Using Digital Storytelling

June 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Last week when many of my 8th graders were on the annual field trip to Washington DC, those that stayed behind attended Camp Half-Blood.  We had been reading Rick Riordan’s, The Lightning Thief and one of the students came up with the idea to do one of the activities at the end of the book.  The activity focused on determining which Greek God was your parent and writing the story of your own quest.  I’m blessed to work with teachers who are willing to try anything, and we took this ball and ran with it.   Soon our week became filled with plans for a quest, battle training and a hero’s feast.

We broke our students into small groups and gave them the task of shooting and editing a 5 minute movie documenting their epic journey.  It was fantastic to see kids who were normally too cool dressed in pink neon wigs and crazy costumes as they took on the role of the characters in their movies.  It was also exciting to watch kids teach each other and work together to solve problems. The week ended with a bead ceremony and a screening of their trailers.

On the last day the young man who had made the initial suggestion came up to me and said, “You guys came up with this whole thing?”  I told him no, it was his idea and he said, “But I never thought it would be like this!”  This is why I love middle school, the wholehearted enthusiasm for something silly, and the real learning that comes from letting go. Sure, it was a lot of work. We planned for several weeks during our prep and after school to make sure that everything went smoothly, but it was so worth the time we put in.  

Here is the trailer I made with my colleagues as a model. Sorry that I can’t show my students’ work at this time, you’ll have to take my word for it, they were great.

When You Read:

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Finding My Way: Thoughts before the New Literacies Institute

June 20, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m heading off to Boston today to attend the New Literacies Institute hosted by the Massachusetts Department of Ed, and run by NC State’s New Literacies Collaborative.  I have to admit, up until this week I didn’t know anything about the New Literacies Collaborative and the work they were doing.  I’m excited to learn more about their work, but I’m even more excited to see how it will connect to my classroom.

I’m also a little bit nervous.  I’m not exactly sure why, but there is this little niggling fear under the surface.  Maybe it’s because I don’t know exactly what will be expected of me, or maybe it’s because I don’t know how it will be put into practice once I get back to school in the fall.   While it’s great to be sent to a conference to learn more about something I find exciting, I’m also going to come back as a resource for my peers.  Maybe that’s what’s making me nervous, being a guide while I’m still finding my way.  It’s a big responsibility.  I work with teachers who are ready for change, but they still believe that using technology takes away from their time with the curriculum.   What I do and how successful I am will shape the attitudes of those who are on the fence.   Since they can’t be at this seminar, it will be up to me to give them a gentle shove.

The funny thing is, I’m enjoying this feeling, the balance of excitement and fear.  It shows that I’m ready to learn something new.

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Giving it a Go

June 17, 2010 Leave a comment

I was filling out the paperwork for a conference that I’ll be attending next week when I came across this question, ” What are you doing to create a professional digital footprint?”.  I was a little taken aback, because when I thought about it I realized that my footprint is probably so faint that it doesn’t exist.   This led me to wonder, how can I teach my students about the importance of maintaining a “professional” digital footprint if I don’t have one of my own to use as a model?   While I have been following other educators on Twitter or through their blogs for the past year and I’ve learned a lot from them, it’s been more of a one way flow of information.  I have to admit, I feel a little bit guilty about my voyeuristic behavior.  I have tried to tweet or retweet ideas that I’ve discovered, and I have done some blogging, but I just can’t seem to get into the rhythm of it.

But I’m hoping that’s going to change.  As the school year winds down I’ve decided that this summer would be a good time to challenge myself to blog more regularly.  I’m hoping that if I set a goal for myself of writing at least once a week I’ll create that rhythm that seems so elusive now

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Playing with Capzels

June 12, 2010 1 comment

I recently revisited Capzels, an online timeline creator I discovered while I was taking a digital storytelling class.  Capzels allows you to upload video and images, as well as mp3 files.  You can also choose from a variety of backgrounds and fonts to create customized timelines.  It was fairly intuitive and I managed to create my own in a short amount of time.   Here is an example of the capzel I created:

This tool has a lot of potential, not only for creating digital stories, but also for creating digital portfolios.  Students could create capzels to show their progress throughout the year, or simply to reflect on a unit.  They could then share them with teachers, peers and family members.  Sharing capzels with families would also help them to see the progression of their child’s learning, not simply the final product.  There are privacy settings, so individual capzles could be available to all, or completely private. Private capzels could only be viewed by those who were given the url.

Capzels does have a couple of drawbacks. Users do have to register, so capzels would need to be managed for younger students. Also, uploading video was a little slow.  Even with its drawbacks, I think capzels will be a great addition to my classroom resources.  Given how quickly they adapt to new tools, I know my students will too.

Endings and Beginnings

May 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Well, my Capstone Journey is finally over, but with any journey, the end usually turns out to be just the beginning. I’m looking forward to what will come next.

Google Drawings

May 13, 2010 Leave a comment

I have to admit, I was totally blown away by this drawing done by two of my students. I can’t get over what they did with a mouse and their imagination.

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What Fun We Had

May 13, 2010 Leave a comment

I mentioned that I was trying my hand at a collaborative assignment using Google Documents, Nota and Twiddla. After some consideration I decided against Nota, and sadly Twiddla did not turn out to be the best resource. It was unpredictable. Some students had no trouble returning to their shared work, while others lost everything and had to start over. This stumbling block aside, it was a great activity. The excitement generated as my students learned that what they did effected their partner’s work was contagious. We spent the day giggling, and then settled into some serious work. Would I do this again? You bet. Once we’re finished I’ll post some of their work so you can see how it went.

A final note about Twiddla, I would definitely use it again, but keeping in mind that it’s temporary. I can see it being a great tool for group collaboration, especially if we add a Smart Board to the mix. We could draw, brainstorm and edit as a group and then print our work. What fun!