Monthly Archives: October 2012

Show Me How You Did That – A Digital Storytelling Project


Storytelling is an ancient art form that has been passed down from generation to generation. What makes a good story is its ability to draw in the audience while meeting specific objectives.   A story becomes effective when the storyteller can stimulate all the senses of the listener while benefiting the various learning styles.  In today’s age of technology,  “Digital storytelling is the practice of using computer-based tools to tell stories.”  (Univ. of Houston, 2011).  It “brings the art of telling stories to life using technology.”  (Tech4Learning, 2007).

Photo taken by Miss Belardi on October 14, 2007. Retrieved from

I would like to refer back to the topic of my very first blog posting, where I was assigned the task of discussing whether we, as educators were doing what was best for our kids or what was most convenient for us.  Yes, taking the time to allow our kids to create digital storytelling projects takes effort, but after personally involving myself in the integration of technology a little bit at a time at my school, I am already seeing the excitement from some of my teachers, as well as the creativity from our freshmen class.  So, is it all worth it?  ABSOLUTELY!

We are a K-12 school where we have installed Mimio boards and two PC’s in each classroom.  We also have a fully-equipped computer lab with 28 centrally-contained desktop computers.  In my position as our school’s media specialist, I feel a great obligation to absorb and learn as much as I can about integrating technology into the classroom.  I feel that I have a tremendous responsibility to share what I have learned with my fellow teachers, as well as with our 280 students.  I am happy to report that our 9th grade class is currently working on a Geography project using PowerPoint or Prezi.  They are discovering Creative Commons photos online and citing their sources like it’s second nature.  The kids are already coming up to me telling me how much fun they’re having learning new ways of doing class projects.  I even have one student taking a Florida Virtual Geometry class who actually submitted a Prezi to her teacher for one of her assignments.  The following is a list of “effects of technology on classrooms and students” and I am seeing these effects play out in front of me on a daily basis (Dept. of Education, n.d.):

  • Change in student and teacher roles
  • Increased motivation and self-esteem
  • Technical skills
  • Accomplishment of more complex tasks
  • More collaboration with peers
  • Increased use of outside resources
  • Improved design skills/attention to audience

So, what is my plan for digital storytelling in my classroom?  Even though I am the media specialist, I still consider myself a “classroom” teacher, as I am not only involved with being a resource for our teachers, but I teach specific computer skills to our elementary students.  So, with this in mind, I decided that I would combine my classroom objective of teaching how to create a presentation using PowerPoint with a collaborative project involving two of our elementary classrooms.

The project I came up with is called “How Do I Do That?”  Every year our 5th grade class teams up with our Kindergarten class and are assigned individual reading buddies who meet once a week to read together.  I thought this would be a tremendous opportunity to have our older students teach our younger students a skill using digital media.  So, I have created a pre-planning document that the 5th graders will use to interview our Kindergarteners in order to find out a skill or talent that they want to learn, (for example:  tying their shoes, playing a game, making a craft…the list is endless).

Then, the 5th grade class will get together and decide the top 5 skills that they want to teach.  We will use computer lab time to work in 5 groups of 4 where the 5th graders will create a “How To” presentation using PowerPoint to demonstrate the steps in how to accomplish the skill.  Prior to the students actually working on their presentations, I will show them examples of “How to” videos, well-done PowerPoint presentations, and my own Prezi, in order to help them visualize the elements of their project. I will also teach them that within the PowerPoint, they will use sequencing steps, text, audio, photos and video effects to enhance their presentation.  Here is just one video example that I will show the class on how to teach someone a skill.  The video that they create in their group can then be uploaded into their PowerPoint presentation:

Once all 5 PowerPoint presentations are complete, which include personally made videos, YouTube videos, photo uploads, and audio, we will, as a whole class, then create a Prezi (with uploaded PowerPoint presentations) showing the 5 new skills that Kindergarteners will learn.  Then during a subsequent computer lab class, 5th grade will present their Prezi to their Kindergarten peers.
The students are all very excited about this project and I look forward to seeing great collaboration within and across grade levels, fantastic creativity from some amazing students, higher level thinking and 5 new skills successfully learned.  The sky is the limit!
Clipart (1999).  Welcome to [Clipart site].  Retrieved from
Doodlekat1 (May 28, 2010).  How to Draw a Cartoon Bumblebee. [Web video].  Retrieved from

Tech4Learning (2007).  Digital Storytelling in the Classroom.  [Web article].  Retrieved from

University of Houston (2011).  The Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling.  [Web article].  Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Education (n.d.).  Effects of Technology on Classrooms and Students.  [Web article].  Retrieved from


When should keyboarding begin?


Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, there were machines called electric typewriters, where I learned how to type – or shall I say – keyboard!

