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.

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.

CAST’s Science Writer: A free, online tool to scaffold students’ writing of science reports

A post by Bridget Dalton

Before joining Vanderbilt University, I had the good fortune to serve as the Director of Literacy and Technology at CAST, a non-profit research and development organization dedicated  to  improving student learning and engagement through the integration of universal design for learning (Rose & Meyer, 2002), technology, and subject matter content and skills.

Today I want to feature Science Writer, a free online writing tool developed by Tracey Hall, Elizabeth Murray, and CAST colleagues.  It’s a wonderful example of how to scaffold students’ writing in relation to the demands of a particular writing genre, in this case, the science lab report, or more generally, the science report.  The tool is designed for use with middle school and high school students, but might also work for upper elementary students, depending on their skill.

screenshot of Science Writer

Screenshot of CAST’s Science Writer. http://sciencewriter.cast.org

How does Science Writer work?
Science Writer steps students through the process of writing a report with  introduction, methods, results, and conclusion sections. Students draft, revise, and edit their report, using just-in-time support from pedagogical agents who offer models and information about how to write each section. They may also access content and editing checklists to help them evaluate  their writing and make revisions. And finally, students can use the embedded text-to-speech tool to listen to their writing to see if it “sounds right” and to listen to any of the directions and instructional material, as well as accessing vocabulary definitions. Each student has their own Science Writer account and teachers are able to view students’ work and provide feedback throughout the writing process.

Screenshot showing Science Writer features

Science Writer supports students through their writing process.

Is there research support for Science Writer?
In a study funded by the US Department of Education, Hall and Murray (2009) found that students using Science Writer improved writing and science comprehension skills. A field test study is underway and results should be available soon. You can find additional information about their research at http:///www.cast.org/research/projects/tws.html.

I recommend you check out Science Writer – if it’s not the right fit for your grade level or subject matter, please share it with your favorite middle school or high school science teacher!

screenshot of Science Writer video

This brief video for students explains how the Science Writer features can help them write a more successful science report.

video link

Resources
For additional information about Science Writer: http://sciencewriter.cast.org

To learn more about universal design for learning: http://www.cast.org/udl/index.html

Rose, D. & Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age. ASCD. Available free online: http://www.cast.org/library/books/tes/index.html

Open Badges in Education

A guest post from W. Ian O’Byrne, University of New Haven

We are delighted to have a guest post from W. Ian O’Byrne  this week on the intriguing topic of “Open Badges in Education”.   Ian is an Assistant Professor of Educational Technologies at the University of New Haven. He is also a PhD candidate at the University of Connecticut and formerly a Research Fellow at the New Literacies Research Lab. His research examines the literacy practices of individuals as they read, write, and communicate in online spaces. You can connect with him on Google+, or on Twitter (@wiobyrne).

Open Badges in Education

One strand of current dialogue online and in the blogosphere revolves around the subject of Open Badges and their use in education. Over the past year I have been investigating the use of Open Badges in education and their possible use in a higher education program. There are challenges and opportunities involved in bringing an Open Badge initiative into a higher education program. This blog post represents my thought process up to this point in trying to think through this decision.

The Open Badge Initiative   

The Open Badge initiative includes earning “badges” that are awarded by an agency or organization. The agency or organization could be your school, a club, or colleagues. The Open Badges represent what would be qualified as “good” work by the granting organization. As described by Mozilla and the MacArthur Foundation, Open Badges “provide visual representations of 21st Century skills and achievements.” Open Badges can then be proudly displayed across the web and on social networks of your choice.

Open badges photo from haberdashery, Creative Commons

The Open Badge initiative has been a hot topic for discussion over the last year as the Mozilla Foundation, the HASTAC Initiative, and the MacArthur Foundation (along with many other brilliant people and organizations) launched a competition to develop these badges. In reviewing the Stage 2 Winners from the teacher competition, I quickly identified one of the winners of the competition that outlined a badge system that included the elements I value in digital media and learning education. The “Building Toward Mastery: Teachers and 21st Century Literacy Skills” submission from the University of Michigan, School of Information outlined a continuum in which learners build up their skills to the level of mastery of informational and digital literacy skills. The submission outlines the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that teachers will need to effectively include emerging concepts associated with 21st Century Literacy skills in inquiry based learning activities for students. What I like most about the “Building Toward Mastery” submission is the modular components of their badge system. The badge is comprised of multiple components that the teacher can build up over time, while understanding their own progress as they build toward mastery of 21st Century Literacy skills.

