multiple opportunities to explore and understand the topic. A dynamic project should have a balance of static and interactive elements and individual work and cooperation. It should also include a variety of tools and resources to appeal to students’ interests and preferences. The more exciting and appealing the project options are for students, the more creative and fascinating the student projects will be. Offering dynamic options will undoubtedly help to achieve higher engagement and relevance in student learning.

5 TECH TOOLS TO MAKE DIORAMAS COME ALIVE

1. Seesaw. Seesaw is a student-driven digital portfolio or learning journal that provides opportunities for students to show their work and thought processes in real time. Students can create a video of themselves working on their project. Seesaw can empower students to reflect, collaborate, and share. Having this video will also allow family members to watch and share the Seesaw content and really enjoy their children’s learning. And sharing with families celebrates successes.

Dynamic diorama idea: Have students take photos and video articulating their thinking in their design process for the diorama. This thinking process and video creation can be part of the students’ presentation or a post-presentation addition.

2. Flipgrid. I think of Flipgrid as a combination of Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube. Flipgrid is a tool that increases independence and creativity. As educators, we strive to develop student voices in order for students to share verbally what they have learned. Flipgrid is designed to do just that by creating a fun and creative space to produce videos.

Dynamic diorama idea: Create a diorama preview Flipgrid with each student giving a trailer as you would see for a movie. This grid can be made public, and if posted a week before the diorama showcase, it can build excitement and intrigue for their projects as the students hype their projects via video.

3. Buncee. Buncee is a web-based tool for creating interactive, multimedia, slide presentations. A student can integrate content from both external and internal sources as well as create content directly on each slide. Buncee boards are a great way to make students’ ideas grow as well as provide inspiration to collaborate.

Dynamic diorama idea: Create Buncee boards with sequences of what came before the diorama scene and after. Students can share the board to the web and have an external monitor to show what happened next in the timeline of the diorama scene.

4. QR codes. The above tools are all web-based. Therefore, a student can create a Flipgrid, Buncee, or Seesaw QR code. QR codes allow websites to be photo codes. One only has to scan the code via their device’s camera to be taken directly to another digital tool or website.

Dynamic diorama idea: Place a large QR code next to each project to allow students to walk around the room and visit each diorama independently. When students scan the QR code, they will be taken to a video or other online information that will teach them about the research used to create the scene. Additionally, students can place guiding questions they’ve written on the back of the QR codes. This idea will provide an avenue for students’ independent learning.

5. Augmented reality (AR). AR is quickly becoming a powerful tool in education. The goal of AR is to transform learning and expand possibilities for content. AR can offer students the opportunity to design virtual three-dimensional learning objects or visuals. CoSpaces Edu is an augmented reality application that allows you to overlay any video or image on top of anything. CoSpaces Edu looks very much like a QR code reader on a phone or tablet; it allows the device to scan with its built-in camera.

Dynamic diorama idea: Students can create an overlaid image or video for their diorama. From there, the object can be activated by scanning it with the CoSpaces Edu app. Combining the diorama scene with an overlay that plays sound, images, or video will add a layer of excitement and wonder to the learning. For instance, students can create moving objects or animals for the diorama that you could otherwise not see with a static 3D scene. Students will be fascinated to see a dinosaur walking through the diorama or an astronaut landing on the moon.

Classroom instruction is experiencing a dramatic shift in how it has been done for decades. As teachers begin to learn more, classroom projects should become more dynamic in design thinking and production. The next step in the ever-changing landscape of technology is allowing dynamic projects to become part of the culture of learning. This shift will require a coordinated effort between mindset, behaviors, and skills to enhance classroom learning and design through technology.

Using today’s technology and combining it with the endless creativity and ideas of today’s young minds, teachers will be able to shift assignments like dioramas to dynamic, relevant projects and take the next step in their growth as educators.

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