CNN’s iReport Toolkit: Tell your Story Like a Pro

A post by Bridget Dalton

The power of multimodal communication

I believe in the power and relevance of multimodal composition and storytelling for today’s children and teens.  My belief is not abstract – it comes from my work with students on different types of multimedia projects.  I also enjoy experimenting with my own multimodal pieces, especially integrating text and images.   However, I remain a novice in this arena,  never losing the feeling that there is so much that I don’t know that could potentially be helpful to me, and to my students.

CNN.com’s  iReport Toolkit

Thus, I love it when I find help from those who are expert at what they do!  In this case, it is the reporters and staff from CNN.com who are sharing their expertise.  As part of their participatory news initiative, CNN has developed an iReport Toolkit that is available online at http://ireport.cnn.com/toolkit.jspa.  The goal of the toolkit is to help you “Tell your story like a pro”.  Of course, for CNN, stories represent all kinds of genres – from the investigative news expose to the human interest story.

The toolkit includes four main sections, Storytelling, Photos, Video, and Audio.

screenshot of CNN.com iReport Toolkit

To begin, start with the story to be told

These expert reporters and storytellers start with Storytelling — highlighting the ingredients of a good story and then offering key advice such as getting the basics first, attending to pace, and talking like a human being (that is my personal favorite!). Additional links expand on different aspects of storytelling, allowing you to pursue your own storytelling needs and interests.

Tell your story with photos, video, and sound

For each of the next three sections – photos, video, and sound – the CNN folks zero in on what is unique about that mode for storytelling and communication purposes. The storytelling guidance is integrally connected to technical advice, such as framing your shot, or audio recording in a place with a noisy background.

Get tips from the professionals

I especially enjoy the pieces that feature advice specific reporters and production staff. While researching for this blog, I found a piece, ‘Editing Video like a Pro’, by reporter/producer Brandon Ancil (http://www.cnn.com/2011/IREPORT/09/09/edit.video.bootcamp.irpt/). It caught my eye because I’m preparing to create a mini-documentary about two youth composing a digital story together. This is a new experience for me, so I’m eager to try out Ancil’s method for organizing his video during editing and production. I will let you know how it goes in a future post!

Use the iReport Toolkit for teaching and learning

This type of resource can be used at two levels – to support your own experimentation with multimodal composition and to support your teaching efforts. If you are teaching middle or high school students, your students will be able to read and use the site on their own, with your guidance as to which sections to attend to for their particular project. If your students are younger, much of the information is applicable, but you will need to apply it as appropriate for your students.

Try it and see! And, please share strategies and resources that you have found to be particularly helpful in teaching multimodal composition to your students.

Expressive Learning: Encouraging Students’ Multimodal Expression to Enhance Content Learning

A New Post by Jill Castek

I’ve been exploring the use of iPads to support literacy and science learning in middle school classrooms throughout the school year.  One of the most powerful ways I’ve found to help students make deep and lasting connections to content learning is to design meaningful classroom projects that engage students in working collaboratively to convey ideas  using digital tools that support multimodal expression.  As student design and create, they purposefully use key vocabulary and integrate examples that illustrate their thinking.  Student projects can be celebrated, showcased, and shared with an authentic audience made up of peers, teachers, and the wider community.  They’re also a great way to formatively assess student learning.

Students work collaboratively on digital projects to support content learning.

The Power of Student Collaboration

By working collaboratively, students are challenged to think through the important processes of choosing a focus, reflecting on what they know and how to represent it, and designing an action plan. As peers enact their plans, they critique and rework their representations iteratively until they’re satisfied their work has achieved the intended goal.

Working with iPads has provided students easy-to-use apps that support drawing and annotating images, inserting photographs, and creating voiceover capabilities. These features make it possible for students to express their understanding in multiple ways through multiple means, an aspect central to Universal Design for Learning (UDL). This post focuses on two examples of digital collaborative projects and the apps that supported their creation.