Open Badges: Challenges and Opportunities

As stated earlier, I have been considering the use of Open Badges and their ability to motivate, guide, and assess learning and mastery of informational and digital literacy skills. As coordinator of an Instructional Technology & Digital Media Literacy (IT-DML) program at my University, I have been thinking deeply about this concept and its relevance for our program as it starts up this summer. The IT-DML program will strive for an open source curriculum, and use free, Web 2.0 tools for all curricular materials and student work. The goal is to provide this work and output of the program free for use in classrooms all over the planet. I would potentially see the Open Badges initiative playing a role in our program. The primary consideration in including an Open Badge initiative in the IT-DML program is whether or not the students and faculty would value the badges. During the first year of the program we will survey students to understand the value they would place in Open Badges as a supplement to grades in the courses.

The concept of Open Badges and their role in education, and the IT-DML program specifically, has captured my imagination over the past year as I’ve read several blog posts unpacking the topic and potential consequences. I would suggest reading through several of these posts to gain a better understanding of the development of the Open Badges initiative. They have helped me think through these issues and gain insight into the value of badges in 21st Century learning. Insightful blog posts have come through my Google Reader feed over the past year by the following individuals: Bud HuntTony BatesMark SurmanAndrea Zellner; and Doug Belshaw.  .

As we come closer to the commencement of the IT-DML program, I’m leaning toward the involvement and granting of Open Badges as part of the IT-DML program. The rationale for this to me is very simple. I have been conducting research over the past couple of years in assessment of online reading comprehension and online content construction. One of the biggest challenges in using and assessing these literacies and skills is the complexity of online information and the fact that it is constantly changing. Additionally, in conducting research on the knowledge, skills, and dispositions students’ use in this informational space it is difficult to validly and reliably assess skill or quality. This point was hammered home to me by Dan Hickey in a 2011 session we presented at the American Education Research Association Conference in which he acted as discussant. He maintained that we were not actually assessing work, quality of work, or knowledge, skills, and dispositions in our instruments. Instead we were measuring the “residue of learning.” To me this means that the students had already come through, completed their work, and had moved on. The instruments that we had created were trying to inefficiently measure this learning by scraping up the learning that had already happened using multiple choice items, Likert scales, rubrics, or open response items. As a researcher and educator, I would like to more effectively and efficiently assess the quality of process and product of student work. For more insight into assessment of online literacies and the Open Badge initiative, please visit this post by Dan Hickey.

The final sticking point for the use of Open Badges in the IT-DML program revolves around their authenticity and value to our students. Some of the critique of the Open Badges has been that they will be viewed as online “gold stars” for student work product, or that adults don’t need this form of motivation to complete work. In my mind the goal of the Open Badges would be two-fold. The first would be a better assessment tool to help guide and inform student work process and product. The second would be a form of “abstracted replay” in which students consider their own knowledge, skills, and strategies employed and then compare them to those that would be utilized by an expert. In this regard, abstracted replay is defined as a postmortem analysis, or comparative metacognitive activity in which students reflect on strategies employed during the work process and how these relate to those employed by an expert.

Exploring Open Badges through my Personal Fitness Project

To determine how authentic and effective the use of badges can be in affecting motivation and achievement, I’ll test it out in my own life. I’m in the process of trying to get back in shape and relieve stress. As part of this process I’m using an app on my phone called Runkeeper, which tracks your running, walking, and fitness activities. I also will be using Fitocracy, a fitness social network that includes elements of gaming to motivate individuals. For more information on Fitocracy please read this excellent post from Wired Magazine. Both of these apps use real world game playing, technology, and badges to inspire individuals to progress in their fitness routine. I’ll play with these two products to see how they support and motivate me as I continue on my fitness mission. This in turn will help me understand the role that motivation and Open Badges may play in education of the 21st Century student.

