Digital media and software abounds and surrounds. To ignore within school the impact it has on our children's lives, let alone our own lives, is to blindly steer through new, crowded waters with only a knowledge of our past experiences; however, to try and consume and integrate it all at once is just as treacherous - we're likely to tire ourselves out at the wheel and crash and sink before we know what hits us!
My penchant for analogies being aired, one of my beginning goals is to slowly (but surely) continue my exploration of the colorful and vast variety of tools (applications, software, and digital media) that are specifically designed for or can be used with an educational purpose, in and out of the classroom. I might as well say 'begin' my exploration, since the rate at which new digital and technological innovations is developing seems to be light speed - but I won't let that thought slow me down! To create a knowledge base of tools and their uses and how they can be applied in a variety of learning contexts is the rhyme and reason. Certainly, this collection would be unique to each person and educator, but such is the beauty of collaboration and sharing of ideas.
In fact, the gurus do exist. I watched a video on the site Edutopia about this stellar tech-forward educator, who seems to seamlessly and expertly integrate digital media into her students' learning. The link will lead you to her site with 112 free online digital media resources, alphabetically listed, and organized in a table form that gives a short description, link, and sample media and tutorials (if available). She also has her own vimeo site and blog with tutorials on various apps and programs.
This is similar what I aim to do - by no means do I want to reinvent the wheel, but I'm curious to try out some of these programs (and some not included in this list - before I found her comprehensive list, I had already begun to develop my own). I will investigate one "innovation" a week, to be exact, by using the tool for myself and thinking on how it could be applied in an educational setting.
My first try out is...Storybird
This week, I took a look at Storybird. This was one of the first apps that crossed my path and I was immediately intrigued - a storytelling app (and poetry, a recent addition) that has creators pick and choose visuals first to inspire words second. The idea of a visual prompt for writing is nothing new, and an oft-used tactic in many writers' strategy bag; as a writer I don't use this approach as often as might be useful.
For children in both the primary and intermediary grades, this tool offers an alternative approach and entry (or perhaps reawakening) into to the creative writing process.
The app is definitely structured - the creators use this as a means to help induce creativity - there are select artists, mostly illustrators, from which to choose. Their collection is pretty extensive, though there do seem to be major themes at work (many with an element of whimsy and a cartoon-like quality); they don't allow you to upload your own artwork, but there is more than one image to inspire children of all ages. Children choose a series of illustrations, organize, and then begin writing a story in response. The story can be as short or as extensive as the writer desires - I flipped through examples of one-word pages to chapter books.
The poetry is a bit different, but I find the approach a great scaffold for growing the creative-writing process and fostering self-expression. As a creator you choose an image, and then are provided with a set of words (a digital version of the magnets that are often used to make clever phrases, poetry, etc.) from which you drag and drop onto the image. I composed one here, though I noticed afterwards part of the image I chose was lopped off (the girl is leading an elephant by a leash). I think the poetry could also be a great tool used with primary children for looking at and creating rhyme with engaging visual, though the confined set of words (you do have the option to refresh the word bank) doesn't guarantee you'll get a solid set of rhyming words that can be transformed into 'poetry'.
Storybird also has a blog with some interesting content, and I ran into an image posted that shows children collaborating in the creation of a Storybird poem using a SmartBoard - a fantastic idea if you have access to a SmartBoard. I think this brings up an important aspect of the technology, which is collaboration. The tool itself is meant to be interactive and collaborative - the sharing of art and stories with other Storybirders, and you also have the option of printing and sending your work digitally. In the FAQ section, the creators introduce the super idea of using this as a tool for fundraising - parents or others can buy a child's book online, and $5 is deposited into a fund for classroom needs or other interests. Another great way to incorporate real-world validity and even integrate other subjects, such as math and social studies (citizen action and community building).
You can sign up for different types of accounts, including Teacher and Classroom. While I signed up for a Regular account, just to experiment, using a Classroom account is private and would allow users to collaborate within a contained setting. This is a fantastic option for facilitating student sharing and receiving of feedback. I know I'll definitely continue to create with this app (on the side) and see what ideas the visuals conjure - perhaps future substance for a short story, novel, or another creative product.
Don't be shy - enlighten me with your thoughts and ideas!