ShowMe for the iPad

ShowMe (see http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/showme-interactive-whiteboard/id445066279?mt=8) is an FREE iPad app that allows users to use images, drawing tools, and voiceover to communicate ideas.  Once a project is created, it can be shared on the ShowMe website http://www.showme.com/ or embedded into any digital forum (blog, wiki, website, etc.)  While this tool is often used by teachers in a receptive way, for example to deliver short lessons or tutorials to students,  I was interested in getting ShowMe into students’ hands so they could use its features creatively to express their understanding of concepts and ideas (thus enhancing and extending content they had learned).

Using ShowMe to Summarize Important Ideas from Reading

Linda Wilhelm’s 7th graders at Valley View Middle School in Pleasant Hill, CA were studying genetics in their Science class.  ShowMe was used to support an enhanced jigsaw activity where students created were expected to weave key ideas from their textbook and web-based reading into a short project that expressed their understanding of the content and provided examples. There were several subtopics; and pairs were assigned one of four themes to convey:  1) Some genes are dominant while others are recessive, 2) Mendelian laws apply to human beings, 3) All cells arise from pre-existing cells through the process of cell-division, 4) Sex cells have one set of chromosomes, body cells have two.

Students were shown a sample ShowMe project created by the teacher to give a sense of what was possible with ShowMe (which included importing images, drawing features, stop and start capabilities, and voiceover).  Then, a project rubric was distributed and discussed with students to convey expectations for the project.  Finally, students were provided time to plan and record their ShowMe projects.

Although storyboarding on paper was modeled and provided as an option, students preferred to draft their ideas directly into ShowMe.  As they drafted, they created multiple takes that were played back and evaluated by students iteratively.  Critiquing and revising with the ShowMe tool was immediate and satisfying for students and sparked careful re-reading and reflection on the texts provided.  It also sparked discussion on important aspects of visual literacy as students carefully thought through what images would best help illustrate their main points.  Throughout, collaboration was evident and a vital part of the digital content creation process.

ShowMe Student Examples

Click on the URLs provided and the ShowMe projects will open in a new window:

Using iMovie for the iPad to Construct, Explain, and Show Understanding

Leon Young’s 6th graders at Realm Charter School in Berkeley, CA were studying plate boundaries during a plate tectonics unit.  They designed and built their own scientific models to show the characteristics of plate boundaries in different locations around the world.   Students were then invited to create a short video using iMovie to showcase and explain their model to their classmates and school community.

Pairs of students worked together to think through how to convey science content through their video productions.  As they discussed shot selection, they showed a keen awareness of audience and purpose and found meaningful ways to explain scientific terms and concepts for those unfamiliar with the content.  As was the case with the ShowMe projects, students created multiple takes and revised iteratively as they reflected on word choice and overall flow of ideas.  The result was a strong and solid representation of what they learned that showcased both creativity and collaboration.

iMovie Student Example

Using Digital Tools to Support Multimodal Expression

When asked about the making these digital products students said the work was “fun, active, and creative.”  Not only did these projects support engagement with content, they also supported the development of vital 21st century literacies.  Students were able to showcase their learning in ways that involved multimodal expression which requires higher level thinking skills such as synthesis, evaluation, and critique (and are also central to the Common Core State Standards).

If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide for the use of ShowMe, iMovie, or other iPad apps that support literacy and content learning, click on the Step-by-step Guide to iPad apps and HandoutForIRAPreCon.  These presentation materials are from the IRA session that Jen Tilson and I delivered in Chicago, IL in May 2012.  Other speakers’ session materials, including Bernadette Dwyer’s handouts, can be accessed from the IRA TILE-Sig website at http://tilesig.wikispaces.com/Conference2

Add a comment to this post and share ways you’ve had students to create content and reflect on learning through the use of digital tools.  Sharing examples is a great way to get our collective juices flowing and sparks our creativity.  In the process, we’ll learn about a range of new tools and techniques for teaching and learning with technology. Enjoy!

Thomas DeVere Wolsey Joins the Literacy Beat Team

Jill, Dana, Bernadette and I are absolutely delighted that Thomas DeVere Wolsey (DeVere to his friends) has joined the Literacy Beat team.  Check out his May 17 post, “Draw Me a Story; Write Me a Picture”, as well as his earlier guest post on April 6, “Personal Learning Environments; Making Sense and Keeping it All Under Control”.  Great stuff!