When we were young: A book memories project

Remembering when we were young:  A book memories project

a post from Bridget Dalton

A student views the Book Memory Quilt Display at Peabody Library, Vanderbilt University.

I always begin my course on children’s literature with sharing of book memories. Students and I travel back in time to the child we were at age three, seven, perhaps ten or eleven, and recall the books that held such special meaning for us at that time in our childhood. Why do we remember these books so powerfully? Often, it is who we read the book with that is most important, with many remembering the sights, sounds, and physical presence of reading with a parent. Sometimes it is the book’s role in our development of a reading identity. One student describes the first book she was able to read on her own; another describes how her love of “Eloise” led to a family trip to the Plaza Hotel in New York City where she was able to order room service, just like her favorite heroine!; a third describes a kitchen scene where he listened to his father read aloud from the Bible and respond to his questions.  Sharing book memories is always one of my favorite classes. We get to know one another better. It’s fun, and sometimes a bit emotional, as we remember “when we were young”.

Trying something different – a multimodal book memory

This year, I decided to try something different. I wanted students to share their stories with a larger audience, and I wanted to involve them in composing in a digital format. After we talked through our book memories, I introduced our Book Memory Project by projecting a PowerPoint slide illustrating my memory of Robert McCluskey’s classic tale, “Make Way for Ducklings”. I described why this book is so special to me and then talked about my visual design – my choice of an illustration from the book to serve as the background, use of sepia brown font and inclusion of a photo of my father, brother, sister, and me during my own duckling years. I explained how I made design choices in hopes that my writing and visuals would work together to effectively communicate my book memory.

I recall reading “Make Way for Ducklings” with family.

Getting started with a hypertext anthology of book memories

Students were intrigued and curious about the possibilities, so the next step was to create a hypertext anthology using PowerPoint.  I provided a rubric to guide them, with the most important guideline being that they should have fun with this experience and allow themselves to be creative in both their writing and visual design.  In the sections that follow, I share some examples of students’ book memories (they did a wonderful job!), outline the project steps and provide a rubric for you to adapt.

In thinking about how you might want to adapt this idea for your own students, consider first whether a book memory as I’ve conceptualized it for adults makes sense for younger children.  They might not be interested in recalling a book from younger days – unless they are used as book advertisements for children in a younger grade?  Another option would be to use this format as a book response activity for a favorite book they have read recently (or perhaps riff on this to capture their experience with their ‘worst’ read book of the year!).  A third option would be to have students interview a parent or grandparent about their favorite book memory.  For some, it may be a story told orally that they remember best, and that would work equally well.

Project steps

Creating a hypertext anthology of book memories using Power Point (note you can also do this as a web page or with any hypertext tool):

  1. Have each student create one slide illustrating their book memory.
  2. Create a master PowerPoint and insert each student’s slide (remember to check ‘keep source formatting’ when you insert so that you don’t lose the students’ design). Let students know that they can use a first name only, a pseudonym, or a full name, depending on privacy concerns if it is to be shared publicly.
  3. Create a title slide with the title, date, and authors (see example).

4. Create a table of contents slide that will be hyperlinked to each book memory.

In the example below, I used the table feature to enter the student’s name and book title and then hyperlinked each name to the student’s slide with their book memory.

The table of contents is hyperlinked to each book memory slide.

5. Hyperlink each book memory slide back to the table of contents slide.

For your first book memory link, create a graphic to serve as the hyperlink back to the table of contents. Then, copy and paste that on each of the slides (this way you avoid creating a new link to return to the table of contents for each book memory slide).

This student recalls her memory of The Polar Express. Notice how she has inserted a photo of her head onto the child’s body to show how she imagined riding the train. the arrow in the bottom right corner is a hyperlink back to the table of contents.

6. Once you’re done, test each link from the table of contents to each slide and return.

7. Save your PowerPoint anthology (or hyperlinked web page).

8. Decide how you will share the PowerPoint.  You could put it on a computer in the classroom and the school library. You might also want to share it on your class webpage.

