Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Digital Storytelling and Stories

Digital storytelling is an art form conveying a message. It uses images and voice narration to convey emotion with the message, and to ignite empathy from the audience. It incorporates storyboarding and writing a script. It is created with digital tools and published on the Internet.

I often think of digital storytelling as something done in first person because it creates that personal connection. Whereas, I think of a digital story as an anecdote or story typed or narrated in third person.


Click here to view the cube above on RVLIO.

The art of digital storytelling

I recently participated in an outstanding webinar by ISTE's Special Interest Group for Digital Storytelling, where Bernajean Porter shared about the "Art and Soul of Digital Storytelling." After being inspired by the webinar, I created the following page summarizing some of my key take-aways:

Click here to download PDF

Explanations, prompts, and examples

Click here to open as a PDF with links -- Click on the picture to enlarge

Step 1: Writing the script and planning the project
Click to download
  • Prompt: I'd choose one prompt to introduce the process of digital storytelling to students. I might even do the first one as a whole group with parts and roles shared by the students. As our class becomes confident with the process and media, I'd open it up to more choices and smaller groups/individual productions.
  • Teaching about the writing: Teach the importance of first person for adding spice to the story; share an interesting problem, perspective, or insight; and use strong word choice to convey the message. Start with the ending in mind -- know what point the story is trying to convey.

Step 2: Production and digital tools
  • Choose the tool: When I am introducing the digital storytelling process to classes, I choose the tool for them to use. Once the process is established and they have a toolbox of digital storytelling sites to use, I give them a choice in tools.
  • Images and Creative Commons: When the tool doesn't have built in images, have students create their own images, take their own photos, or find photos that have Creative Commons Licenses, and have them properly cite the photo either on the same page as the picture or at the end.
  • Background music and Creative Commons: If there is not music to choose from on the site, then find music that is legal to use in your video. I select music from the list suggested by Creative Commons. However, background music is not a necessity, especially if it's new to the class. 
  • Production: Before production, I treat this part of the process much like I would the rough draft of a writing assignment with editing and revising. Here's where the mini-lessons come in about voice, word choice, etc. I like to conference with my students to make sure they are ready for production, then I allow them to start once they've gathered all of the photos and music (optional).

Digital Story and Digital Storytelling tools

Some of the sites below require creating accounts, which typically collects the user's full name, email and password. Therefore, children under age 13 are restricted from creating those accounts according to the COPPA laws. This does not mean those sites are harmful to the students, it just means they cannot give out their personal information for their own protection. Therefore, it's recommended to read the Terms of Agreements. Some of these sites have education versions of their product. Other times, the teacher may need to create a teacher/class account to log into from the devices.

Below are a few sites that can be used to create digital stories and storytelling. Some are more for narration; others for story books; and several allow digital storytelling with visual and narration.
      Click here to learn about iPad apps for digital storytelling.

      Step 3: Publishing and connecting with an authentic audience

      Celebrate their creations by sharing with others.

      Building an authentic audience to view the digital stories is powerful for students. They are no longer creating a project just for the teacher -- it's for their families, friends, and people around the globe.

      Emails can be sent to parents with the URL for where the digital story is published, or it can be shared on a class blog or website.  If there is not an embed code, sometimes I take a screen shot of the digital story and attach the link to that image.

      When shared on a teacher's blog, a Tweet can also be sent through Twitter asking for comments on their work by adding the hashtag #comments4kids. If your school has a FaceBook account, share the link there.

      Reflection, evaluation, and rubrics

      Providing specific feedback along the way with daily goals is part of the process. Self-evaluations using the scoring guides or rubrics are strong formatives for the students to target their next steps.

      Formal or informal student reflection is part of the process. It's important that a positive class atmosphere is established for this step.

      • Asking reflective questions: Have partners share their work with one another and ask them, "What parts or images captured your interest or attention?" 
      • Create your own rubric: If you end up creating your own rubric, remember to focus on your content standards the most with only a little emphasis (if any) on the technology piece.

      Final thoughts

      Digital storytelling is fabulous for content learning, 21st century learning, and active engagement. It addresses many Common Core Standards and can be used across grade levels. If task predicts performance, then my money is on digital storytelling.
      • What sites or digital resources would you add to this list?
      • What tips or questions would you add to this conversation about digital storytelling? 
      • What examples of strong digital storytelling would you add to this list?
      • How else does this post connect with you? 
      Parts of this post was published in Digital Storytelling and Stories with the iPad. This post was written for Professional Development for our awesome AJUSD teachers.