Oh, and did I mention that DeVere and Dana have a new book,   “Transforming Writing Instruction in the Digital Age: Techniques for Grades 5-12”?  It’s an excellent resource for literacy teachers interested in integrating technology and media into their writing instruction.

Draw Me a Story; Write Me a Picture

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

Pictures and words have gone together since the first word emerged from logograms in ancient Mesopotamia over 5000 years ago. One of the earliest illustrated books written specifically for children was Orbis Pictus (Comenius, 1658), and it took advantage of the power of pictures and words combined together. Today, graphic novels and comics are widely popular because, in part, they match words with images that, together, convey more than either might alone. Today, educators recognize the ability of properly chosen words matched with other visual information whenever they select a graphic organizer or teach students to create their own graphic organizers. In this Literacy Beat post, I explore how images can inspire young writers and how young writers might learn how their writing can inspire image-making, as well. Of course, in keeping with the theme of this blog, digital technologies will be central to our exploration.

Often, words accompany images (and vice versa) in such a way that one limits the other. For example, a caption under a photograph may limit the way the viewer of the photograph interprets the image. Charts, pictures, and graphs in an academic text may expand on some idea conveyed by words in the accompanying text. But, I wonder if the professor who taught a group of future teachers, me among them, was onto something when she noted that to really understand a thing, one had to draw it. Sometime later, a statistics professor encouraged a group of doctoral students that to understand statistics, one had to be able to draw the results. Images, these professors suggest, have the power to enlighten and inspire in ways words cannot. This may seem an odd thing for a person whose entire career is built around literacy education, so perhaps an example might help.

Write Me a Picture

As an entrée into poetry, I frequently asked middle school students to turn words into pictures. These concrete poems incorporate words in a physical arrangement that becomes an image. Michael P. Garofalo has created several that may serve as a model for your student writers, some of which make creative use of the online environment. Click the thumbnail to take a look at one.

Concrete Block

Michael P. Garofalo

Pencils and paper still work, too. Click the thumbnail to see a student-created example.

Mexican Mariachi

Mexican Mariachi by an 8th-grade Student

Putting words together with images is a first step in thinking about how images might improve writing. It is also a first step in teaching students about composing multimodal texts that make the best use of the combined media.

Draw Me a Story

Images that inspire writing  can be used insructionally in many ways.  Three of those explored here are student-created images, prompts writing with images, and combined text and images via the infographic.

Student-created images can inspire students to better understand the world through their writing. One science teacher I know asked students to go outside and draw an outline of the landscape and buildings around their homes. Then every hour for four hours in a row, they were to go outside and draw in the moon as it appeared to them relative to the skyline. The images were simple, mainly outlines, but the learning the drawing activity inspired led students to notice something about the very familiar moon that they had never noticed before. These drawing led to inquiry about the motion of the Earth and its moon, and the inquiry with the pictures led to writing that was sometimes filled with the wonder that much school-sponsored report writing often lacks. Others have also asked students to observe natural phenomena closely through drawing and writing field notes in the form of a journal: If you would like to read more about the moon project, click here.

Prompts are the directions teachers give to students to direct them to action, particularly to write. At other times, images created by others prompt learning through writing. Two images juxtaposed might provoke students to the written word. The seemingly serene setting of a park in Guernica (May 2007) in the first image contrasts sharply with that painted by Pablo Picasso in the second image. The images, coupled with discussion, and online reading, might inspire more writing than any set of directions given to students.

Guernica

Guernica by Thomas DeVere Wolsey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Guernica by Picasso

Pablo Picasso, la exposición del Reina-Prado. Guernica is in the collection of Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid (low resolution image)

Multimodality as an approach to composition, Choo (2010) proposes, can motivate young writers and help them (and their teachers) escape from escape inauthentic writing tasks that attend to surface features, for example the ever-present five paragraph essay. For those interested in learning more about Picasso’s painting and how he came to portray such destruction, visit this PBS webpage.

