Show Me How You Did That – A Digital Storytelling Project

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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 Flickr.com.

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 Teacherfiles.com. [Clipart site].  Retrieved from http://www.teacherfiles.com/clip_words.htm
Doodlekat1 (May 28, 2010).  How to Draw a Cartoon Bumblebee. [Web video].  Retrieved from http://youtu.be/Q95mNCrHDnM

Tech4Learning (2007).  Digital Storytelling in the Classroom.  [Web article].  Retrieved from http://www.tech4learning.com/userfiles/file/pdfs/Frames/digital_storytelling/ds_classroom.pdf

University of Houston (2011).  The Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling.  [Web article].  Retrieved from http://digitalstorytelling.coe.uh.edu/index.html

U.S. Department of Education (n.d.).  Effects of Technology on Classrooms and Students.  [Web article].  Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/pubs/EdReformStudies/EdTech/effectsstudents.html

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About chanks777

I am a computer lab teacher and media specialist in Ocala. I have returned to school after 23 years of working out in the "real world." I am married with two wonderful daughters. We have two dogs and two cats. I love to read, travel, and spend time with my family.

13 responses »

  1. Hi Cindy,

    I love how enthusiastic about technology you are as a media specialist. I remember learning so much from my elementary school media specialist, so I know you have a lasting impact on your students. I completely agree with you that although technology integration can take a lot of extra effort, the benefits are definitely worthwhile. Since I have personally been more focused on and enthusiastic about integrating more technology in my own classroom, I have inspired other teachers to do the same. The excitement really does spread to others at our schools.

    I like your idea for using digital story telling for students to become the teachers. They will be learning and developing a wide variety of skills while doing this project. As a middle school teacher, I especially appreciate the level of technology instruction you are providing. I am able to help take the students to an even higher level of technology instruction because of the foundation of knowledge and practice that you are building in your students. Although PowerPoint is often considered a more outdated medium than Prezi, there are many additional features of PowerPoint that are not present in Prezi. It is therefore still a very valuable learning tool.

    I can’t wait to hear about the results of this project. Good luck!

    -Erin

    • Thanks so much! It has been great being able to use what we are currently learning immediately in our educational setting. The knowledge I’m gaining has become a very relevent thing and I can just see the faculty “getting on board” daily. I look forward to hearing more about your successes, as well!

      • I really like the idea you have of having the 5th grade students work with the kidnergardeners. The little ones really look up to the big kids, and this lesson doesn’t just teach technology. They are learning how to work with someone that is not their age, which is important so they feel comfortable with other age groups. Also, the 5th graders are modeling important behavior skills that the kidnergardeners will start to emulate, thereby forming their behavior skills for the future.

        Great job on this lesson!!

        Anthony

    • Hi Cindy,

      When I read your post that the kindergarten students are going to create their own Prezi, I feel so excited for them and also happy for them, since they can learn how to develop their skills in technology during such a young age.

      Your plan with WordPress under the document link was impressive, honestly speaking,before I open it, I was not realize that would be a plan. I was inspired by your complete and attentive design, it makes me to consider about mine too.

      Thanks for sharing your post here.

      Yun

  2. Thanks so much Anthony! We are really privileged to have a K-12 setting where it does, on many occasions, feel like “family.” And the little ones do look up to our older kids – that is so very true. I cannot wait to see the results. 🙂

  3. Cindy,
    What a fabulout idea. I love that you incorporated Fifth graders and Kindergartners together on a digital story. I teach pre-k and once a week have 4th graders come into our class to read to our little ones. I will definately keep this project in mind when we begin to develop our own digital stories. I also appreciate the list of “effects of technology on classrooms and students” from the dept. of ed. I will also use this as a reference.

    Great post!
    Katy

    • Katy,
      Thanks so much! I know that our little ones absolutely adore our older kids, so it’s a great way to get them together, as well as meet learning objectives at the same time:) Let me know how it turns out with your little guys!

      Cindy

  4. Cindy I love your assignment idea. I can remember when I was in middle school and had to write a “how to” report and when I was reading your post I thought about my project. I thought about how much fun it would have been to incorporate a digital storytelling project instead of just a report. I also like how you are going to incorporate the project for both the 5th grade and Kindergarden students, what a better way to start having the little ones seeing how technology can work and a project that they could complete. I am excited to hear how the projects turn out!!

    • Thanks so much, Meg! It is amazing how we are actually teaching the same objectives we learned in school (“how to” report), but we’re teaching it in a new and exciting way. Wow, have things changed!

  5. Hey Cindy,

    Great post! I especially love when you said “I thought this would be a tremendous opportunity to have our older students teach our younger students a skill using digital media.” I feel like you are really embodying the idea of using digital storytelling as a tool for collaborative learning or constructivist learning. This project not only seems collaborative but like it will wildly build confidence for your student learners as it is multi-dimensional and builds upon itself. Excellent idea!

    • Thanks, Tasha! We have such a unique opportunity at my school having a K-12 school situation, which lends itself to collaborating across the grade levels – like one big happy family:)

  6. I think getting kids involved in technology at an early age is critical. My own children are becoming more and more computer literate by the day! My students…well, not so much. I wonder how much of this is due to the lack of technology at home. Can teachers really do anything about that? Your situation sounds like you have a great deal of technology available. What do you do with students who either don’t have access at home or just don’t “get it” when it comes to technology.

    With the digital storytelling, what else can you use besides Prezi? I mean, there are tutorial videos out there but the time spent teaching the platforms can be costly.

    I have a question that I would like to ask…I am asking this to all of my classmates:

    How much time should content area teachers spend teaching students how to use programs like Prezi or other digital storytelling platforms? I mean, in a time when we are given more content to cover and fewer hours/days to deliver it…can we afford to spend time showing students (those who do not understand) how to use the digital platforms? Or better yet, can we afford to NOT teach them?

    • Mike, you pose some great questions! I’ll try to give you my perspective, although I am the media specialist position at our school.

      When you asked about students who don’t access to technology at home, I thought about how easy it is for us to forget that not all of our students have or can afford all the necessary tools at home. In our media center, I offer before and after school hows where students can come work during the week. Also, when I was a classroom teacher and we didn’t have a computer lab, I also talked to the students about the possibility of visiting their local public library. One of the most common excuses I get from my Florida Virtual students is that Mom was on the computer and they were unable to finish an assignment. Teaching our parents the necessity of technological tools for their child’s educational success may be one step to move our kids in the right direction.

      Since I have been in the classroom setting and understand the amount of time it takes just to meet the required learning objectives, I completely understand how hard it is to teach the technology skills needed to complete projects. At my school, we are privileged to have acquired a computer lab about 3 years ago, and all the elementary students visit the lab once a week, where I introduce to them Word, Excel, Publisher and PowerPoint, where they are required to complete fun projects using the MS Office Suite. So, by the time the enter Middle School, they have a pretty good foundation to build on. They also practice keyboarding skills. My goal here is to assist the classroom teacher and enable our students to possess the skills needed to complete classroom projects. This gives the teachers more time to concentrate on the actual content, rather then the techniques. My Middle and High school teachers also know that I am available to conduct mini-lessons as needed, when they know their students are getting ready to work on a project. My advice here is to ask your media specialist if he/she would be willing to help supplement your curriculum by taking some time to go over some of the necessary skills with your students, so that you don’t lose class time meeting your curriculum objectives.

      I appreciate your comments and questions. I wish you the best! You already have the heart and desire to integrate technology into your classroom – that’s huge in itself as I know some teachers who won’t even try. So, good luck to you, Mike!

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