Posted by MP Clemens, Retrieved from via Creative Commons, July 18, 2009

Although each of my subject-area classes taught me something about my world, typing class taught me the most useful and practical skill.  Little did I know that this skill would become so relevant as I use it every single day.  Years ago, typing skills were needed in only certain job assignments, but with the rampant use of computers in the 21st Century, one of my goals is to pass on this now necessary skill to my students.  But why teach the skill?

It’s all about what we allow to become a habit.  The sooner we teach our kids how to type – and type properly – the better they will be in the long run.  As soon as children have developed the right finger span and motor coordination, they are ready to learn to keyboard properly using home row.  “It is an essential 21st century skill and helping them master it early, not only provides a fun and useful activity for children to work on, but it will also help them share thoughts and ideas while saving a tremendous amount of time.” (Nielsen, 2011).  When a student possesses the proper keyboarding technique, projects will be completed faster and less time will be spent looking at the keyboard.  So, why isn’t the “hunt-and-peck” method good enough?

Posted by Andrew Malone, Retrieved from via Creative Commons, Sept. 12, 2009

Hunt-and-peck methods are inefficient and students will tend to take a longer time on the computer. (Rogers, et al, 2003).  If we do not provide our students with a typing tutor type of program, they “will automatically resort to the ‘Columbus Method’ of typing, where they search the keyboard for a particular letter, then press it with their forefinger.” (Andreas, 2007).   Keyboarding is a skill, much like music, that with ongoing and consistent practice, it will become a habit.  “The ability to type well is an asset and will enable the child to do research faster and finish term papers faster and more efficiently.  By requiring a child to learn to type the correct way, you are giving him a stepping stone to the future.” (Andreas, 2007).

In my computer lab classes, I introduce keyboarding to my students as young as Kindergarten, starting with letter recognition and key location.  As they begin recognizing keys by sight, I gradually introduce them to the concept of home row, normally this occurs by the time they reach 2nd grade.  From there, I am able to give them opportunities to practice accuracy and eventually add in the element of speed.  Of course, it’s a fun process for the students and they certainly have their favorite typing games!  (Please see below for some fun sites).  Last year, by year’s end, one of my 4th  grade students was typing 23 words per minute with 98% accuracy.

According to the International Society for Technology in Eduation, NETS-S standard number 6, Technology Operations and Concepts states that “Students are to demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations.  (ISTE, 2012).  I believe that learning to keyboard properly is an essential part of this standard, and will enable students to operate technology systems much more efficiently.

In 2003, a research study was completed on keyboarding in elementary schools, and it made the following conclusions (Rogers, et al, 2003):

  • More schools are including keyboarding instruction in the curriculum and at earlier grades, starting with Kindergarten.
  • Third grade is the defining year to introduce the touch method of keyboarding.
  • Classroom teachers are the main typing instructors, along with media specialists.
  • Keyboarding software is used more often than a keyboarding textbook.
  • Average teaching time is 30 minutes a week for 36 weeks.
  • Reinforcement and continued practice at every grade level is important.
  • A dramatic increase in language arts skills because of word and sentence input was noted.

Of course, we, as teachers must stay sensitive to our students with special needs when it comes to learning how to type.  There are a number of alternatives and assistive technologies that we can use with students who need it.  (Shelly, Gunter, Gunter, 2012)

Do not fret if you are the “hunt and peck” typist…it’s not your fault.  Typing was an elective when some of us were in high school.  But, I really believe that it is never too late to learn.  So, while your students are learning to touch type, why don’t you join them?  It might be fun!

Free online typing resources:

Nimblefingers Typing

Dance Mat Typing

Typing Tutor

Keyboarding Games

Andreas, N. (Aug., 2007).  Why Kids Should Learn to Type Properly. [Internet article].  Retrieved from

International Society for Technology in Education. (2012).  NETS-S Standard 6, Technology Operations and Concepts. [Web source].  Retrieved from

Moore, Kathy. (Nov., 2010).  How to Start Kids Typing on Keyboards. [Web video].  Retrieved from

Nielsen, L. (Feb., 2011). When and How Should Kids Learn to Type? [Web Log]. Retrieved from

Rogers, H., Laehn, J., Lang, A., O’Leary, D., Sommers, M. (July, 2003).  The Status of Elementary Keyboarding – A Longitudinal Study. [Research study]. Retrieved from

Shelly, G., Gunter, G., Gunter, R. (2012).  Assistive Technologies Corner.  In McMahon, K. (Ed.)  Teachers Discovering Computers:  Integrating Technology in a Connected World, 7th ed. (p. 197).  Boston, MA:  Course Technology, Cengage Learning.