Infographics present information in a visual way. In this example, words that can be used to describe coffee are displayed as a circular array. Colors link words as the eye travels the path around and through the wheel. A difficult writing task for any author is to represent in words concepts learned through the senses of taste and smell. Students might use and create flavor and odor wheels to assist them in thinking about words and choosing the best word for their writing.

Composing Multimodal Text

Photojournalists use words and images to tell their stories; Choo (2010) offers five questions that might assist students to think about how both are used successfully by considering the strengths of each modality.

  1. How do words function to “anchor” and give an interpretation of an image?
  2. How do words function to “relay” or contribute to the meaning of an image?
  3. Where will the image be placed in relation to the words and why?
  4. How much of the frame-space will the image occupy compared to the words?
  5. Is the focal point of the text on the image or on its words and why? (p. 172)

Using these questions as guides, students attend to the features of the images and words they choose and the multimodal texts that, together, they create. The Literacy Beat bloggers are interested in your multimodal projects and how images help your students write and writing helps them learn from images. Please share your ideas and successes by posting a comment, below.

Reference

Choo, S. S. (2010). Writing through visual acts of reading: Incorporating visual aesthetics in integrated writing and reading tasks. High School Journal, 93(4), 166-176.

Children’s Literature Cited

Comenius, J. A. (1658). Orbis Pictus.

More Resources

Search Engines and Multimodal Representations in this blog by Bernadette Dwyer

CAST Image Collector

Webquest for CCSS

By Dana L. Grisham

Last year in this blog, I wrote about about TextProject (http://textproject.org) , a not-for-profit organization that supports struggling readers with appropriate texts see the earlier blog on TextProject at https://literacybeat.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/exploring-the-textproject-website-and-text-complexity/.  The site changes constantly, as new materials are added. Below is a screenshot of the current homepage.

The project is headed by Elfrieda Hiebert (Freddy to all) and recently, I have been working with Freddy to provide modules on text complexity to teachers and teacher educators for professional development.  The good news is that the modules (5 of them) will be posted to the TextProject website this summer; the better news is that everything will be FREE to interested parties. You will be able to download the modules and all materials that go with them at no cost. We recently made a research poster presentation on the modules at IRA. The poster shows you the content and instructional sequence of the modules and provides an overview of the final (5th module). Our poster is displayed below.

Speaking for myself, after three decades of teaching reading, I thought I understood text complexity. I found out that I had a somewhat superficial understanding when I began working with Freddy. So this blog post concerns several important understandings that relate to text complexity and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

One of the instructional tools that we decided NOT to use is a WebQuest, but for teachers and teacher educators, I think the WebQuest works well to acquaint educators with the CCSS and with some elements of text complexity. I decided to share the WebQuest with you here and you are invited to use it in whatever way you think appropriate. I have field-tested it with several groups of teacher candidates and most of them expressed appreciation for the “just in time” learning.

Critical evaluation of information is an important skill in a print-based or electronic environment. A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most or all the information that learners work with comes from the web (Internet). The WebQuest model was developed by Dr. Bernie Dodge at San Diego State University in February, 1995. (You can find out more about WebQuests by visiting the official website at http://webquest.org/index.php). http://webquest.org/index.phpThere are now a number of websites where WebQuests on various subjects may be downloaded and used.

For the Webquest on CCSS, if you are a teacher educator, I recommend dividing it into three parts for use during class sessions or completing it over several sessions of the class. If teacher educators have access to computer labs on campus, the students may work there during class (supervised by the instructor) and may work in pairs or small groups to complete the assignment. It may also be used in this way for professional development for practicing teachers.  Teachers who may be interested may adapt, skip parts that are not of interest to them, or focus on single questions they might want answered.

In order to understand the CCSS, you might also want to spend some time acquainting yourself and/or teacher candidates with the CCSS. One resource is a PowerPoint (in pdf format) presentation that is available through California State University’s Center for the Advancement of Reading (CAR) and available as a free downloadable pdf at http://www.calstate.edu/car/publications/. There are many helpful publications on the website in addition to the CCSS PowerPoint.

