Tag Archives: Photography

Digital Stories Revisited

In 7 essential skills that aren’t taught in school, there is an Andy Warholesque 15 minutes of fame kind of quote:

“Your goal is not immortality,

but a momentary piercing

of the ever-shifting zeitgeist.”

I would argue that one of these of these essential skills is being able to tell a story and spread your message not only digitally, but in a way as to engage and influence people.  

Pixabay attribution free image +google drawings

Pixabay attribution free image +google drawings

Last year, I began to explore this idea with my small group of Early Years students with a vengeance.

With only 7 children, and a relatively open curriculum, I had the luxury of working individually with each of them (or in small groups) on different digital storytelling projects throughout the year.  Using Book Creator, we began by creating class ebooks based on books read in class.

*Note: I am a huge Book Creator fan.  I have been introducing it to all the first grade students (and their teachers) this past week using this short presentation. Feel free to make a copy/download.

One of these ebooks was our own version of Todd Parr’s, “It’s Okay to be Different.”  Students thought long and hard about what made them different from other students in the class.  One said, “It’s okay to speak Spanish.” Another declared, “It’s okay to call your dad  Mausi.”

IT”S OKAY TO BE DIFFERENT:

Once downloaded as an epub to our ibooks library, and shared to our class blog, the students could view the digital book at any time, just as they might a real book.  They could then view and revisit the ebooks they had created on the ipads, on the desktop and projected onto the wall.

When revisiting their digital stories, I noticed that different digital viewing formats offered different possibilities and extensions of the learning experience. 

Projecting an ebook onto the wall initiated a re-arrangement of chairs for ideal viewing (theatre style.) This sudden re-arrangement of the room provided a provocation for different feelings and connections. The children suddenly felt the seating reflected a train journey, leading to a mini inquiry into riding trains.

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The viewing experience of projecting eBooks onto the wall prompted a completely new inquiry: riding trains!

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Students became focussed on creating their own tickets–those with little interest in print now had an authentic reason to practice their SBB’s. (Swiss Rail System.)

We projected clips of moving trains onto the wall and the children rehearsed packing bags , catching trains, and punching tickets…eventually making their own tickets, using the local Swiss SBB logo as our guide.

Of course this spin off was unrelated to our ebook…but the process of revisiting our work and the way in which we viewed the book prompted an entirely new and unexpected learning inquiry.

We also re-visited our Books as epubs in the iBooks library. (Books created on different iPads were eventually Airdropped onto all other iPads so the students could access all books on any iPad, acting as a traveling library.) The portability of the iPads allowed us to bring them to our Buddy classes.  We shared the stories with a wide range of ages—all of them impressed by our school’s littlest learners.  It also prompted discussion: “Wow, how did you do that?” and provided an opportunity for the students to develop their oral skills.  Other class teachers—viewing over the students’ shoulders, learned something, too and were motivated to create their own ebooks.

We also uploaded all creations to our class blog so they could be shared at home with family members, or at school assemblies.  All comments made by others were revisited in class, helping to build the confidence and perseverance to make more ebooks.

Finally, viewing the ebooks on the desktop helped build other skills—the understanding that different devices provide different views of the same thing, but perhaps more importantly– the patience and fine motor skills required for small hands to maneuver and click with an aging mouse!

With each new ebook we tried to blend a different app or or learn a new process.  

With our next ebook, we focussed on another element of our “All about me Unit”–our favourite things. The children explored the instant alpha tool in a separate photo editing app, Juxtaposer.  We developed our fine motor skills and attention to detail further as students carefully traced around a photo of their bodies to erase the background, before adding it to their favourite page in the book about favourite things. 

ALL ABOUT ME:

Next, we blended video, pictures and sound and tried out the (then new) comic book feature in Book Creator when we made a Quiet and Loud book.  The students needed to think of two juxtaposing ideas for the book–(doors are quiet, but slamming doors are loud…very challenging for 4 year olds–they needed help with this. )  Now familiar with the book making process, the students slowly began taking more ownership of the design elements of making a book—selecting the colours of their page, their font and basic layout:

QUIET AND LOUD:

It was around Thanksgiving when my fabulous Ed Tech Coach, Jocelyn Sutherland brought us an iPad stand.  We immediately jumped into playing around with Stop Motion.  She initially tried a simple claymation technique using playdough…

…which we eventually modified to create the word ‘Happy’ as the “intro” to our class Thanksgiving ebook.  The students developed many literacy and digital skills while making the “title page” alone–

  • letter recognition/formation–we created the letters we used to make the stop motion video in Letter School and learned to take a screen shot
  • importing screen shots into Pic Collage for easy printing
  • more letter formation using playdough
  • intro to spelling–that the letters that make up Thanksgiving must go in certain order
Early Years students learning Stop Motion movie making techniques from 5th Grade Buddies. Photo, my own

Early Years students learning Stop Motion movie making techniques from 5th Grade Buddies. Photo, my own

Interested students learned the process of making stop motion videos using Stop Motion Studio App with the help of our fifth grade buddies.  I documented the entire process in our class blog here.

