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.

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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

Using Strip Designer for Literacy Learning

Using Strip Designer for Literacy Learning

“In order to be read, a poem, an equation, a painting, a dance, a novel, or a contract each requires a distinctive form of literacy, when literacy means, as I intend it to mean, a way of conveying meaning through and recovering meaning from the form of representation in which it appears.” (Eisner 1997, p. 353)

It has been 15 years since Eisner eloquently reminded us that we are moving from a text-based world to a multimodal one where we learn to learn from a fresh variety of sources and communicate generatively with a vast array of tools at our disposal. Schools around the U.S. have not always been quick to adopt such new tools and in some cases have moved to discourage the use of new literacies and evolving technologies in the classroom. In other places, such technological innovation is not only welcomed, but also supported.

We find a welcome case of such support in Napa, California, where a non-profit institution, NapaLearns (napalearns.org) has become a benefactor of technological innovation, providing grants to schools in the area for the purchase of tools and training. You may learn a great deal about the efforts of NapaLearns by visiting their website.

Here I would like to highlight one of the projects that NapaLearns funded. The project takes place in a public school and in the Kindergarten classroom of a very talented teacher, Ms. Martha McCoy. Martha and I became acquainted through her graduate program in Innovative Education at Touro University, where I taught research methods last spring.

In Martha’s words:

This year our kindergartners embarked on a great journey to explore the ways technology can be used to enhance their learning. In addition to crayons, paper, pencils, playdough, puppets, puzzles, play, manipulatives, and realia, we are learning with iPads.

Our students are primarily English Language Learners, 100% of whom are living in poverty based on qualifying for free or reduced lunch. Less than 2% of the students’ parents graduated from high school in the U.S. and 17/18 students only speak Spanish at home.  These students are at the greatest risk of school failure.

The strategy for use of the iPads was to provide early academic intervention focused on building English language vocabulary and school readiness in our most ‘at risk’ students. The iPad enhanced kindergarten project began as a partnership between NapaLearns, a nonprofit organization, Calistoga Family Center, a family resource center, and Calistoga Joint Unified School District. The partners share in NapaLearn’s mission to “re-imagine learning for all children in Napa Valley …to promote implementation of education innovation and promote student- centered 21st century learning…so our students can compete in a fast paced technology enhanced world.” (NapaLearns Mission Statement, 2010).

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Martha completed an action research report to ascertain the effects of a partnership in her school between her kindergarteners (who knew iPads) and 6th graders at the school (who knew about writing). The Kinders and the 6th graders worked in cooperative pairs to create comic strip posters to show preschool children (who would be in K the next year)  what a typical day in Kindergarten looks like.

The Kindergarteners used their iPad cameras to take pictures of typical scenes in a Kindergarten day. They also drew pictures using Drawing Pad (see screen capture below).

 

 

The drawing pad application costs $1.99 and I purchased it to try it out. Don’t laugh (I’m not an artist!), but learning the program was simple and here is a terrible example.

For those of you who know my husband, Marc, he is well represented by a firetruck (we own one from 1949). Me, I’m always up in the air.

The students put this photos and text together using another iPad (and iPhone) application called Strip Designer (see screen capture below). This program costs $2.99 and I also downloaded and tried it out using photos.

Strip Designer also has a tutorial and is relatively easy to learn.  I’ve done a couple of the comic strips, but instead of sharing mine, I have Martha’s permission to share one her student did:

But probably the best way to get the essence of Martha’s work is to view her Animoto on the project, also created for the Innovative Learning program at Touro (under the auspices of Program Director, Dr. Pamela Redmond). You can view this at http://animoto.com/play/xLgpKJU7wrQjLe1qaVfWuQ.

You can also get more information about Martha on her weebly website: http://msmccoysclasswebsite.weebly.com/

One project is complete, but new learning continues. Martha is busy planning new efforts for this academic year. She has already designed lessons on digital citizenship for the K-6 team. She plans for 6th graders to learn about Internet safety, cyberbullying, and respectful (and responsible) digital behavior to prepare for teaching their Kindergarten buddies.  Then they will design posters, digital books, and skits with their Kindergarten buddies about how to be safe and respectful online. Martha plans to weave elements of Internet safety throughout their projects all year long and build it into their rubrics.

I can hardly wait to see the results!

In the meantime, I am planning a little research of my own with the collaboration of four high school teachers who will use Strip Designer to scaffold the literature they will be using in their classrooms. Much more on that later.