In closing, we know that CCSS will generate new assessments for our students, that state standards and curriculum frameworks will change, and that our students will be expected to read more non-fiction more closely and learn to read and write in emphasized genres. How can we use our professional judgment and available technological tools to aid this process? And how can we incorporate these standards into our teaching in a caring and thoughtful way?

The Webquest:

To complete this task, you must carefully read and respond to the questions. Please remember that this task is designed to assist you to become familiar with the Common Core State Standards and your specific content area standards to assist you in your professional life.

Learning Outcomes

  1. What are the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)?
  2. How are the CCSS to be implemented?
  3. What is text complexity and why is it important?
  4. What is the difference between narrative and expository text? How does this affect our teaching of reading?

Websites for this Lesson

The following websites will be used in this WebQuest.

CCSS Website: http://www.corestandards.org/

Lexile Website: http://www.lexile.com/

TextProject Website: http://textproject.org/teachers/the-text-complexity-multi-index/

Activities: CCSS

  1. What is the stated mission (purpose) for the Common Core State Standards? What motivated the NGA and CSSO to generate these standards?
  2. How many states have adopted the CCSS? Has your state adopted the CCSS? If so, what is the URL (web address) for the CCSS in your state?
  3. What is the recommended percentage of literary and informational text at 4th, 8th, and 12th grade levels and what do you think this means for you as a teacher of reading?
  4. How are the English/Language Arts standards for K-5 and for Grades 6-12 organized differently? Why do you think this is?
  5. How do the CCSS standards define text complexity?
  6. Choose a grade level for K-5 (pages 11/12) and read the components; compare to the next or previous grade level components. In the Text Complexity section, what do you think is meant by the “text complexity band?”
  7. Look at page 31, Standard 10. What are the three factors for “measuring” text complexity?
  8. What constitutes “informational text?”
  9. Go to Reading Standards for Informational text, page 39/40. Choose one grade and read the components; compare to the next or previous grade level components.  What are the differences in text complexity in the two grades?
  10. Choose a grade level for literacy in History/Social Science (p. 61) paying attention to how Language Arts is integrated in Social Science. What does this mean to you as a teacher?  Why would this be important to a K-5 teacher?
  11. For the E/LA standards, there are three Appendices (these are NOT in the document you downloaded). Go back to the website and locate these appendices.  Download Appendix A. What is the subject of this appendix?
  12. What was the message of the ACT, 2010 report called Reading Between the Lines?  What is meant by “complex text” and what definition is given of this term in the literature review?
  13. What does Appendix A have to say about scaffolding reading instruction?
  14. What is the three-part model for text complexity (p.4)? Which one is measurable by computer?  What measure is used?
  15. Read the Key Considerations in Implementing Text Complexity (p. 8). What do we know about the tools for measuring text complexity?
  16. Looking at Figure 3, (p. 8), what can we say about Lexile Range changes?
  17. Why do the authors recommend that teachers decrease scaffolding and increase independence?
  18. Download Appendix B and read about the process of text selection for exemplars. Talk about your own definition of complexity, quality, and range. Why are these exemplars important? The authors of the CCSS make some caveats about the exemplars. What are they?
  19. Read the FAQs about the CCSS (on the website). What questions still remain for you?

Activities: Lexile

  1. Go to the Lexile website. Under “What is a Lexile?” read the text and considering scaffolding and independence, respond to the following statement:

“When a Lexile text measure matches a Lexile reader measure, this is called a “targeted” reading experience. The reader will likely encounter some level of difficulty with the text, but not enough to get frustrated. This is the best way to grow as a reader—with text that’s not too hard but not too easy.”

  1. View the video at http://www.lexile.com/about-lexile/lexile-video/. Should teachers allow students to read above or below their Lexile level? Why or why not?
  2. What should you say when someone tells you:  “Research says…”
  3. Books that have prefixes (IG, NC, etc.) before the Lexile level (called Lexile Codes) have meanings for teachers, librarians, and children. Focus on one of these Lexile Codes and tell why this is important.
  4. What is the relationship of MetaMetrics and the CCSS?
  5.  What questions still remain for you?In closing, we know that CCSS will generate new assessments for our students, that state standards and curriculum frameworks will change, and that our students will be expected to read more non-fiction more closely and learn to read and write in new genres. How can we use technological tools to aid this process? And how can we incorporate these standards into our teaching in a caring and thoughtful way?