This began our lengthy exploration into stop motion as a digital story telling tool and prompted the evolution of moving from ebooks to pure movie making magic.  I plan to continue to document and reflect on the learning process in future posts.

Tuned In, but Tapped Out

Definitely having trouble with this last post.  Not because I haven’t been reflecting and giving a ton of thought, time and electronic back and forth with my Course 2 Final Project Collaborators…but because of it.  I’m all tapped out.

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Tapped out. Image from Pixabay (Attribution Free)

This course I have not spent as much time keeping up with the weekly readings and ensuring I make lots of comments on fellow Coetailers blogs as I promised I would (Networking is High Maintenance, and you get out what you put in…So, I am going to  step up my game in the karmic commenting department myself.” ).  One of the main reasons for this lack of commenting is simply because all the collaborating that I also promised I would do is so time consuming!

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First unsuccessful attempt

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Second attempt (mixed results…)

There's a bite!

There’s a bite!

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Collaboration? Helping a colleague on another campus and learning something in the process? Check!

 

Some attempts this year at collaboration have panned out well: fellow Coetailers are highly motivated to collaborate as part of this final project, but they also accept and embrace the collaborative mindset.  (I notice my fellow collaborator Amber Dryer already uses Skype in her classroom as a tool to connect to and learn from the outside world. Both Amber and another collaborator, Linda Grunwald regularly tweet about current events coming out of their classrooms.) Coming up with a truly successful collaborative project, where all parties see the true purpose, are equal contributors, and feel the collaboration “supports and complements” what is happening in each classroom, is more challenging.  

 

Amber has involved her tech coach, Andrew Chiu in our process, who kindly offered to set up our shared blog, Little Idea Swap.  Lengthy email discussions about purpose and logistics of students groupings began in earnest.  Andrew, keen to involve others, invited more schools to our idea swap.  

 

So far, the idea swap has consisted of Amber’s and my students making brief video introductions and sharing what we like to play at recess.  When I shared Amber’s anecdote that children in Hong Kong play on the rooftops (due to limited space in the city for playgrounds), my 4 & 5 year old students couldn’t move past the (to them) dangerousness of this situation.  See their funny video response here.

"Playing on the roof is dangerous, you know." -Gabi, 4 years old

“Playing on the roof is dangerous, you know.”
-Gabi, 4 years old (Attribution free) Image from Pixabay

As our project is in its infancy and we have yet to hear from some of the schools, it is difficult to judge its success or effectiveness. I myself am a bit hesitant at so many schools being involved, and even keeping track of the two that we will ultimately communicate with can be daunting…especially when I want to ensure it is much of a relevant learning opportunity for them as it has been for me!

 

Certain things that one takes for granted when working with older students, one has to stop, consider and do a lot front loading with younger ones.  Telling my students we have friends in China really means nothing to them–hanging a map and putting pins where our collaborators live (de)evolves into a huge side tangent inquiry into where we all live/are from (because of course each of my 7 students come from somewhere different, and they haven’t seen where they come from in relation to each other represented on a map before.)  

Learning about maps...Pixabay (Attribution) Free Library

Learning about maps…Pixabay (Attribution) Free Library

This of course gets into a discussion about the symbolic representation of land, space and distance on the map in the first place.  As adults we are used to this abstract representation of political boundaries, but to a 4 year old it really doesn’t do justice to just how far away our buddies in China actually are, or what a miracle it is in the first place that we are communicating with them so easily.  

 

Other attempts at collaboration with colleagues from my school (different campus) have not fared so well.  The few posts on our Collaborative Padlet that children from our other campus posted didn’t happen until I physically went there (on a job shadowing morning with our current tech coach) and worked directly with the children…Disheartening, but I have recently had interest from another teacher in China (see tweet above) who will join us, and we will begin our “Look Closer” photography collaboration next week.  

 

This kindness from strangers reminded me of the many words of advice I received from Learning2 Colleagues for my role next year:

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Thanks Learning2 community!

These challenges don’t dissuade me at all, but make me realise that ensuring a global/local collaboration is meaningful and purposeful (in the way we intend) for everyone is no easy feat. So far my students and I have learned tons–just not (yet) what I had assumed we would.  But, I have been looking at “failure” in a new way…as an opportunity to find growth…to identify ways to see failure as a learning opportunity…and to create and tell myself new stories about my own learning.  

