The Photo Essay Project

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

This semester, I assigned my undergraduates to create a photo essay defining the places that have had the most impact on who they are and who they might become.  Their photo essays are due next week, so this week I am sharing some of the photo essay websites and software tools they are using.  Today, they explored the affordances of each. I provided a list of questions (you will find them below) to guide their choices.

Dear Literacy Beat readers, if you have a site or tool to share, please add it in the comments.

Photos

iPhone Photos

Platforms

  1. Tumblr
  2. Instagram
  3. WordPress
  4. Spark from Adobe
  5. Exposure
  6. Ghost
  7. PowerPoint Online and Slideshare, Youtube or Vimeo (convert slide decks to video), Authorstream
  8. Prezi

Pro-Tip: What’s your statement about the photos you choose? Can you write one (or maybe two) sentences that capture the main idea of your photo essay? Is it unique enough that others will want to view your essay?

 

Photo Editing Tools

  1. Canva
  2. Ribbet
  3. GIMP
  4. Photo Resizer
  5. net
  6. Photoshop Express
  7. PIXLR

A note about intellectual property: Any work you use that you did not write or create must be attributed.  This includes music (and be aware that using copyrighted music could result in your project being taken down by the platform or host).

Pro Tip: Create a rough draft of your essay in order to check out the features of the platform and tools you use.  Try different ways of arranging your photos, text (including captions), and titles.  Later, you can hide or delete the rough draft.

Questions / Affordances

Check out the sites and tools (software) on the first page and review a couple of examples. What affordances does each offer your project?

  • What does it cost?
  • Do you need an account?
  • Can you make the site available to anyone?
  • Does the site privilege images, text, or both?
  • What features does the site or tool have that others may not have?
  • Is the site or tool mobile friendly? Laptop friendly?
  • Does it have sharing tools (e.g., Facebook, Twitter)?
  • Are there advertisements? How intrusive are they?
  • Is the platform easy to navigate and provide tools that make it easy for you to create a photo essay?

Two notes about color:

  1. Don’t overdo it!
  2. Make sure the colors you choose for frames, text, and so on are easy to read against the backgrounds you choose

Writing and Technology: Free Virtual Conference

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

The week of October 5 through 9, 2015, Turnitin is offering a free virtual conference on the topic of Writing and Technology: Exploring the Intersection as part of Student Success Week.  I will be one of the presenters, and perhaps I’ll see you in the webinar!

Writing and Technology

Student Success Week

There are several fascinating speakers, so register early. My session is

Writing and the Visual : Graphically Organizing Your Writing

Tuesday, October 6th 10:00am PST

And here is the abstract:

What if students could see how their writing is organized using graphics? It turns out that when they graphically organize their writing, students are more likely to write well, to compose their thoughts, and to try new approaches. In this session, Thomas DeVere Wolsey will discuss cutting-edge research on how visual organizers enhance writing and writing instruction.

Update: You can watch recorded sessions here: http://turnitin.com/en_us/resources/student-success-week

Curating Videos on the Web for Children

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

Sometimes, searching for and selecting the best content online can take as much time as actually watching, reading, or engaging with the content itself. This is especially true for parents and teachers who often make the selections for children.  This is so for text and image-based digital content but also for video.  Youtube EDU provides some guidance for teachers and parents.  In this LiteracyBeat post, I will tell you a little bit about a new service that curates video content from a variety of sources and for specific audiences: Pluto TV

Where YouTube EDU uses an electronic discovery system to identify content, Pluto TV employs about 15 human beings who search for and curate videos. For parents, teachers, and children, the curation process is particularly important because each of the children’s channels (currently channels 901-906, click the “Channel Lineup” button on the top left) on Pluto are aimed at a different demographic, a very important feature that differs from television channels that may air content for preschool children in the morning and elementary-age children in the afternoon. Moreover, the curated content filters out shows on popular channels that don’t always deliver the educational or useful content parents expect. There is also a Kid’s Mode with a parent lock feature.  Shows can be saved for future viewing or a reminder sent that a show is about to air.

