Using Toontastic in the Classroom

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Toontastic is a fantastic app that students can use to recreate a narrative. The app is extremely engaging and provides students with an opportunity to develop and refine a digital text that they can share with others. The app is fantastic for younger children as it is broken down into the key elements of a narrative (called a ‘Story Arc’): Setup, conflict, Challenge, Climax and Resolution. This allows students to clearly understand how any story is created which directly linking to text type outcomes in the English syllabus. Using this app also allows students hands-on experience with multi-modal texts- another aspect of the English syllabus.The app has music that children can use to set the scene for each element, can use voice recordings and can even give students the opportunity to draw their own characters and use them in their stories. Students can also be working in groups to develop communication and team work skills and can draw on the strengths of others to produce an excellent piece of work. It is extremely easy to use and can be used in the classroom to retell a story, can be used for students to develop a story based on something they are learning in class (cross-curriculum link) or can be used with students who may need more encouragement to be engaged in class by creating a story about a topic they are particularly interested in. 

 

Using iPads to develop literacy skills

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This generation of students sees a large emphasis on technology. Many children upon entering school are already familiar with technology and skills such as using a touch screen format and problem solving by navigating between different apps. Using iPads in a Kindergarten class with low SES background helped the classroom teacher to scaffold literacy learning activities and was shown to be a powerful tool for meaning making. Students were engaged in the activity and displayed sustained interest and attention working with the ipads to retell stories. Socio-dramatic play vastly enhances language development (Jones, 2012) and should be encouraged within this age group. Similarly, technology that is developmentally appropriate should be explored by students to build their literacy skills. 

When introducing the iPad into the classroom, a lot of work had been done to build the student’s field knowledge. There was a clear purpose for using the iPad: for students to retell a story. Various strategies and scaffolding techniques were adopted to allow students to develop their visualising skills, organise the story, use of expression, intonation and extended statements as well as introducing grammatical features used to create a cohesive oral recount (Jones, 2012). Whilst using technology for developing literacy skills is important, it is also equally important that teachers have a strong understanding of how texts are created in order to allow students to build on their knowledge and skills.  

In this article, the Play School art maker app allowed students to record their efforts so that the final product can be replayed and critiqued. This was a good opportunity for students to reflect on their learning. Other teaching ideas could include a focus on speaking and listening. Students could develop a narrative and use the ipad (with the Play School art maker) to develop speaking and listening skills. Students could work on their movies with a focus on expression, intonation and extended statements to ‘build suspense/interest’ for the audience. Students to present movies to class and teacher can ask questions of the group to encourage listening and speaking skills. Students could build on their technology skills by using imovie and given more autonomy over the use of the iPads. Fortunately, there are many different ways technology can be used to develop literacy skills in children of all ages and should be appropriately planned with specific outcomes in mind.

 

 

References

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

Using the Interactive Whiteboard- The Lost Thing activity

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This activity links in well with this week’s reading by Higgins et al (2007) as the focus on this lesson is student-directed rather than teacher-directed. As asserted by Higgins et al (2007), the Interactive Whiteboard provides many opportunities for engaging activities when used appropriately. The use of the soundscape links in particularly well with this notion as this activity would not be as effective or possible if you were to use a regular whiteboard in the classroom. 

 

References

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

Effective Educational Blogs

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Classroom blogging has become an effective teaching and learning strategy that is enjoyed by students and teachers alike. Two blogs that I have read have stood out in particular. The following examples could be used to model to my own class about what makes a good blog.

The first site, Year2S, is a Sydney-based class blog. It’s tagline, 2S Scottish Highlanders- making the most of every moment, is very positive and makes me interested in what they have to say. Visually, it has a good balance between text and image. It is neatly organised and includes a variety of topics and class ‘goings-on’. It is not just a forum for topics the students are learning about. There is a post about their class pet, the swimming carnival, school excursions etc. There are many photos of the students engaged in various activities too. The students are also able to discuss what they are learning about and title topics with the use of question to engage the audience. Students also seem to have a large input into the blog and are able to comment on many aspects of the blog. I would use this for a lower primary class although an upper primary class may also be able to critically analyse the site.

http://year2rc.edublogs.org

The second blog that I found that I could show my students is from a Year 6 class. It would be an example where the students could work towards something that looks professional and highly finished. The blog Year 6RC, Life in Year 6, is very visually appealing and gives the impression that the students have worked very hard to ensure their blog is of a high standard. The students rotate the role of ‘Student Reporters’ and each person is given an opportunity to write about what they are learning in class as well as what else is happening in the school. The students have tagged key points and many have commented on particular topics that they have included on the site. There is also a good structure to the blog and a good balance between text and visual images. This could be used with a class in upper primary.

http://year6rc.edublogs.org

Digital Media and literacy learning- Class Blogging

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This week I read an interesting article about a teacher who was sharing her experience using blogs in her classroom. More than a tool to engage students, she provides many reasons for why blogs are an effective teaching and learning strategy. Pericles stressed that blogging has made a significant difference to how her class is organised, how she teaches, how the students learn and how they demonstrate their learning (2008, p.4). Such assertions are also supported by Barone and Wright who believe that teachers now need to redefine the concept of reading and writing, particularly with the advent of the Internet (2008/2009, p.292).

There were three key ideas about blogging that I felt teachers would find helpful:

1. The class blog allows for authentic learning experiences. A blog can be a forum to post assignments, class news, summarise particular topics that the students are learning and can be an opportunity for the students to demonstrate and reflect on their learning. Students are also linked to real audiences and are able to engage in a dialogue with them. When students have the opportunity to engage in authentic learning experiences, their knowledge and skills become more meaningful and effective.

2. Blogs are an effective way to encourage self-directed learning.  Depending on the explicit instructions and boundaries specified, a blog can provide an opportunity for students to take ownership over their work, demonstrate their understanding in different ways  and be able to work towards explicit quality criteria. Pericles asserts that blogging allows for discussion and negotiation with students, with a view to setting high quality guidelines for class and personal blogs (2008, p.5).

3. Blogs provide an opportunity to build a strong sense of community within the classroom. It is something that each student has the chance to participate in and can be extremely flexible when demonstrating knowledge and understanding. This provides a non-confrontational platform and can really help to bond a class together. Having a sense of a belonging is crucial for any student and a blog is an effective tool to keep in your toolkit.

References

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

Barone, D., & Wright, T. E. (2008). Literacy instruction with digital and media technologies. The Reading Teacher, 62(4), 292-302

Greenwashing – The Media Show

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This video satirically looks at the way big businesses and marketing firms can invest millions of dollars into portraying a certain kind of image to its stakeholders. Many can ‘jump on the band wagon’ of a particular sociocultural issue and use it to their advantage without it necessarily being a truthful representation of their organisation. This video for example is looking at ‘going green’ and being environmentally friendly. The characters comment that although people/companies attempt to ‘show their concern’, sometimes they are misleading the audience into thinking they are something they are not. This can be in the way that they brand themselves without any attention to truth and facts.
This video brings to light many implications for teaching kids about the internet and media content at school. The basic message is that it can be easy for children and adults alike to only see what the companies want us to see. Unfortunately, this may not always be an accurate picture and can mislead us. It is vital that when we are using the internet and when we are engaging in various media that we are able to think critically. We need to understand the author’s point of view and what their agenda is. We also need to learn how to search out reliable sources and discard those that are unreliable.