Sharing Stories and Learning with the @BookCreatorApp

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Last year, I had the opportunity to (finally) use Book Creator with our students, working with the Year 2 teachers to help their students plan and publish their first eBooks.

Students were learning about Australian Indigenous Dreamtime stories, and had the opportunity to create and illustrate their own – e.g. “How the Goanna got its’ tail”. Students started out by drafting and editing their story on paper, before typing out and illustrating their story in Book Creator. We asked students to hand draw their illustrations, which they photographed and imported into their books; however, some soon discovered that it was easier to use the pen tools  to create their pictures.

Work Samples (2014) – ePub format

Ashleigh 2b

How the Goanna got its’ tail

Maggie 2B

 

Staying Safe Online – Book Creator in Year 1 (2015)

Moving into an integration role in 2015, I had the opportunity to experiment with the use of Book Creator with Grade 1 students, who were just learning how to write. Working with their classroom teachers, the Year 1 students learnt how to record their voices / short movies of themselves using the app, as they shared their learning from our ‘online safety’ activity.

Book Creator proved to be the perfect choice, as students found the tools easy to learn and use, and took great delight in creating their books. We taught them how to add their name and class to the title of their completed books, and showed them how to export their completed creations to their class Dropbox folder. We will need to keep practising this workflow; however, it should help save us an extraordinary amount of time later on!

What did we learn?

  • Book Creator is a powerful, yet intuitive eBook creation app which can be easily integrated into Early Childhood learning activities.
  • Older students would benefit from learning how to source and attribute Creative Commons / Public Domain images for their eBook projects; however, early childhood students love to draw their own images.
  • Photographing and importing students’ work could potentially make Book Creator useful for digital portfolios or for keeping a record of a learning experience.
  • The option to export books as a .mpeg movie is fantastic when students have recorded their voices in the book, but not so useful if the book is primarily text and images.
  • We will need to keep refining and practising our eBook workflow, especially for saving to Dropbox. As with many iPad activities, saving and sharing students’ work can be time-consuming, although very worthwhile.
  • I am hoping to create an Apple iBooks publisher account – I would dearly love for our students’ work to be published for a global audience, but this is something I will look at later in the year.

Mashing up @HaikuDeck & @ExplainEverything: Year 2 iPad Information Reports

downloadLast year, my Year 2 colleagues and I embarked on what turned out to be one of the most (over) ambitious #ipsict projects to date, creating Information Report videos about Australian animals using a mashup of HaikuDeck and Explain Everything. Now we’ve discovered Adobe Voice, I now know that there is a far simpler way to do this, but at the time this appeared to be a good idea!

Firstly, our students researched their animals, using a teacher-created scaffold to answer questions about where their animal lived, what it ate, what it looked like, and so on. Students then created a HaikuDeck presentation, choosing Public Domain/ Creative Commons images to match their questions. This part was relatively simple, although time consuming.

Using a shared class HaikuDeck account, students’ presentations synced across the iPads, so we made sure that students’ put their first name and class in the titles. We did try to ensure that students were allocated a numbered iPad for each lesson; however, the constant syncing of all the presentations was a nuisance. Until HaikuDeck brings out management tools for educators, this is something we are likely to have to put up with when using a class account.

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After completing their HaikuDeck presentations, we taught our students to screenshot their slides, and import them into Explain Everything. Here, we worked out how to add and edit our voice narrations, and how to export our completed products to Dropbox. The beauty of Explain Everything is its ability to export screencasts  / videos to cloud services for sharing beyond the app and the company’s website. That said, we barely scratched the surface of what EE can do in this activity, and I hope to experiment further later in the year – with a MUCH simpler activity!

Work Samples

What did we learn? 