      Monday, April 1, 2013

      Close Read Complex Text, and Annotate with Tech--Part 1

      Students need to be taught how to read complex texts. One of the strategies for learning how is close reading. It slows the reader down to notice and ponder more. It also connects meaning and builds systems of thought.

      Text complexity with close reading

      Complex text requires a close reading. So what makes a text complex? There are three "ingredients" to text complexity:

      It's important to understand text complexity to build students' literacy skills. As they become more skilled, they will read more complex text on their own.

      Introduction to close reading

      Here's an overview of close reading:

      What does close reading look like in the classroom?

      Here are some examples of close reading at different grade levels and content areas (or components of it such as annotation):

      What are the steps for doing a close read?
      Click here to download as PDF

      Close reading may look different at different ages and content areas. From the research I've done, all close reading has these components:
      • Close reading is a strategy for reading complex text, something that would be at the student's frustration level. However, for primary grades, there are instances where the teacher reads aloud.
      • It is good to do with short passages.
      • The text is read and reread several times.
      • Students learn to annotate their thoughts as part of the process.
      I've created the Close Read poster based on the training I received at the Arizona Department of Education, which is largely based on the work of Fisher, Frey, and Lapp. I follow all of these steps to introduce the process.

      However, the amount of scaffolding and support needed will be based on the level of text complexity in relation to their independent/frustration reading level. Some scaffolds will (and should) be removed as time goes on, such as step six with the teacher reading and modeling annotation.
      Poster CC By Tracy Watanabe & Photo CC By Denise Krebs


      Annotation is an important part of close reading. Again, it will look different at the different grade levels.

      Annotating with iPads

      For annotating with iPads, the students could take a photo of the text, then annotate using various apps.
      • Educreations is a favorite because you can add pages and annotate on the pages with the tools. Educreations is an iPad app that can also be accessed from your browser. Once saved on the iPad, it will also save to the account created.  Since Educreations is like an interactive whiteboard, it requires a narration to record and save.
      • Noteability is another app that is easy to use. Unlike Educreations, it does not require a narration, but that is an option. It also can be saved to DropBox easily. (Note: It also works well with My Big Campus). Here's a brief tutorial on how to use it:

        Annotating on a desktop computer

        If the text is on the Internet, it would be easy to annotate in Diigo, or take a screen shot then annotate in Paint (or Pages, if you are working on a Mac) as well as Google Docs/Apps.

        Text-dependent questions

        There's not a set guide for creating text-dependent questions; however, I like to use Bloom's Revised Taxonomy with Webb's Depth of Knowledge or this poster as my guide:

        Student Task

        What can they do/create as evidence of learning? The culminating activity should capitalize on the key ideas, essential questions, or their understanding. It should include:
        • mastery of one or more of the standards;
        • writing;
        • and, is structured as independent practice (for a formative assessment).
        As a formative assessment, the teacher needs to know how it will inform her/his instruction. Here are the steps to think through:
        • Will it be graded? If so, a rubric needs to be created and shared with the students. If not, prepare a place to record anecdotal notes or a checklist of mastery.
        • How will instruction change based on the information you've learned about student understanding? What scaffolds can you put in place to help, if needed. What extended learning can you provide (such as a blog post sharing their products with a community outside the classroom)?
        • What specific feedback can you give the students to help them progress?

        Final thoughts

        Close reading won't take place all of the time, and it won't need all of the steps I've shared. It is a strategy that will look different for different texts based on the genre, purpose for the reading, the text complexity, and the student's ages.

        While planning for close reading, consider your readers, your text, and how to support them with scaffolds. Scaffolds are meant to be taken away, therefore, the steps of a close read will change over time.

        In Close Read Complex Text, and Annotate with Tech--Part 2, I will expand on annotating with iPads, and in Close Read Complex Text, and Annotate with Tech--Part 3, I expand with annotating with Diigo.
        • If you have a great app or way to annotate with technology, please share. I'm interested in learning from you.
        • What does close reading look like in your class?
        • What tips or resources can you share about creating text-dependent questions?
        • What other questions about close reading do you still have?
        • How else does this post connect with you?
        Special thanks to Gina Fraher for the opportunity to close read with her students, and Jodi Walker for inspiring me to give this a try.