Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures

Using Ocean Adventures in the Classroom
A Word from Jean-Michel Cousteau
Educator Guide to Voyage to Kure
Educator Guide to Sharks at Risk
Educator Guide to The Gray Whale Obstacle Course
Educator Guide to America's Underwater Treasures
Educator Guide to Return to the Amazon
Educator Guide to Sea Ghosts (Belugas)
Educator Guide to Call of the Killer Whale
The Watershed Quest
Tips for Using Science Multimedia
Educator Web Links
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Tips for Using Science Multimedia in the Classroom


Elizabeth Thoman and Tessa Jolls
Media Literacy: A National Priority for a Changing World
American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 48, No. 1, 18-29 (2004)
Full text available at

"The convergence of media and technology in a global culture is changing the way we learn about the world and challenging the very foundations of education. No longer is it enough to be able to read the printed word; children, youth and adults, too, need the ability to both critically interpret the powerful images of a multimedia culture and express themselves in multiple media forms. Media literacy education provides a framework and a pedagogy for the new literacy needed for living, working and citizenship in the 21st century. Moreover it paves the way to mastering the skills required for lifelong learning in a constantly changing world."

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As science educators, we know how important critical thinking and new technology skills are in the scientific community. The ability to question and make sense of the world around us is a skill we value highly in the scientific world. We recognize that if our students are going to become the next scientific innovators and responsible citizens, they need, more than ever, skills to gather and evaluate data, make informed decisions, and communicate their ideas to others. As with scientific literacy, media literacy and other 21st century skills are grounded in inquiry, critical thinking, evaluation and communication. We also understand that our students are growing up in a world increasingly saturated with information and media messages. Our students will need to become media literate and well versed in the many modes of communication that surround them if they are to sort through this information. There is no better place to learn these skills than in the science classroom.

Although multimedia as a tool cannot replace hands-on learning, it can enhance and strengthen the impact of activities in the field and in the science classroom. We can use new information tools, such as podcasts, blogs, and streaming video and audio, to engage our students and effectively demonstrate science concepts as well as to reinforce media literacy technologies. We can also engage students with digital media tools, such as photo-sharing, video-publishing and map-making programs, to give them opportunities to demonstrate their mastery of a concept and simultaneously reinforce their literacy skills by having them creating their own content.

The use of multimedia resources as part of a core science curriculum can:

  • Visually demonstrate scientific ideas and concepts
  • Instill a sense of wonder and excitement in students about the world around them
  • Present local, relevant case studies
  • Provide examples of real people practicing science
  • Generate student interest in science careers
  • Offer current research, theories and perspectives on a topic
  • Connect students with faraway or inaccessible places
  • Promote 21st century skills, including critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills
  • Provide a common experience shared by all students

As we adapt our teaching strategies to better replicate the tools used by the scientific community, we enhance our students' ability to envision themselves within it and nurture the skills they will need to be active participants in their own lifelong learning.


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Media can be a powerful tool for meaningful learning. As a teacher, you can increase learning by helping your students understand and actively analyze the media they consume. The next time you use a piece of supplementary media with your students, try one of these suggestions.

Before Viewing/Listening

For the teacher:

  • Review related print and Web materials, especially any teacher's guide that accompanies a media resource. Look for innovative ways to incorporate additional information from a program's Web site into your activities.
  • There is no rule that requires you to use an entire program. Determine whether you will use the entire program or only relevant segments in order to illustrate/help accomplish objectives in your curriculum. Remember: Even a few seconds of video or audio can be very powerful. There are many short audio and video podcasts available that are great for classroom use.

Activities for students:

  • Stimulate students' pre-existing knowledge by bringing objects into the classroom that are related to the media topic. Have students sketch the objects and brainstorm ten words that they relate to the object.
  • Have students use a KWL chart to record their thoughts before, during and after watching or listening to a media piece.

During Viewing/Listening

Activities for students:

  • Focus questions can make the media more meaningful by encouraging active viewing/listening and evaluation of content.
  • Use media analysis tools to encourage critical thinking.
  • Increase observation and listening skills through repeated viewing or listening of the same segment (just as you would go over printed material several times). On some occasions, press PAUSE to identify and clarify what the students are hearing and seeing.
  • Try watching video without the sound. Watch in silence or provide your own audio commentary. Identify students' prior knowledge or assess what they have learned by having them provide narration. Encourage students to record their questions as they view without sound. Then view the program with sound to discover whether these questions have been answered.
  • For audio-only content (or for the audio portion of a video), have students listen and gather ideas based on the sounds. What roles do the music, narration and ambient sounds play? Let students create their own visual images as they listen to a segment.
  • Try using closed-captioning and/or transcripts. These are especially effective to use with English language learners as a reading reinforcement.