Here is the final project for Course 2:

Photography Collaboration: From Deciding to Acting, Course 1 Final Project

Last week I was busy thinking about, deciding on and planning a meaningful collaborative project with my young Early Years students and another class at my school.  Now, my “school” is actually 3 separate campuses somewhat spread about in Central Switzerland: 1 small Elementary School in canton Luzern (mine) a larger Elementary/Middle School and a High School, both in canton Zug.

As I mentioned last week, our small campus is closing at the end of this year, due to declining enrolment, and most of students will next year attend our much larger campus in Zug.  We have been encouraged to begin the process of a meaningful transition for our students, which include in person/on site meet ups–a recent field trip went really well– but I am hoping to continue these “meet-ups” online through a joint photography project.

We were actually initially inspired to look into photography a little more deeply by a fellow Coetailer’s (and ISZL’s own amazing High School English teacher, Tricia Friedman) invitation to collaborate:

https://www.coetail.com/triciafriedman/2016/02/28/lets-give-them-something-to-blog-about/

Screen shot from Tricia’s Padlet

So far this year my young students have taken hundreds of not so great, slightly out of focus, thumbs in the way of pictures of the floor using the ipad.   I am hoping through this project our understanding of what makes a picture good, interesting and meaningful will improve, but also that contributing to this “movement” is a great way to improve the feeling of community and connection across our campuses, which otherwise share little more than a name, despite its promise:

3 Campuses, 1 International Experience

The more I have thought about the nature of my planned collaborations across campuses, I realise they are really 2 separate learning collaborations…the first one being a response to a specific blog prompt set by Tricia on her Blog Prompt Padlet.  I had to choose a prompt appropriate for 4 & 5 year olds, (not so easy), so a prompt involving the obviously highly visual medium of photography jumped out at me.

World Photography Organisation,

World Photography Organisation, Shortlist contender

Now, this World Photography Organisation contest may well be over by the time we actually get around to making our choices, but it is of little matter.  The website itself is sweeping and the amount of different categories is a bit overwhelming, and I knew clicking around and waiting for web pages to load while my wriggly 4 year olds squirmed was not going to cut it, so I chose some relevant photo categories (Nature and Wildlife, Panorama, Smile and People) and pre-selected a few photos in each category that I thought would particularly resonate with the kids (photos of children, animals and landscapes similar to those of our own beautifully situated campus).

While choosing a favourite to win the contest and defending their choices using some newly learned insights into photography and story telling is part of the goal of this project, it is really only the jumping off point.  I am actually interested in how members of the High School English class (and anyone else who responds to the blogging prompts) respond to our posts about photography. And more so, I would like this exploration to inspire my students to become better picture takers and therefore better story tellers, using the medium of photography.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

This brings me to the second part of my collaborative project.  Our beloved campus closing, while a sad event, is also an opportunity to make sure our story is told, and our small voices heard.   Part 2 of my planned collaborative Photography Exploration will be to challenge my students (and EY at Zug campus) to capture the essence of our campuses–taking pictures of favourite locations, moments, people and friends (similar categories to those I chose from the wpo) and to share them with one another. Here at Luzern, we are blessed to be located right on lake, surrounded by mountains, fields fountains, and forest. Our building’s name is Villa Kämerstein, the Early Years building is in a quaint Swiss chalet.  There has got to be some photographic gems in there somewhere.

taking pics

Yep…this is typical EY, upside down and finger prints on the lens

The idea to involve the Zug campus actually stemmed from an earlier email conversation between myself and one of the EY teachers there, we were studying different constructions, in particular bridges, and she had the idea of somehow creating a project to “bridge” our two campuses; sharing the story of our two campuses to help with the transition our students will make next year.  I loved the idea, but at the time was unsure to how to proceed.

Now that I feel more confident in how this could play out, (sharing the picture or “story of our 2 campuses” on a Collaborative Photography Padlet) I am left waiting for a response from the other campus.  Despite a well thought out email to 6 teachers & 4 assistants, only one has expressed interest in joining the project.  Our Tech Coach warned me I might face reluctance…not necessarily due to lack of interest…but a lack of time, understanding, etc. Some told me they hadn’t even read the mail.  Deep sigh.  My biggest challenge will not be improving the photographic or reflection skills of my students, as evidenced by some results from our second day of picture taking;

trees

Our tree lined driveway, cropped and filter added by Emiliana, 4.

mountain

View of the lake and mountains, photo untouched by Johnathan, 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It will be ensuring the collaboration aspect of my Collaborative Picture Taking Project actually takes place.