Student: Well, in one of our classes, we had a test that me and Jason took, and then when we got it back, our grades were different although our answers were pretty much alike.
Narrator: These freshmen at Moanalua High School in Honolulu are taping a documentary about their teachers' grading policies.
Student: Well, I was pretty mad, because mine was marked down lower and--
Narrator: The project is part of a unique program that combines the study of English, social studies and multimedia.
Lynne: They were applying understandings that had come from "To Kill a Mockingbird," that had come from civics, and the strong emotional reaction to "Of Mice and Men," trying to think about in their own world instances of justice and injustice. And the whole goal of this is to seek truth through the video journalism, and then achieve justice.
Student: What is your experience like working with the ESL students?
Woman: I was once an ESL student, so I know exactly what my students are going through right now.
Student: The reason my group chose to do this project was because this subject really hits close to home. Everybody in Hawaii has an immigrant background. We all came from somewhere else, but unfortunately, even if we all are immigrants in a sense, we still discriminate against others.
Dan: Same thing, you guys, same thing. Good, good energy, just keep the energy up, don’t let it dip.
Narrator: The concept of integrating language, social science and media studies grew out of an experiment--
Narrator: By drama teacher Dan Hale.
Dan: Okay, good, good, good.
I had students that basically, you know, were unmotivated, sat on their hands, and all a sudden, I assign this video project, and all of a sudden, I have a different student in my class. You know, they're motivated, they're spending hours after that asking me provoking questions and I'm going, "Wait a minute, you know, there's something to this." And so that's when things started falling in place. We started saying, "Well, how can we kind of duplicate this on a larger scale?"
Student: You'll fill and I'll do the narrative at home.
Narrator: Today, fifty-five students are involved in Moanalua's media, communications and technology integrated studies program.
It just works really well, because it forces the students to take the material, take their resources, take the data that they learn, and transform it into another medium, in the case of video production or in the case of say, putting an oral history onto a website. They really make it in a way, they construct new knowledge. They make it their own when they have to do that.
Bao: In our social studies, we did our oral history project, and we researched about our ancestors, who are the first immigrants that came to Hawaii, and which was my grandma. And we had to study about their American dreams, their country of origin and like how they got through it. With all three classes, it gives us a variety of learning styles and we get to experience each of the different classes through media.
Narrator: In his first year in the program, Bao Lei has already produced an award winning state history project video, two shorts for a cable show for the department of education, and a video self portrait, illustrating the concept of metaphor.
Bao: Most people say that Bao is a wild and crazy kid.
I was related to a jack in the box because of like how I'm usually upbeat and like to have fun and stuff.
Bao is the one who's always everywhere, and that's why he's like the jack in the box.
Gina: So you use [Japanese] and [Japanese] is someone above you, is giving to you, okay?
Narrator: Japanese teacher, Gina Nakahara, sees the new technology in her classroom as an asset and a challenge.
Gina: I'm very comfortable with teaching the grammar and the vocabulary, introducing the dialog and having my students practice it.
Gina: I can do that with my eyes closed already. It's become very routine for me. But to incorporate the technology and to bring Japan a little closer has been challenging, but I think in the long run for the students, it would be that much more meaningful and exciting for them.
Narrator: Nakahara's students have held online discussions about topics like the Hiroshima bombing and communicated directly with students in Japan.
Student: [speaking Japanese]. What it means is, I'm Chen and this is my senior year high school, and I'm a bit short, but I have a cheerful personality and I wear glasses. Nice to meet you.
Gina: There's a greater world out there that we're looking at. Other issues that do affect them, like nuclear weapons and the understanding that culture and language is not a barrier. It's something that they can learn and overcome and share.
Narrator: Whether they're building sites for the world wide web, producing documentaries and cable television shows, or staging plays, students seem to put more into their work when there's an audience for it.
Who are you?
Man: We show our work to the school. We show it on public access, so that it's not just a matter of doing a bunch of papers and then getting a grade back and walking on.
Oh no, what am I to do now?
Man: They're actually doing something that's bringing together a lot of different things and they do take pride in it.
What a curious feeling.
Narrator: For more information on what works in public education, go to Edutopia.org