Ms. Christine Ruder, second grade teacher at Harry S. Truman Elementary School, is used to thinking outside the box and using technology in her classroom. And thanks to a grant from the Missouri Retired Teachers Foundation, she’ll not only be keeping kids engaged with the material, she’ll be using technology to place students inside her lessons.

Ruder came up with the idea to begin using a green screen in her classroom while taking part in a form of professional development called Edcamps, which are teacher-driven conferences focused on educators helping other educators.

“A couple years ago, some friends and I decided to start an Edcamp basically following Walt Disney’s idea of creativity and innovation as our theme,” Ms. Ruder said. “So we do Edcamp Magic down in Orlando.”

Ruder said she is always trying to do new things with her kids and described herself as “very techy.” While attending and organizing the Orlando Edcamp over the past few years, Ruder said she has “been hearing a lot about green screen technology and using it in the classroom.”

“I’ve been intrigued the past couple of years but didn’t have the devices and funding necessary to do it well,” she said.

Ruder was pointed towards the Missouri Retired Teacher Foundation by a friend. After spending a couple of hours writing the grant, she said she took a shot in the dark and applied for a grant to obtain funding for her idea.

Ruder said the foundation expected to have a response by August 1, but when the day came and left she didn’t find anything in her email. Weeks passed and she was still left without a reply.

Then one day, Ruder’s Principal, Mrs. Marangelly Harris, arrived outside her classroom saying she had a surprise for her.

“I noticed there were a bunch of people in the hallway and I was in the middle of reading a story to the kids,” Ruder said. “I was not connecting the grant and all these people that were coming in my room.”

Ruder was presented with the grant from the foundation, and was able to move forward with her idea to bring green screen technology in the classroom. Ruder explained how she plans to use it to enrich the way her students learn by creating personal connections with the material.

“One of the things I’ve learned when using technology with kids is getting them to make connections with things they know,” she said. “Kids are more likely to make a connection if you tie it to them…kids are very me-centric.”

Ruder gave the example of a lesson she gave about ten years ago, where students used photography and audio recording to learn about living and non living organisms.

“We talked about it in the classroom and they just weren’t remembering from day to day,” she said, but once the students started creating something that was entirely theirs, the material began to stick.

Ruder said the green screen will initially be used to help with the new Social Studies curriculum.

“We have new Social Studies standards that are going to be a little rough because the old third grade standards are now second grade standards,” she explained. “I wanted my kids to be able to make those connections, because sometimes Social Studies can be a little abstract. You read about it but there’s not a whole lot to really do with it.”

By using a green screen, Ruder can place her students inside the lesson, letting them have a personal connection to what they’re learning so it stays with them. When learning the past, she can do more than simply recreate a worksheet, she can make an entire town and have her students jump in. Once the technology is fully implemented, students will be able to do their own editing through a classroom iPad.

Ruder said she would like to use the technology in other ways as well, such as creating a classroom news program, and video book reports in the style of the old Reading Rainbow television program.

“The technology will make it easier to do that,” she said. Her goal is to have the program up and running by the end of the first quarter so she’ll have something to show parents, and have other teachers be able to use it as well.

Ruder also encouraged other teachers to search for available grants and to take a chance on applying. Writing a grant application for the Missouri Retired Teacher’s Foundation may have been a shot in the dark for her, but it’s one that has payed off, and will benefit her students for years to come.