Review: Playschool Art Maker for iPad

Having looked at a few different movie making apps for the iPad, the playschool art maker app presents itself as a great and innovative app for primary students who are learning how to create their own digital texts. The app helps students to create a picture, story slideshow or animated movie, giving students the option of either using their own photos as backgrounds or using animations already provided. Students can also record their own audio, and the app allows them to save their creations, which they can replay or look at later.

The app is easy to use without the need for extensive scaffolding, and gives students a lot of free range in what they can create. This allows them to be creative and imaginative with what they create, which is a strong focus in the new English syllabus.

Students can use this app for many different purposes in literacy, such as learning how to create a story board, to plan out different elements in a story during the writing process; retell a story they have just read or heard; and of course it is a great foundational resource in showing students how to use digital technologies, and which teachers can build upon later when using other apps such as iMovie. The playschool content means that this app is perhaps more suited to younger primary students.

This is a great resource!

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The Final Product

Coming to the end of this course, it’s interesting to reflect on all the aspects of digital media that I’ve learnt about. Having experimented with so many different aspects of digital media, incorporating it into a lesson no longer seems as daunting as it did at the start of the course. I would encourage all teachers out there to continue exploring the vast range of digital resources that are available, and to not be afraid to try something new in your classroom.

This is a digital video I created as a final assessment. It is a recount of an event in my life, and can be used as a teaching tool across the stages for English. In particular, I would either use it with Stage 1, to develop the depth of their recount writing, or in Stage 2 or 3, to incorporate global perspectives in their recount writing. It is also a great tool to use to teach students about planning for their writing, as they plan and edit a video, and think about the sequential order of their writing. Enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjLuG4sza3U

Review: The Literacy Shed

http://www.literacyshed.com/

This is an excellent databank of visual stories and ideas for teaching literacy to students. I used this resource on my recent practicum, for the purpose of looking at the topic of stories, and different purposes of stories. I was able to show my students a range of examples of stories, each with a different purpose, and then use this as a basis for discussion. The website also includes ideas for teaching with each example, and visual literacy can be used in the classroom.

This would also be an excellent resource for showing students how to construct a story e.g. how to set the scene, develop characters, plotline etc, but also for thinking about things specific to visual literacy e.g. colour, animation, salience, different camera angles. There are a number of visual tutorials on the website which demonstrate how professionals consider all these elements in the creation of visual literacy.

Literacy and the iPad

These days, children are more literate with an iPad than most adults, and will arrive to school armed with the knowledge of how to work touch screens, navigate the hazards of technological difficulties and a sense that technology is already an important part of their learning (Jones, 2012, p. 33). Teachers are increasingly being encouraged to utilise a combination of this prior knowledge and technology to develop literacy practices, by building upon, and extending students’ literacy development within the context of their social and cultural practices.

Jones (2012, p. 33) argues that teachers need to step away from traditional forms of literacy extensions, to include new technologies which allow students to use the screen as they would other concrete manipulatives. The benefit of this is that students are still engaging with literacy, but in the contest of their own understanding (e.g. using new technologies that have already formed the contextual basis for their literacy practices). Making connections to prior learning will help familiarize students with the content, whilst emphasis on pre-reading activities builds field knowledge of topics and concepts, and encourages students to read for meaning (Jones, 2012, p. 33).

Looking at specific technology in particular, the iPad has enhanced the way teachers approach literacy, and has been proven to increase student engagement in the classroom (Jones, 2012, p. 37). Using apps such as the Playschool Art Maker app allows students to create retellings of stories, adding in music, sound effects and narrations to compliment visuals animations. Students move from using babble to recount stories, to being able to orally retell a story without prompting, and using appropriate language and vocabulary.

However, utilizing new technologies, such as the iPad, still need to be properly scaffolded, to ensure students develop literacy skills, and not just an ability to ‘play’ with the animations. Students need to learn how to formulate and organize their ideas and perceptions of the text, how to use appropriate vocabulary and language features, such as intonation and expression, and how to link their understanding in a way that cohesively recounts the story from beginning to end. Utilizing technology, therefore, still needs to be explicitly taught to students, regardless of how well they can master the screen.