  • We won’t run this style of mashup in Early Childhood again. It was far too complicated and time-consuming for our young students to complete within a reasonable amount of time. For this style of “information report” activity, Adobe Voice is a much more suitable app.
  • That said, I believe HaikuDeck has enormous potential for use in education, perhaps from Year 3 up. Our Iona PS ICT Scope and Sequence requires us to start introducing students to slideshows in Year 3, and I think HaikuDeck has great potential in class.
  • We barely scratched the surface of what Explain Everything can do. There are so many tools and options – you need to know (and teach) which options and tools students need to use to complete your activity, rather than do what we did, and try to work it out as we went along!
  • Ultimately, your choice of iPad tools / apps comes down to your teaching and learning purpose, and what is best suited to the age and level of expertise of your students – an important lesson I learned the hard way.

Unleashing the Power of @AdobeVoice

Over the past few years, I have been privileged to attend two #Slide2learn events, in Perth (2013), and in Sydney (2014). Despite being terribly sick for most of the Sydney event, it made a deep and meaningful impact on my teaching practice.

At the 2014 event, Tony Vincent @tonyvincent introduced me to Adobe Voice, an extremely powerful tool for telling stories, narrating procedures, explaining a concept, and so much more. I have now successfully integrated this rich digital storytelling tool into Year 2 and Year 3 ICT and English classes, most recently in collaboration with our Early Childhood teachers.

Last year in ICT, I had a class of Year 3 students script and voice creative ‘newscasts’ and narratives. We had originally planned to create iMovies, but due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to find a more manageable alternative. I chose Adobe Voice, and was absolutely blown away by the results …

Staying Safe Online

Then, in Term 1, 2015, seeking a simpler alternative to Explain Evrything (which we used last year), I introduced my Year 2 and Year 3 colleagues to Adobe Voice. Working on an online safety unit, and keen to integrate ICT into literacy, we taught our students how to use the app to create “Online Safety” presentations, some of which you can watch here.

What have we learned?

As we’ve experimented (played) with the use of Adobe Voice in the early years, we’ve discovered a few useful tips worth sharing:

  • Younger students need some explicit modelling of how to use the app, especially for how to add their first names to the final credits (to make identifying the work easier), and saving the completed product to the Camera Roll and Dropbox.
    • It is important to balance ‘learning through play’, with some explicit teaching
    • I intend to create a poster explaining the ‘Save to Dropbox’ process which we can post in the classroom for student reference.
  • Have students write out their scripts prior to using the app. Scripting the presentation leads to a more polished result, and also encourages students to ‘think’ carefully about what they want to say, rather than making it up as they go along.
  • We found we needed to encourage students to say only one or two sentences per slide – some thought they had to present all their information on one slide!
  • Students need to be taught how to match images and music to the tone and content of the presentation. For example, a horror music soundtrack is probably not appropriate for an explanation about ‘Staying Safe Online’!
  • Having an authentic audience and purpose is powerful – students learnt that they needed to speak clearly and sensibly when presenting an explanation video which will be viewed by people outside their classroom.
  • Build in some time for reflection and discussion. We found sharing the final products with the class, and talking about what they did well, and where they could improve, was a very valuable part of the teaching and learning process.

Where to next?

Given that I am in a new integration / support / coaching role this year, I am taking a slightly different approach to integrating iPads in the early childhood classes. Based on collegial feedback and my personal observations, I’m focusing on helping teachers become confident, independent users of just one or two creative / digital storytelling apps per Semester. I’m also trying to develop my early childhood pedagogy and teaching techniques through observing and team-teaching with my colleagues, learning and refining my approach as we go.

I am looking forward to seeing how we can integrate Adobe Voice next Semester!

Powerful Learning with iPads – iMovie Book Trailers in Grade 3

As I look back over the past six months, one teaching and learning experience stands out as a true highlight – the Year 3 iMovie Book Trailer Project, which was developed and brought to life by the amazing students of Year 3B, and their wonderful teacher. 

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The Process

This project was run in Term 3, 2014 as a team-teaching project over six weeks, with roughly 90 minutes (2 lessons) each week. Neither the classroom teacher or I had ever done anything quite like this before, so it was very much a collaborative learning experience – and not just for the students!

Students worked in small group “book clubs”, choosing their favourite book from the Australian Children’s Book Awards Shortlist for 2014. They worked to identify the main events of the story, holding detailed discussions about the book as they set about creating visual storyboards.