Assessing a book memory

I needed to asses students’ book memories to reflect their multimodal compositions.  I’ve pasted the rubric I developed below.  I tried to keep it general so that students would have flexibility in creating their designs (I intensely dislike rubrics that try to quantify multimodal composing such that more images are better than fewer images.  We all know the power of a single image when it suits the message and intended audience!).

Book Memory Rubric

A = Either writing or visual design are advanced, or both are advanced.

B = Either writing or visual design are proficient, or both are proficient.

C = Both areas are basic, or below basic (I know this will not be an option for any of you!).

This rubric is designed to assess writing and visual design quality of the book memory.

Option:  Book memory quilt display

The book memory quilt created by our class is hanging in the Peabody Library for all to enjoy! We printed out the slides in color on hard stock paper and laid them out on a large table so that we could balance the colors.  Next, we strung them together with ribbon to create several banners.   Then, we hung the banners together to create a quilt-like display for the wall.  Simply done, but quite effective!

Group banners to create a book memory quilt to hang on the wall.

A few more book memories

A student remembers her father’s gift of “Call it Courage” and how it helped her to be brave.

“Goodnight Moon” was a book fondly remembered by several students.

Enjoy your own book memories!

If you try this project out with your students (or some adaptation), please consider sharing your experience by posting a comment to this blog.  I look forward to reading more book memories.

Back on the beat

It’s been awhile since Dana, Jill, Bernadette, and I have  posted to Literacy Beat.  Happily, we are back to blogging!  In fact, the next post (to appear in the next hour or so)  will feature a mulitmodal book memories project that I carried out with my students. The week of April 5, we are delighted to have a post from guest blogger Devere Wolsey on personalized digital learning.

Design Your Wild Self Avatar: Getting to know one another through mulitmodal composition

post by Bridget

Avatar design could be said to be a new literacy. When playing digital games and social networking, kids often select and customize avatars to represent themselves. They offer opportunities to experiment with different identities and take on roles within the specific context of the game or community. They also offer the opportunity to design with different media and think symbolically about how to represent ‘character’.

This past summer, I used an avatar design activity to launch a Digital Writers’ Workshop with urban middle school students who were participating in a summer school program. Collaborating with a group of doctoral students (Blaine Smith, Christian Ehret, Summer Wood, Tyler Hollett and Robin Jocius), we used the avatar design activity to help us all get to know one another and to introduce kids to the notion that they are multimodal designers and could communicate with different symbol systems (a key theme of the workshop).

Across a series of composing activities, we tried out a scaffolded approach to multimodal composition: Demonstrate, Create, and Share-reflect-respond, or DCSrr for short (Dalton, 2011). Below, I describe this process and share some examples of students’ work, along with their design reflections.

Getting started: Finding the “Build Your Wild Self” avatar design website

The first challenge was finding an avatar design tool online that was free, appropriate for young adolescents, and which ran on the lab computers without glitches. Blaine and I spent a few hours searching, finding some very cool sites that we had to reject, typically because they required registration with a commercial enterprise (something we wanted to avoid), the images of females were highly sexualized, or there were few multicultural options.

We hit pay dirt when we found the “Build Your Wild Self” website sponsored by the New York Zoos and Aguariam and the Wildlife Conservation Society (http://www.buildyourwildself.com/). Of course, the first thing I had to do was design my own avatar to explore the tool and think about how kids would use it. Here is the home page, which displays my avatar.

avatar home page

Here I am on the “Build Your Wild Self” avatar design website

screen shot of PPT introducing avatar activity

screenshot of Blaine's avatar design

image of avatar design

Serina’s avatar:

Antennas: I picked the antennas because I can search out things and I also need glasses to see. Those are kind of my little glasses.

Rabbit ears: So I have the rabbit ears, if that’s what they are, so know that I can hear you

Wings: …because I thought they were cool, they looked all right and also I can fly,

I can do anything I want to do and see stuff and if you mess with me, I’ll stick you.

image of avatar design

Serina’s avatar: I can do anything I want to do

Parting shot: Fun? Yes! Multimodal composition? Yes!

Try designing your own ‘wild self’ and then try it out with your students. I would love to hear how it goes (post a comment, please!).

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