Pluto Screencap

Pluto TV screenshot – Kid’s Channel Lineup

The interface is a familiar one that looks like the channel line-up on your television service provider.  Each show plays at a specific time and it is possible to save a show or set up a reminder to watch it later. Of course, Pluto is well-designed to work on multiple devices and there is an app to improve the experience, as well.  Learn more about Pluto here.

Read more in the Los Angeles Times.

Mom’s Recipe Box, Old Lesson Plan Folders, and My iPad

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

In an old file box for 4X6 index cards, my Mom kept favorite family recipes. Some of these cannot be found online because they were traded among her friends and relatives long before Pinterest or Facebook made it possible to share a recipe link online.  I wanted to share copies of these with my brother and sisters, but making copies on paper seemed the wrong way to go.  By layering applications, I found I could recreate those 4X6 index cards, make many of them searchable, and share them with family and friends.  I used Evernote and Scanner Pro along with tags that corresponded with Mom’s original index card system (each letter represented a category of recipe, such as “cookies” and I could also add tags for recipes by season or author). Using these apps was far more efficient than using the traditional flatbed scanner in this instance.

Mom's recipe box

Mom’s recipe box

There are many tools for archiving and sharing recipes (click here for one example)  from file boxes, but I also wanted to archive and share the many file  folders full of lesson plans and resources, such as student work samples, that I collected over the years. The same tools I used to store and share Mom’s recipe box worked well here. My manila file folders full of news clippings, handwritten notes, typed lesson plans, and student work samples could easily be converted to a notebook in Evernote. I added tags that roughly matched the file folder label and additional tags for “student work sample” or “lesson plan.”

Eye poem lesson plan

News Clipping

News Clipping via Scanner Pro and Evernote

Some of the items in the folders would fit well in my flatbed scanner with a multisheet feeder. But notes and news clippings might not. Some of the pages were so old I thought they might jam the sheet feeder. My iPad solved this problem along with a scanner app (I used Scanner Pro by Readdle, but there are others). The scanner app uses the camera in the iPad or iPhone to create a scan of whatever paper you have and save it in image format (such as .jpg) or as a PDF file.  I usually choose the PDF format.

Scanner Pro can be easily linked to Evernote so that scans are automatically sent to Evernote.  In Evernote, you can annotate the file with new notes, tag the note, and share the note or the notebook with others. Be sure you consider copyright and fair use guidelines, of course, when sharing the work of others.

An eye  poem by Mario (Mariachi)

An eye poem by Mario (Mariachi)

Evernote has a free and a paid or premium version. The free version will work for many teachers, but if you want to upload many files, a paid version may be a better option; fortunately, the paid versions are reasonably priced. I paid $2.99 for Scanner Pro, an investment well worth the price. Scanner Pro allows me to sync automatically to Evernote and other applications. With it, I can adjust borders easily on the rare occasions when the software doesn’t quite capture the edges of whatever sized document I am scanning.

Resources:

Evernote Also be sure to check out Bernadette’s post, here.

Scanner Pro by Readdle

Talking Drawings

by Rebekah Lonon with Karen Wood and Thomas DeVere Wolsey

This is the third in a three-part series exploring conversation and collaboration opportunities using digital tools. Rebekah Lonon describes how she uses “talking drawings” to promote academic discussions in her classes and explains how she uses the Educreations digital tool with her students.

My second-grade students enjoy using the talking drawings strategy regularly in all content areas. I always begin by having the class close their eyes and imagine a mental image of a word or concept. Once they open their eyes, they immediately draw the image they made in their minds. This gives me great insight into their prior knowledge of the topic, and it helps me tailor my instruction for the coming unit. I recently used this strategy to introduce a unit about properties of matter, and I learned that my students associated the word “matter” with something being wrong (“What’s the matter?”). I knew then how my unit needed to be planned.