Search engines and multimodal representations

I was recently working with my third year, teacher candidate, students exploring the skills, strategies and dispositions necessary to successfully conduct Internet inquiry within the information-seeking cycle. The information seeking cycle is comprised of (a) planning inquiry questions and forming goals for internet inquiry; (b) generating and revising search terms; (c) investigating search results with a critical eye; (d) locating and transforming information; (e) critically evaluating information; and synthesising and communicating information to others. The students undertook an Internet information challenge, What caused the downfall of the Mayan civilisation?, to develop metacognitive awareness of their own skills, strategies and dispositions when conducting Internet inquiry. What I observed was that some students began this information quest by exploring videos and images relating to the Mayan civilisation. Helen explained the strategy to me, “I usually search for information by looking at videos and images to get the main concepts related to a topic. Then I will look up some articles when I have this background information”. Does this strategy represent a shift from privileging text as the primary source of information to favouring more multimodal representations of information? In this blog post I will explore some search engines which provide multiple representations of information.

Googling’ has entered the lexicon to become synonymous with searching for information online. The left hand panel on the Google interface, as shown in the screen shot below, provides a number of interesting representational choices such as, images, video, blogs, discussion fora, news features and time ranges. However, you can also customise your search results according to reading levels at basic, intermediate or advanced reading levels. This is a positive affordance for struggling readers. The Twurdy search engine (http://www.twurdy.com/ ) will also sort search results according to readability levels. You can also, of course, customise the search results by using the customised Google Search Engine Tools (http://www.google.com/educators/p_cse.html ). See Jill’s wonderful post on Customised Google search engine on Literacy Beat, March 2011

screen shot of Googel left hand panel

Screen shot of the left hand panel on Google Search engine

Other search engines privilege a more multimodal, multi-representational approach to presenting information. The Qwiki search engine (http://www.qwiki.com ) combines images, infographics, video and voice to enhance interactivity. Some of the pronunciations, especially for Irish place names are hilarious and entertain my students greatly! Qwiki is also available as an app for IPad, IPhone and Android devices. Qwiki Creator has just been released by the Qwiki team in alpha format and is currently available by invitation only. Qwiki Creator allows the user to create their own Qwiki representation with voice, text, images and video. I can see many possibilities for using Qwiki Creator with students in our classrooms. I think it’s certainly one to watch out for. A screen shot from the Qwiki interface is shown below.

Screen shot of Qwiki related to Inishbofin, Galway, Ireland

I have also recently begun to explore the Instagrok search engine. (http://www.instagrok.com/ )
Instagrok provides both a visual representation and a journal format. Watch the video for an overview.

To grok, the developers tell us is to ‘understand thoroughly and intuitively’. Instagrok presents a visual graph of the key concepts related to a topic. You can click on any of the key concepts to investigate that concept more thoroughly. In addition, on the right hand side of the screen, you can view key facts related to the topic¸ web sites, videos, images, and quiz topic questions related to the topic. You can pin any of these representations on to the visual graph. See my screen shot related to a grok I conducted related to the collapse of the Mayan civilisation. There is also a slide bar at the top of the screen to adjust the level of difficulty of the information presented. What really excites me about Instagrok is that you can also create a journal, which is automatically generated, as you annotate the visual graph. See the screen shot of the journal below. As Instagrok allows the teacher to create student accounts you can view the work of students in these journals.

Screen shot of a grok related to the collapse of the Mayan civilisation

Screen shot of the  journal created by Instagrok realted to the collapse of the Mayan civilisation

So have fun exploring these search engines. Have you noticed any changes in the ways you are searching for information online? Do you privilege text over other formats such as, video, voice or images? What about your students? Do let us know by replying to this blog.

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