There are so many ways that the above two inexpensive programs can be used to scaffold our students’ learning. The Drawing Pad art can be emailed and archived, as well as placed in “albums” and books to be viewed online or printed out. Strip Designer is very productive also. I have written before with colleagues on the uses of graphic novels in special education (Smetana, Odelson, Burns, & Grisham, 2009; Smetana & Grisham, 2011), while having used them with mainstream classes. Storyboarding and graphic novel writing is made easy with Strip Designer. There must be many more uses of this that readers of this blog can envision! A very positive part of this is that one iPad can be used to do all of this. Martha has iPads for all her students, but even if you have one in your classroom, you can provide enormous benefits to your students with very little expenditure.

What are YOUR ideas for using these new tools? All ideas and comments are very welcome!

References

Eisner, E.  (1997). Cognition and representation: A way to pursue the American Dream? Phi Delta Kappan, 78, 349-353.

Smetana, L., Odelson, D., Burns, H. & Grisham, D.L. (2009). Using graphic novels in the high school classroom: Engaging Deaf students with a new genre. Journal of Adult and Adolescent Literacy, 53, 3, 228-240.

Smetana, L. & Grisham, D.L. (2011). Revitalizing Tier 2 interventions with graphic novels. Reading Horizons, 51, 3.

Bringing it Together: Utilizing Digital Tools for Collaborative Learning Opportunities

A post from Bernadette

Digital tools can promote collaborative and social learning opportunities, enhance literacy development and extend the boundaries of the classroom. Digital tools can be used in ways that support receptive, expressive and generative processes. This coming semester I want to explore, with my teacher candidate students, the possibilities presented by a range of digital tools. In this post I will explore the possibilities presented by Voicethread and Thinglink

Voice Thread

Voicethread for educators (http://ed.voicethread.com/#home ) provides an interactive online forum for conversations and student collaboration. Voice threads are collaborative multimedia slide shows which integrate images, documents, and sound files. A voicethread workshop, with easy to follow instructions of how to create a voice thread, can be found here or you can view online tutorials.

Voice threads allow for anytime, anywhere conversations, and allow participants to annotate and comment asynchronously in five different ways: using voice (via a microphone), text (using a keyboard), audio file, video (with a web cam) or annotation through doodling. Participants click on ‘Record’ or ‘Type’ to add a comment which then appears around the border of the image, slide or video. Teachers can create free education accounts for their students. Participant identities are represented through images or avatars (created in for example, Doppelme.com) which are added to the accounts. The interplay of multimedia and commentary are essential parts of the process and encourage student response. Students can respond through for example, asking questions; offering opinions; or making text-to-self, text-to-text or text-to-topic connections.

At voicethread4education wiki (http://voicethread4education.wikispaces.com /) you can view 26 different ways to use Voicethread for language arts and the content areas in the classroom.

Here are some of my favorites for language arts from the list:
#1 A mystery scene: What is happening and what might have caused it? What vocabulary can be used to describe the scene?

#5 Video : view, comment on and review a short video. For example, comment one of the vocabulary videos produced by the class group.

#7 Novel: comment on a character or protagonist from a novel.

#10 Inferencing: what were they thinking? Providing an image from the creative commons on Flickr and asking students to comment. Great for developing inferencing and reinforcing vocabulary.

#14 Digital Portfolio: Students could create a digital portfolio using images video and text.

Thinglink

Thinglink (http://www.thinglink.com/ ) is a digital tool that allows students to explore topics through collaborative discussions. Students can insert interactive links to tag an image by adding pop up multimedia hot spots. Hotspots can link to music, audio files, video, descriptions, definitions or quotations.

In the Thinglink example from http://auntytechideas.tumblr.com / images were added to illustrate the target word Perseverance.

Thinglink Hot Spots for the target word Perseverance include a dictionary definition, a quotation using the word and a short video showing how people from a range of backgrounds (e.g. sports, music, politicians) persevered against the odds. You could also add examples for the target word used in a context, an audio file for pronunciation (great for English Language Learners), or a vocabulary video to illustrate usage ( Bridget  previously blogged about vocabulary videos on Literacy Beat ).

A photo collage created in Photovisi (http://www.photovisi.com /) could be created by groups of students to tag each image with a pop up of descriptive adjectives, synonyms or antonyms. Further information on Thinglink can be found on Donna Baumbach’s list of ways to use Thinglink in the classroom on Google docs or alternatively you can visit Pininterest to view how teachers have used Thinglink in the classroom  here

So in the dying embers of your summer vacation do take time to mess around, play with and explore the possibilities presented by these digital tools to enhance literacy development in your classroom. Happy exploring! Good luck with the new semester!

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!

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