When it is available for our use, I like to incorporate a digital tool. In this case, I used www.educreations.com because it provides an online venue for creating related drawings. Educreations is also available as an app for mobile devices. After their initial drawings, students independently read a passage, entitled “Why Does Matter Matter?” by Kelly Hashway (n.d.) from the website http://www.superteacherworksheets.com about the states of matter and then they discussed their drawings and thoughts with a partner. Next, they returned to Educreations to create a new drawing, based on their new knowledge. If technology is scarce, students can create their drawings in pairs or small groups, using paper with Crayons or markers. To reflect on what they learn and, as a means of integrating writing with the reading and drawing process, I always ask them to compare their original  and after reading drawing. In this instance, one partner group exclaimed aloud, “Matter DOES matter!” as they drew examples of each state of matter. Another partner group continued their reflection process as they wrote in their journals.  Seeing their developing knowledge when using this strategy is an effective assessment tool for me.

View the video to hear Rebekah explain talking drawings using Educreations.

Bibliography: 

Hashway, K. (n.d.). Why does matter matter? [PDF]. Retrieved from http://www.superteacherworksheets.com/matter/matter-article_WMTBN.pdf

McConnell, S. (1992/3). Talking drawings: A strategy for assisting learners. Journal of Reading, 36(4), 260-269.

Wolsey, T.D., Wood, K., & Lapp, D. (in press). Conversation, collaboration, and the Common Core: Strategies for learning together. IRA e-ssentials series: What’s New?Newark, DE :International Reading Association.

Wood, K. D., & Taylor, D. B. (2006). Literacy strategies across the subject areas. (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

About the contributors:

Rebekah Lonon teaches 2nd-grade for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, North Carolina

Karen Wood is a professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

 

Copyright and Fair Use in the Classroom: An Introduction

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

Working with multimedia, almost invariably, means incorporating the works of others into a presentation (see Huffman, 2010). Teachers and students do have some latitude, called Fair Use. However, it is always an effective practice to make sure that others’ intellectual properties are attributed or cited in any presentation. While there can be substantial penalties for infringing on the works created by others, the most important point, arguably, is that attributing the works of others is simply good citizenship. Creators want credit for their work, and any user is a potential creator, as well. In digital environments, creators, authors, and users take care of one another by properly attributing the sources they use. Though teachers, professors, and students are very familiar with citation of text-based sources (e.g. APA, MLA, Chicago style), these style guides often do not provide sufficient guidance when a student, for example, wants to incorporate images, audio, or video created by others in a multimedia presentation.

In this video, some general ideas related to citing video, audio, and image sources are explored, especially as they relate to presentations (using PowerPoint, Prezi, and similar formats).


An excellent place to begin learning about digital citizenship is the MediaLab at the University of Rhode Island. Teacher and student resources can be found on the Medialab website.

Though not exhaustive, these websites provide a place to begin looking for music and image sources that students and teacher might use in their own multimedia presentations while considering the rights of others who have contributed their works.

WikiMedia Commons
Creative Commons Search Tool and Creative Commons Licenses
National Gallery of Art – Open AccessJamendo
Low cost images: Dreamstime

Added March 13, 2014: Teach Students About Creative Commons: 15+ Resources – See more at: http://www.techlearning.com/Default.aspx?tabid=67&entryid=7298#sthash.vLSuk9fQ.dpuf

Explore more resources at these Delicious.com links:

Fair Use
Copyright
Plagiarism

I hope that this brief introduction leads you and your students toward the goal of better digital citizenship through attribution and citation of the intellectual property others create—a springboard to more ideas and a collaborative world.

Questions for Students and Teachers:

1. Consider the last multimedia presentation you placed online. How did you cite or otherwise attribute the digital images, audio files, or other media you incorporated?
2. How might you have more effectively cited the sources as a digital citizen to show how your own ideas built upon the ideas and creative works of others?
3. In what ways do traditional styleguides help you cite works you used? How do traditional styleguides fail to address multimedia presentations and use of images, audio, or video files in your own creative works?

References:
Huffman, S. (2010, May/June). The missing link: The lack of citations and copyright notices in multimedia presentations. TechTrends, 54(3), pp. 38-44.

Links to Traditional Styleguides:
APA
MLA
Chicago
Turabian

Creative Commons License
Copyright and Fair Use in the Classroom: An Introduction by Thomas DeVere Wolsey is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://literacybeat.com/about/.