Used appropriately in the classroom, technology offers a rich dynamic to enhancing literacy skills, and using prior knowledge as a gateway for connecting students’ social and cultural contexts to the classroom.

References:

Jones, M. (2012), ipads and kindergarten- students literacy development, SCAN31(4), 31-40.

A sample IWB lesson

Image

Above is a screen shot of a lesson that can be adapted using Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing. The purpose of this lesson is for students to take a deeper look at the illustrations, and how they add meaning to the story.

After reading the text with the class, students (in pairs) are given a choice of three different scene illustrations from the story, and asked to consider the mood in one scene, and how the illustrator has portrayed this mood. Students must then add thought dialogue to individual characters within the illustrations, using the notebook technology to add thought bubbles to these characters.

Once students have shown the teacher their thought bubbles, the second activity will involve them recording voice overs for these thoughts. Students can interpret tone, pitch and speed for each character, and record them at the IWB. They can also add background sounds to accompany their scene. Once finished, pairs will be able to play-back their scene to their peers, and will receive immediate feedback from both peers and the teacher.  

What’s so interactive about a whiteboard?

Although there are a number of benefits in using IWBs in the classroom, I would argue that the most important feature of this tool is the fact that it encourages a higher level of independent learning. I see my role in the classroom as someone who not only introduces information, but also as someone who facilitates a students’ ability to take charge of their own learning. Higgins et al (2007, p. 217) argue that “good teaching remains good teaching with or without technology”, and this reflects my own attitude to IWBs. Interestingly, the review conducted on research on the use of IWBs in the classroom also reveals that IWBs have no significant or measureable impact on achievement in the classroom (Higgins et al, 2007, p. 221).

Effective use of an IWB in the classroom, therefore, needs to promote increased pupil participation and interaction in the lesson. Inviting students forward to engage first hand with the technology, and on a regular basis, encourages increased attention in learning. There is also an element of peer teaching when students use IWBs at the front of the class, to present or lead an activity, and exposure to an extensive range of multimodal texts that have not been available through print media. 

With such a significant piece of technology at our fingertips, we as teachers need to remember the importance of interactive teaching in the classroom, using this technology to its full potential and purpose, which is to engage students in a greater understanding of how technology can enhance their learning.

References:

Higgins, S., Beauchamp, G., & Miller, D. (2007). reviewing the literature on interactive whiteboards. Learning, media and technology. 32(3). p. 213-225. 

Happily Blogging

With all the blogs floating around the blogosphere, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. How do we know what a good blog looks like? How can I show my students an example of a quality blog, and what I expect from them in their own blogs?

The Edublogs website (http://edublogs.org/directoryclass/?utm_expid=3915942-0.sTB70DfGTIKG85bY3mRpOQ.0&utm_referrer=http%3A%2F%2Fedublogs.org%2Fcommunity%2F) offers links to a number of different education-based blogs, which cater to a range of different age groups and topics. I’ve reviewed two blogs, which demonstrate a clear understanding of how to engage with blogging in the classroom.

1. http://huzzah.edublogs.org

Based in Canada, ‘Huzzah’ is a classroom blog, operated by Year 6 and 7 students, and overseen by three teachers. It is a blog built around the purpose of sharing and celebrating what happens in this classroom, and in particular, uses its name ‘huzzah’ as a means of communicating this intention (‘huzzah’ is an old English term for joy, encouragment or triumph). This is an example of an engaging and insightful blog because it is not just a collection of written posts and pictures, but rather a log of learning that happens within a classroom. Students are encouraged to not only post polished work, but to also post drafts, and ask for feedback from the web community they are connected to. The site itself is engaging, with interactive links via web widgets, videos and slideshows which link visitors to activities in the classroom, but there are also links to individual blogs that each student operates. It is great to see every student involved in blogging about their interests, because they are made to feel like equal contributors to their classroom blog.