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When we started this project, we weren’t sure if we’d have students’ filming scenes from the books, or using Creative Commons/Public Domain images off the Internet. We eventually decided to go with the (somewhat) easier option – filming. Prior to formally filming book trailer scenes, we gave students time to simply play with the iPad camera, Photos, and iMovie app, discovering how they all worked. The stage was set for one of the most intense, but rewarding teaching experiences I’ve ever been a part of.

On filming day, I knew we were in ‘trouble’ when I discovered a group of students setting up with piles of cardboard boxes in the library – before school had even started! Students brought in costumes and props, and set to work filming their scenes. This proved to be a fascinating process for us as teachers, as we noticed some groups found it much easier to work with each-other than others. We tried to maintain a hands-off, over the shoulder approach, and let the students work through the creative process relatively independently; however, we did have to step in with one group on several occasions.  We weren’t overly sure how many lessons we’d need, and eventually spent about three (very intensive) hours in total.

The Results

Our students blew us away with their passion, creativity, and sheer enthusiasm; and the videos they produced were of exceptionally high quality. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to ask for parental permission to share them on my personal blog, and I ran out of time to put them on the school website! Next year, that won’t be such an issue, as student publishing will be one of our major whole-school ICT focus areas.

Reflections

As this was very much a collaborative ICT integration project, I asked my partner teacher to share her thoughts on our teaching and learning process –

It was a pleasure to work with Michael on this Book Trailer project. His excitement was shared by the children and myself. I came to the table with little experience so he was involving me in the learning process along with the children. With his guidance the main elements were discussed as a whole and then the children were encouraged to play and experiment. Other Book Trailers were critiqued by the children, the children became confident critics and through the process the children developed an eye and an understanding for what was required to produce a powerful and successful Trailer.

The children were supported with their learning at all times by Michael as he moved with ease from one group’s individual need to another. Michael allowed the children to be creative and encouraged them to solve problem themselves learning from each other. The parents were impressed with their children’s enthusiasm for the Book Trailer project. Some children asked to have a permission note for their parents, to allow them to come to school early so they could get started on their filming. The project was then able to be viewed by all parents during Open Night. It was a huge success where we got to how learning became fun and effortless for all involved.

The children came into this project with no experience with this type of technology or using iPads in a collaborative project. The children chose to be in a group that they had a common interest, the interest was their favourite book from the Book Week nominations. As a result group sizes were varied along with a variation in literacy ability. This could have been very challenging for most teachers but through this project I believe we got the most from all our children. They are looking forward to the next project with Michael.

My Thoughts

As I look back at this project, I am immensely proud of what we achieved in a relatively short space of time. I was blessed to work with a gifted, enthusiastic classroom teacher who was prepared to take risks, letting the students take the lead in their learning. We were able to forge a close working relationship, building on our respective strengths and expertise to enable our students to create something special. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what we can do together next year!

Multiliteracies in the Media

Over the years, I have collected education-related media clippings on a variety of topics. These articles below provide some insights into how multi-literacies informed teaching practice can provide real educational benefits for our students. 

Winners of the Inaugural DETWA Teacher’s Innovative Online Learning Award (2007) described the influence of ICT integration on teaching and learning in their classrooms:

Rod Blitvich, a secondary science teacher, described how his podcasting and movie-making projects led to “a wonderful transformation in discipline/motivation problems within [his] classes”.

John Atkins, teaching in Broome, Western Australia, described how Indigenous students were encouraged to use MP3 recorders and headsets to “tell their stories in a non-threatening, non-shaming way”. This practice helped teaching staff overcome long-standing barriers to assessing Indigenous students’ speaking skills.

Paul Fuller, an innovative primary school teacher, engages his students in a range of online projects, including podcasting and blogging students stories. He “was blown away by the enthusiasm, energy and quality of writing … as formerly reluctant writers became prolific authors”. (Google “Albert the Blogging Bear” for an example of his work).

DETWA (24/8/2007). ‘Paul’s students are global citizens’ and ‘Teacher’s Innovative Online Learning’ in School Matters, Issue 8.