The Info on Infographics: Synthesizing Multiple Sources with Text and Visuals

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey
Infographics may be a term you haven’t heard (or if you have heard of it, you may have thought, “Ugh, another infomercial”). However, even if you haven’t heard the term, it is very likely you have seen an infographic if you have been on Facebook, YouTube, or on your school or company website. What they are is as intriguing as the first picture book (it was Orbis Pictus, by the way) or the comic books and graphic novels you read when you were a kid, or last week, for that matter. As important, infographics are tools that teachers can use to help students understand big ideas, and they are tools that students can use to synthesize multiple sources of information.
What is an infographic? Well, it combines data, charts and tables, text, maps, and images in a persuasive and engaging way. Infographics are often fun to read. They transcend the individual chart or table by bringing together many types of information. Here is one example:

Infographics

Infographic of Infographics

and here is another

The topics captured by infographics are diverse. They can convey complex economic concepts, or persuade the reader to take action to help solve a complicated problem facing the world. They may present an array of terms that develop conceptual understanding of vocabulary. For students, infographics gather information and present it in an interesting and coherent way. At the same time, the best infographics challenge the imagination and the intellect. Quite often, infographics have a very professional look about them, but, get this: students (and their teachers) can create them, too. I decided to test one infographic creation tool just to show readers of LiteracyBeat that it can be done. If I can do it, so can you. I used Picktochart for this experiment to render LiteracyBeat as an infographic. LitBeat-Infographic

Click the image to see the infographic in greater detail.

How might readers of LiteracyBeat use infographics to help their students make sense of content? When students create infographics, they might
• Compare two or more works of literary fiction or the authors of those works +
• Use images, text, and tables to show how social media affects their own lives
• Present local findings and those of peers at another school in a different geographic region with comparisons of international data
• Encourage peers to read, via an infographic on the school webpage, by including data about the most popular books read, the most assigned books, and so on.

How have you used infographics? How might you plan to use infographics to assist your students with summarization, synthesis, and other high-level cognitive tasks?

Resources:
From Kathy Schrock: http://www.schrockguide.net/infographics-workshop.html
Plus a rubric: http://www.schrockguide.net/uploads/3/9/2/2/392267/infographic_rubric.pdf
From Visual.ly: http://create.visual.ly/
List of tools and links From InfographicsArchive: http://www.infographicsarchive.com/create-infographics-and-data-visualization/
More resources on Delicious: https://delicious.com/tdwolsey/Infographics

Expanding Opportunities for Professional Development: Online Conferences and Professional Learning Communities

A post by Jill Castek

We’re all familiar with the impact of shrinking school budgets over the past few years.  One unfortunate consequence has been the decline in funding for teacher participation in national and international conferences. Avenues for teacher learning have shifted and expanded as technology has given rise to new forms of professional development. When it comes to effectively using new technologies to support student learning in particular, these seeking out professional development opportunities is essential.  The IRA Position Statement, New Literacies and 21st Century Technologies (IRA, 2009) calls for professional development that provides opportunities for teachers to explore online tools and resources expected for use with students.  The statement asserts that it isn’t enough to just make new technologies available to students but to provide options in ways to use them to access information and share ideas. To inspire new ways of thinking about the use of technology, tangible ideas and examples of what knowledgeable teachers have implemented need to be shared widely and discussed.  This post introduces free PD resources and online communities that support teachers in integrating digital technologies into learning activities in meaningful ways.

The IRA Standards for Reading Professionals (2010) encourage teachers to integrate technology into student learning experiences. More specifically, learners are expected to engage in opportunities that utilize traditional print, digital, and online reading and writing and represent various genres and perspectives, as well as media and communication technologies. The integration of technology into literacy learning is also called for in the Common Core State Standards (2010). Students that meet the standards are able to, amongst other aspects, use technology and digital media strategically and capably.

Professional development efforts such as the New Literacies Teacher Leader Institute (http://nli2012.wikispaces.com/Home) offer transformative models that expand beyond the school level and help build extended learning communities that promote lasting change. This week-long institute addresses ways that new digital tools can create challenging and engaging learning opportunities for students and teachers in K-12 and higher education. Participants come together to network, share ideas, boost their leadership skills, and create technology infused curriculum units they can implement in their own classrooms. For teachers who are unable to attend such an institute in person, online resources can be explored and discussed with colleagues to support implementation.