2. http://edublogs.misd.net/techiekids/

At first, Techie Kids can seem like its overloaded with too many colours and links. However, looking past the bright colours and flashing widgets, this blog is actually a very organised and succinct example of a classroom blog. Ideal for modelling blogging to a Stage 3 class, or even advanced Stage 2, this blog not only focuses on sharing current learning within the classroom, but also sharing resources for different subjects, tips for teachers on how to start their own class blog, and facts and images about their home Michigan. A central focus of this blog is communicating with online communities via the internet, and learning how to engage with other virtual classrooms. This would be a great resource to show students how to organise ideas for blog posts, as well as examples of smart and appropriate responses to visitors to their own blogs.

I’ve made a blog…what next?

Creating a blog is as easy as one, two, click; yet it is important to understand that the purpose of a blog is far more than simply logging events within the classroom. Blogs are as much about inspiring independent learners as they are about engaging students in new literacies and digital media. Students no longer need to be constricted to traditional methods of demonstrating their understanding and learning, because blogging is just as relevant to the curriculum as pen and paper.

In her article on student blogging at Belmore South, Kim Pericles (2008, p. 5) argues that blogging is adaptable to any KLA, and connects student learning to our 21st Century World. She demonstrates through her activities that students are engaged with their learning, and through this engagement their learning extends beyond the classroom. One such activity involves three male students investigating results of English, European and Australian football games, taking the data they collect to configure and post leadership tables, information and answer questions via their own blog (2008, p. 4).

By engaging in blogging, students are not using their blog, but are encouraged to use a number of different digital medias to engage with texts and express their understanding. Another group of students at Belmore South are involved in constructing a Bubbleshare slideshow to add to their blog, as well as recording a video performance of the chosen text (2008, p. 4). This is an example of an activity that requires students to engage with a number of different digital texts, expanding both students understanding and capabilities with digital media, as well as fostering a rich database of resources they can use to enhance their blogs.  

Blogging in the classroom also opens up the opportunity for students to connect with another classrooms around the world, communicating and engaging with learning in different contexts, and sharing resources and information. An example of this in Pericles’ classroom is the connection the class has made with a class of students in Scotland. Scottish students sent instructions for a particular Scottish dance, which students at Belmore South followed and videoed. Students now need to upload this video to their own blog,which will be critiqued by the Scottish students. Receiving and sharing resources first hand is a fantastic opportunity for students to engage with different cultures and mindsets around the world, as well as being able to share about their own cultures and beliefs. 

All of these activities demonstrate that blogging is more than logging personal ideas and thoughts; it is a tool that provides a purpose for the learning that takes place in the classroom (2008, p. 6). It is important that activities constructed around blogs reflect this purpose. Blogs can enhance explicit quality criteria, high expectations and student engagement and direction in the classroom. When used well, blogs will teach students to construct meaning and find ways “to share their learning with new audiences” (2008, p. 5). 

Reference:

Pericles, K. (2008). Happily blogging @ Belmore South. SCAN, 27(2), 4-6

It looks green, so it must be green…right?

Larger companies use a mirriad of techniques in this day and age, to convince the consuming populace that they are in touch with their green thumb. Yet how much of what they say is carrot, and how much is…compost?

In an age where children are increasingly connected to digital texts produced by media outlets, it is crucial that they develop the skills to critically analyse the messages they see and hear. Happy babies, bright colours, environmentally friendly confetti and sunshine might lead us to believe that companies are deeply committed to preserving our environment, but none of these things have any connection to preservation! This is known as ‘branding’, or ‘greenwashing’ – leading consumers to believe one thing, whilst the practices of a company show something entirely different. By exploring the ‘sins of greenwashing’, the clip recreates their own advertisement, using satire as a means of explaining the structure of the advertisement, so that students see the true meaning and intention behind the choices of branding.

This clip also serves as an indicator to educators about the importance of being thoughtful in our selection of media texts we use in the classroom. We can be so easily captivated by the ‘confetti’ of well created texts, that we might fail to notice their lack of educational value. Digital media is such an important resource in our classroom, especially since students are increasingly connected to a digital world; however the texts we use will only be effective if the message they bring is not shrouded in visual duplicity. Sometimes it’s more sustainable to just skip the confetti.