After Viewing/Listening

Activities for students:

Quick Write
In a personal journal or on a sheet of paper, have students write quickly for two minutes to record any thoughts that come to mind after watching or listening to a media segment.

Four Corners
Choose four main concepts or topics from the video or audio and label each corner of the room with one. For example, if exploring the physics of baseball, the corners might be pitching, hitting, catching and running. Ask the students to choose a corner of the room that matches the concept they wish to explore. Plan an activity for the students in each corner and have them share their findings with the class. This technique can be very effective for initiating class discussions on different concepts within one segment.

Concept Map
Divide students into groups to develop a Concept Map. Begin by having each group write a key word or concept from the media segment in the center of a blank "map," on chart paper or an overhead transparency. Have each group build a map by adding words related to the key word and arranging them in categories. Discuss each diagram and supply additional information to extend students' understanding of the topic.

Place students into groups of four and assign each student in a group a different number, from 1 to 4. Then, assign a specific concept or question to each number for the students to focus on or answer during the media piece. For example, in a program about food webs, all students who are 1s might explore how producers contribute to the food web and all students who are 2s might consider the role of decomposers. You may want all students with the same number to get together to clarify their concept before reporting back. After the program, have each group member teach what he or she has learned to the other members of the group. Then each student may quiz the group members until everyone understands how the pieces of the puzzle fit together to make one picture.

Research blogs related to the topic of study. Have students read what others have written on the blog and then provide their own comments on the topic. (Be sure students keep their identity and personal information confidential when posting on the Internet - you may want to create a class email address and identity for students to use that doesn't contain any personal information.)

Slideshow Presentation
Introduce students to PowerPoint or a similar program.

  • Let students pick an aspect of the media topic to explore further and have them create a slideshow on the topic to present to the class.
  • Have students choose a controversial issue presented in the media piece and create a persuasive slideshow presentation expressing their view.

Radio Report/Podcast
Let students meld their science and journalism skills by creating and recording a two- to five-minute radio report or podcast that includes an interview with an expert and their editorial view on the media topic. Discuss student views of what makes a good radio segment before they begin.

Digital Story
Have students personally respond to the media piece by creating a digital story. Pictures, music and narration can be woven together in a media collage. For a guide and online tutorials on digital storytelling, visit

Online Media Album
Students can create narrated online media albums to demonstrate what they have learned about the science media topic. Classmates, family and community members can add text, video and audio comments to the album.

Online Treasure Hunt
Let students create an online treasure hunt that leads to an answer or explanation about a topic or concept explored by the media piece. Students should first develop a question (or are assigned a question) and research its answer. Then, writing Web site clues, such as "Go to and write down the word listed underneath the image of the computer mouse," students will create pieces of a sentence that answers the question. After the online treasure hunts are complete, students can trade with a classmate to go on their hunt.

Public Service Announcement (PSA)
Help students cultivate critical thinking and literacy skills by having them make and edit their own PSA science videos. After having students viewing examples of PSAs online, ask them to analyze what qualities make a powerful and memorable PSA. Have students write scripts and film their own PSA on an issue in the media piece.

Online Photo-Sharing
Students can take digital photos of the media topic and share them with others on a photo-sharing site like Flickr.


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Why should you teach your students to analyze science multimedia?
All media has a purpose. In science, it may be to educate you or to persuade you to think a certain way or take specific actions. As students reference multiple types of media to build their science knowledge base, it is important for them to be able to recognize the purpose and the resulting message of the media. By increasing students' awareness of the intersections between media and science, we give them tools to think like scientists. They develop critical thinking skills, ask informed questions, evaluate data and its sources, and make informed decisions.

To practice these skills, have students focus on a select number of questions while watching a media piece.

Producer and Audience

  • Who made this piece?
  • Who paid for this piece to be made?
  • Why was this made?
  • When was this made?
  • Who is the target audience and how do you know?


  • Is the information complete? Does the author present enough information for the audience to make an informed decision?
  • Are data, statistics and evidence presented completely? Are they clear and easy to understand? Does the evidence help support the ideas in the piece?
  • Does the author cite the sources of the factual information that is included in the piece? Are the sources credible? How do you know?
  • Are there different sides to the issue? How much time is devoted to each? Are they given equal amounts of time? Should they be given equal amounts of time?
  • Are there ideas, values or points of view that are promoted? What are they?
  • What information and points of view are excluded?
  • Who might benefit from this piece? Who could be harmed?
  • How might different people understand this message differently?
  • If a different person or organization presented this piece, would it be viewed differently?

Production Elements

  • What level of vocabulary is used? What kinds of language are used?
  • How does music contribute to the feeling of the piece?
  • Who is narrating the piece? What effect does the narration have?
  • Are people in the piece? Who are they? Who is speaking and who is not? Do the people affect the message of the piece?