Available resources include videos, instructional suggestions, readings that link theory to practice, and online networking tools which allow teachers to connect with others who have similar goals and interests. Teachers who tap into the wide range of social networking tools that are available to educators can participate in virtual learning experiences that can be customized based on the needs in their own setting.

Special interest groups such as the Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group, (http://tilesig.wikispaces.com/) affiliated with the International Reading Association (IRA), the 21st Century Literacies Group, (http://ncte2008.ning.com/group/21stcenturyliteracies) affiliated with the National Council for Teachers’ of English (NCTE), and the New Literacies Collaborative affiliated with North Carolina State University (http://newlitcollaborative.ning.com/ ) put teachers in touch with an extended network of colleagues with whom to discuss instructional approaches, share resources, and collaborate.

Rick Beach (from the University of Minnesota) and I will be giving a talk at the K-12 online conference (http://k12onlineconference.org/) coming up Oct. 15 – Nov. 2, 2012. This is a free online conference open to anyone. This all volunteer event is organized by educators for educators with the goal of helping educators make sense of and meet the needs of a continually changing learning landscape.  Presenters will share ways to integrate emerging technologies into classroom practice.  The schedule of session is available at http://k12onlineconference.org/?page_id=1091.  Our session, entitled Using iOS App Affordances to Foster Literacy Learning in the Classroom is available for download at http://ge.tt/6EtYbCP/v/0.

Literacy Beat aims to build a professional learning community amongst its readership. Please make a comment suggesting other professional development outlets or professional learning communities we can learn and benefit from.  These shared resources will allow us to expand our online networks and be in touch with new resources and ideas that benefit our teaching and our students learning.  We look forward to your comment!

References

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects (2010). Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/the-standards/english-language-arts-standards

International Reading Association. (2009). New literacies and 21st century technologies: A position statement of the International Reading Association International Reading Association. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

International Reading Association (2010). Standard for reading professionals—revised 2010. Newark, DE: Author.

My Pop Studio: Develop critical thinking and media skills with this free online game from Renee Hobbs and the Media Education Lab

post by Bridget Dalton, 9//13/12

Usually I blog about digital tools and instructional strategies, but today I want to introduce you to someone whose work I’ve followed for a number of years – Renee Hobbs. Renee is Professor and Founding Director of the Harrington School of Communication and Media at the University of Rhode Island. Renee is quite unusual in that she combines ‘making stuff’ in the Media Education Lab, with conducting research on media literacy and consulting on copyright and fair use policy. You can get a sense of the breadth and depth of her work by accessing slide shows of her many presentations available at http://www.slideshare.net/reneehobbs.

If you would like to hear directly from Renee about her leadership role in media literacy, view this video of an interview with her at the 10th Anniversary of the National Association for Media Literacy Education:

photo of Renee Hobbs

My Pop Studio

Today, I want to feature My Pop Studio, a free online ‘creative play experience’ developed by Renee and colleagues at the Media Education Lab. The goal of My Pop Studio is to engage young adolescents and teens in creating, manipulating, critiquing, and reflecting on mass media that is directed at girls. It includes a Magazine Studio, a TV studio, a Music Studio, and a Digital Studio. My Pop Studio is designed for use at home and at school (teachers can download a curriculum guide at http://mypopstudio.com/for_parents.php

screen shot of My Pop Studio

If your students and/or children try out My Pop Studio, please consider posting a comment about your experience.

Insights From A Service Learning Project: Creating Digital Projects with iPads to Encourage Safe Driving

A new post by Jill Castek

Melanie Swandby, a 7th grade teacher at Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland, CA was conducting a service learning project geared toward promoting safe driving habits.  Melanie was happy to explore digital content creation with her students, extending her original vision for the project with the goal of producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style were appropriate to task, purpose, and audience (CCSS Initiative, 2010). She invited Heather Cotanch and I to explore the use of iPads to create digital products that would resonate with teens and the wider community. We were excited to witness the content creation process which included elements of collaboration, experimentation, and flexible grouping to support peer facilited tech-help.