A collaborative project between Murdoch University and Cooblellup Primary School (Western Australia) found that the use of Interactive Whiteboards to support literacy and numeracy teaching led to significant improvements in students literacy and numeracy results.

Surveys of student attitudes indicated that students became more motivated and engaged in their learning, and mathematics results were on average 2.5 times greater than expected for normal developmental growth.

[Murdoch University (May 2008). ‘Hi-tech whiteboard hits home’ in Discovery Magazine, v(2) Issue 4]

Children who use technology are ‘better writers’ – A survey finds blogging, use of social networking sites, and texting leads to improved writing outcomes for students (National Literacy Trust, UK)

A survey of 3,001 children aged nine to 16 found that 24% had their own blog and 82% sent text messages at least once a month. In addition 73% used instant messaging services to chat online with friends. However, 77% still put real pen to paper to write notes in class or do their school homework. Of the children who neither blogged nor used social network sites, 47% rated their writing as “good” or “very good”, while 61% of the bloggers and 56% of the social networkers said the same.

“Our research suggests a strong correlation between kids using technology and wider patterns of reading and writing,” Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, told BBC News. “Engagement with online technology drives their enthusiasm for writing short stories, letters, song lyrics or diaries.” Mr Douglas dismissed criticisms about the informal writing styles often adopted in online chat and “text speak”, both of which can lack grammar and dictionary-correct spelling. “Does it damage literacy? Our research results are conclusive – the more forms of communications children use the stronger their core literary skills.”

Extract from BBC News Online “Children who use technology are ‘better writers'”, by Zoe Kleinman (Thursday, 3 December 2009)


Multiliteracies – A Teachers’ Guide

I made my first forays into the field of multi-literacies several years ago, researching the topic as part of a special high-level university unit.

In writing this plain-language guide, I have attempted to explain my understandings of the multiliteracies theory, as outlined by the academics. In a later post, I will discuss how this theory informs my personal philosophy of literacy teaching, and its’ impact on my classroom practice. 

What is literacy?

In Australia and many other Western societies, our social institutions, governments, schools, and economic markets are underpinned by the use of the English language, the language which most people in our society understand and use. This makes English literacy a fundamental social practice; for literate individuals have the knowledge, skills, and power to effectively live, work and communicate in our society (Anstey & Bull, 2004; Lankshear & Knobel, 2004).

Traditional conceptions of English literacy have focussed solely on reading and writing the printed word (Walsh, 2006). While favoured by the ‘back to basics’ movement in Australia, this definition of literacy fails to reflect the increasing social, cultural and language diversity of our times; and does not recognise emerging communication technologies and electronic texts such as blogs, email, YouTube™ and Twitter™ (Cazden, et al, 1996; Kalantzis, Cope, & Harvey, 2003; Unsworth, 2001).

Multi-literacies in the Real World

As an English-speaking educator, I am able to communicate and interact using a variety of oral, written, visual, and multimodal (multimedia) mediums. For example, in the course of my work:

  • I use my oral communication skills to teach, interact with students, exert authority (for behaviour management purposes), share personal stories, encourage discussion, make phone calls, etc
  • I use computer applications and internet resources to plan units of work, develop comprehensive databases of teaching resources, and preview Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) and digital learning resources. 
  • I use Web 2.0 technologies, including wikis, weblogs (blogs) and online professional learning modules to further my understandings of effective ICT-integration in the classroom

This is not to mention how I tend to email friends, study bus-shelter advertising, deconstruct movies using film codes (a regrettable habit), read newspapers (print and online), watch DVDs, read comics, write letters, shop online, … and the list goes on. In fact, it is almost impossible to list all of the literate practices and texts I use in the course of my daily and professional life.

The Premise

We are not born with the inherent ability to communicate and interact using these diverse mediums. These texts place multi-literate demands on readers, who must simultaneously engage with words, still and moving images, and sounds to make meaning (Lankshear, et al, 1997).

To engage with the various texts and communicative practices of our society, we require different knowledge, skills, and reading practices, or different literacies, to those traditionally focussed on and learnt in schools (Anstey & Bull, 2004).

This has significant implications for literacy teaching practice.