Why Digital Content Creation?

Digital tools are transforming what it means to be literate in today’s world. In the past, it may have been that decoding words on a page was enough to consider a student literate. Today, we live in a world with ever increasing importance on digital tools and technologies as a means of accessing and sharing ideas.  Students need to become facile with the full range of communicative tools, modes (oral and written), and media. Having the ability to comprehend, critically respond to, and collaboratively compose multimodal texts will play a central role in our students’ success in a digital information age (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2007; IRA, 2009).

Setting the Context for Digital Content Creation

Melanie’s class  worked to actively create projects that resonated with their intended audience without needing elaborate direction with the use of iPad apps. First, we provided a basic overview of the affordances of three digital composition apps (ShowMe www.showme.com, VoiceThread www.voicethread.com, and iMovie for the iPad www.apple.com/ipad/from-the-app-store/apps-by-apple/imovie.html – these three content creation apps were chosen because they allow users to integrate still images, include a drawing tool, and have the capacity to include voice and sound effects).  Then, we shared an example product from each app and students were off and running. They soon discovered many features of the apps themselves as they worked.  This new knowledge was distributed throughout the classroom as peer support and flexible grouping was implemented.

Students completed digital products can be viewed from their student-created website Hitting The Road Safe http://hittingtheroadsafe.webs.com and at Safe Driving VoiceThreads https://sites.google.com/site/swandby/safe-driving-voicethreads and also ShowMe http://www.showme.com under the username jill.castek@gmail.com and password safedriving.

iMovie. While using iMovie, students worked in groups and took on different roles such as creators, actors, and editors. Collaboration came in many forms, for example, some students did not want to appear on camera, but were willing to write a script and film a partner.

 Other groups took turns incorporating found pictures and discussing sequencing to communicate a strong, clear message. Because of the ease of use and multiple options within the iMovie app, the editing process can become never ending.  To support a more skilled use of the app, we pointed students toward a YouTube editing tutorial. Students who found themselves with extra time added captions or experimented with the background music offered within the tool. These “extras” gave the movies a professional feel while extending the students’ knowledge of the technology and supportive the processes of reflection and revision.  While the iMovie app proved easy for students to navigate, explore, and edit, teachers would be well advised to guide students through ample planning of their project during their first few interactions with this tool.

ShowMe.  Possibly the greatest successes were achieved with students use of the ShowMe app. Like iMovie, it produces a video, but its affordances allowed students to deliver the most complete, succinct messages of all three tools (student work is available at showme.com under the username jill.castek@gmail.com and password safedriving). During the showcase at the end of the project, the student audience commented on the ability for students to appropriate humor about a serious topic to be showcased. This was achieved through the use of voice, drawing, and integration of selected images. This app has limitations in the amount of media that can be uploaded and may have prompted the students to choose wisely from their options, making the message clear rather than being lost in elaborate visuals.

From the first introduction of this app, the students demonstrated an eagerness to peruse the tools and begin incorporating images, drawing and voice together rather than compiling images for a later use (a pattern we noticed with other tools). Even after several projects were lost due to glitches with the system, students simply started over learning from their mistakes, making strategic use of the drafting process, and integrating their new knowledge into final products.

VoiceThread.  This tool offered the most structured means of conveying ideas and the students took to the tool readily.  Once slides containing images were created, they could be moved around as the message was drafted and revised. Once sequenced, students could voice over the visuals to communicate their message.  Completed VoiceThreads can be viewed at https://sites.google.com/site/swandby/safe-driving-voicethreads.

Students created multiple drafts of their VoiceThread project and practiced their voiceover several times to ensure the tone and quality of the message was spot on. Unfortunately, the VoiceThread interface selectively saved some of voiceovers, which required students to re-create their projects more than once.  However, this redrafting wasn’t something students balked at and the message conveyed in each subsequent draft was more extensive, and richer in vocabulary and details.  The limits of the technology were not discouraging, but rather a valuable introduction to the process of creating technology-based multimodal products.

What Did We Learn?

Students completed projects included a logical sequence but also incorporate personal touches through the use of music, voice, sound effects, and pictures remixed and used in creative ways.  By including a specific focus on intended audience, Melanie’s students were readily able to form and frame a persuasive message. For example, students who chose parents of teen drivers as the target audience drew on experiences from their out-of-school lives and combined them with statistics from a school-based text. This resulted in charts and graphs representing percentages, an articulated message free from teenage jargon and pictures free from gore (as opposed to an increased shock value to presentations geared toward teen drivers).

Collaboration is key. Collaboration was widely fostered by encouraging students to turn to each other as resources and to help each other figure out how to accomplish their goals. For example, one group of students was using the ShowMe app and wanted include text in their presentation (there is no feature in which students can type using a keyboard). Students offered each other a workaround demonstrating the use the notepad feature and taking a screenshot to import it into the project. Other students offered another option and hand-wrote text on a piece of paper in bold marker and took a picture to import into the project.  Still others shared how to use their finger to write the message manually. As was the case here, students often knew what feature that they wanted and found innovative ways to use the app to meet their goals. These observations reinforce the idea that step-by-step instruction by a teacher is not necessary before students use new apps.  We discovered taking the time was not worthwhile and may, in fact, detracted from the collaborative and discovery nature of the work and curtail digital competence.

Time for experimentation is vital.  We recognized at the outset of the project thatstudents were eager to learn how to use the apps offered to them in the act of content creation.  While our instincts told us to model for students, it became increasing clear to us that experimentation with the apps supported student learning much more efficiently.  It became evidence that when technology is being used, a new role for the teacher is created.  She is no longer the “sage on the stage” and must be more comfortable circulating to support implementation by being the “guide on the side.”

Creativity and humor were strategically to convey ideas. As students created their projects, they infused persuasiveness through their use of creativity and humor.  Creativity extended well beyond being able to draw well.  When asked to reflect on the project, students reported being more engaged in the digital creation process, than the paper and pencil task (even though they needed to develop digital skills quickly to use the tools).  They also enjoyed viewing the projects created by other classmates (even though they were very familiar with the content contained within them).  Students created multiple digital drafts of their project (and were glad to do so).  They appeared to use the multiple drafts to improve the project iteratively.  If a student wanted to revise or rethink a portion of the digital creation, the opportunity to do this was manageable as opposed to the static poster version from which the students began. As pairs worked collaboratively, new ideas for improvement were shared amongst partners, which led to subsequent (improved) drafts. Even though students might have stumbled through the first couple of tries, they got better at it each time. Persistence was key!

Student Insights

Through the implementation of this project, we aimed to test a process by which students could create digital products (including drawings, images, and voice)  that could be shared with a school and community audience.  At the end of the project, students were asked to share what was different about digital content creation. One student remarked, “It’s more creative and more fun to play around with. It’s more exciting. You can put your voice into it and you can make it more fun.” This student aptly points out that digital projects are flexible.  If a student wants to revise a portion of the digital creation, this is manageable. In contrast, changes on a static page can be messy or difficult and offer little room for rethinking of an idea. Another student shared, “You can use funny pictures but you can still have a serious message.”  This learner points out that students could develop and incorporate their own multifaceted literacies. Although humor was never mentioned as a component of the project, students freely infused their personalities through media to reach their intended audiences on a level that demonstrated a high degree of literacy skill. A third student pointed out, “It’s a lot faster than when we usually do projects, you can write in different ways like voicing your message.”

Communicating with a Real Audience

In viewing the final projects,  the audience (made up of members of the school and community) found the addition of suspenseful music, images, and the story-lines conveyed through multiple modes generated a tangible impact that was memorable. Witnessing the audience’s reaction interaction was one way that the students owned their success. It was clear that all students felt accomplished and through the act of digital content creation, they became more skilled in the digital literacies that are a vital  part of our 21st century world.

References

Common Core State Standards Initiative. 2010. Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. Available at http://www.corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_ELA%20Standards.pdf

International Reading Association. (2009). Integrating literacy and technology in the curriculum: A position statement.  Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2007). Learning for the 21st century. Available at http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/reports/learning.asp

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