Getting Graphic: Introducing Graphic Novels to the Classroom – Resources and Inspiration

2014-06-06_1037It is undeniable that we live in a new media age. In this age, literacy requires students to be able to make meaning from information in a wide variety of formats, one of the most prevalent being visual. The Australian Curriculum identifies the important role that visual literacy plays in contributing to a student’s overall literacy level, so much so that it forms one of the four major building blocks within the Literacy Capability.

Within this context, the graphic novel is perfectly poised to provide a powerful teaching tool, which enables students to develop literacy skills. As Di Laycock identifies, graphic novels can be considered the ‘holy grail’ of literature, as they are truly multimodal texts, encompassing all five semiotic systems.

All five semiotic systems combine to convey meaning in a series of panels. Thanks to Di Laycock for generously sharing her slide.

All five semiotic systems combine to convey meaning in a series of panels. Thanks to Di Laycock for generously sharing her slide. Image: McCloud, S 1994, Understanding comics: The invisible art, HarperPerennial, New York, p. 68.

 What is a graphic novel?

Graphic novels are often seen as ‘not real literature’ or as an easy way out for readers who don’t want to engage with ‘proper’ texts; however as Will Eisner points out, reading graphic novels challenges readers in ways perhaps educators haven’t considered:

“The format of the comic book presents a montage of both word and image, and the reader is thus required to exercise both visual and verbal interpretive skills. The regimens of art (e.g. perspective, symmetry, brush stroke) and the regimens of literature (e.g. grammar, plot, syntax) become superimposed upon each other. The reading of the comic book is an act of both aesthetic perception and intellectual pursuit.” Comics and Sequential Art, p.8)

You will note that in this quote, Eisner speaks about comic books as opposed to graphic novels. The difference is defined as one of serialisation; comics and graphic novels share the same format, however a comic is generally one part of a larger sequence, with a continuity plot that extends over multiple issues, whereas a graphic novel is a complete and extended narrative (Laycock, 2014).  While we are in definition mode, let’s turn to the work of Scott McCloud whose amazing work Understanding Comics, The Invisible Art gives a terrific explanation of what distinguishes this format from others such as picture books or movies.McCloud-Comic-Definition2

This definition focuses on the fact that it is the juxtaposition of images, which have been deliberately sequenced in order to make meaning, which differentiates graphic novels or comics from other multimodal formats such as picture books or movies. Watch this fascinating Ted talk where Scott McCloud explains this in more detail:

Using graphic novels in the classroom

Di Laycock’s research has led her to work with many teachers using graphic novels in the classroom. One of the things that she has noted which may make graphic novels less appealing is a possible  lack of familiarity with this type of text. Many teachers and students simply don’t have the metalanguage required to ‘talk about’ graphic novels, and indeed, many may need explicit instruction as to how to read a panelled page.

Fortunately quite a few terrific resources exist to take both teachers and students into the world of the graphic novel. Aside from the books which give an indepth foundational understandings of this form, such as Will Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist and Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, there are also books that focus more specifically on how to include graphic novels as part of the curriculum:

Click on this image & access this collection on Amazon to learn more.

Click on this image & access this collection I have compiled on Amazon to learn more. Teachers of Brisbane Catholic Education may borrow any of these titles from ResourceLink.

For those who like to use digital resources, generously shared graphics such as the one below also provide a fantastic introduction to the format:

Choosing graphic novels: for the library and the classroom

Another challenge for teachers and teacher librarians who want to introduce graphic novels to the curriculum is identifying which are quality texts. There is a growing number of graphic novels for sale, but evaluating these for use in teaching can be time-consuming and overwhelming for someone not familiar with the format.

Just as there are novels that you might choose for a trashy ‘summer’ read, and others which you might choose for their literary merit, so too are graphic novels published for many different reading purposes. Thankfully there are a number of resources online which assist in this area of selection. Selecting graphic novels for inclusion in a general borrowing collection for a school library is also different to selecting texts for inclusion in the curriculum. For teacher librarians looking for advice on how to develop a quality collection of graphic novels for students to borrow, I would direct you to Di Laycock’s excellent article from Synergy (PDF download).

Unfortunately at the present time there are few evaluation sites for graphic novels run by Australians for an Australian audience (if they do exist, please let me know in the comments section!). Nevertheless, there are some fantastic sites for teachers and TLs getting started – one of the best is Getting Graphic, by Canadian teacher Kym Francis. This website has an excellent introduction to using graphic novels in the classroom, as well as an extensive vocabulary page which is good for building up ‘metalanguage’ skills, as well as a page devoted to evaluation processes for choosing great graphic novels. Another fantastic source of up to date information is Comics in Education, which has a very comprehensive site, and which tweets a lot of good information for educators wanting to keep up to date in this area. Follow them at @teachingcomics on Twitter.

There are other good information sites also; some of the best are pinned on my Pinterest board about graphic novels.

Of course, no post on graphic novels would be complete without a few suggestions for fabulous titles to consider. Here at ResourceLink, we have been fortunate enough to be able to build up a small graphic novel collection, so I have had the pleasure of reading quite a few titles recently. The graphic novels below are now available to borrow by BCE staff!

Great graphic novels to investigate:

9780141014081

Click the image to access teachers’ notes on this title.

Maus is an incredibly powerful tale of two generations, and the impact of the Holocaust on both. Cutting between the father’s story of his survival as a Jew in Poland during World War II, and the son’s story of his difficult relationship with his father, as he tries to learn about his family history, Maus has themes of racism, guilt, masks, imprisonment and family. From the Puffin teaching notes:

The comic book is able to depict the events of the Holocaust in a less confrontational way than photographs or films, especially with the distancing element of the characters being depicted as animals. However, Spiegelman did meticulous research and based his drawings of Auschwitz on photographs and plans.

An array of teaching resources to support Maus in the classroom is available on the Melbourne High School website.
This graphic novel would be best suited to students in Year 11 and 12.

Click the image for a terrific review by The Book Chook.

Click the image for a terrific review by The Book Chook.

Another graphic novel which uses anthropomorphism is the recently published An Anzac Tale by Ruth Starke and Greg Holfeld. This title retells the Anzac Story from the perspective of Wally and Roy, two young larrikins who sign up for adventure and to earn some extra money for the family. An author’s note inside the front cover notes that the animal representations were chosen either for their indigenous associations with the country (kangaroos, wombats and koalas) or for their symbolic association with the country (e.g the British Lion, or the Bengal tiger of India). Terrific teaching notes are available from Working Title Press. This retelling would be suitable for middle primary students and above.

Click the image to access a great review from Meanjin

Click the image to access a great review from Meanjin

Blue tells the story of Christian, as he looks back on his youth  growing up in the fictional industrial town of Bolton. While some of the language is ‘colourful’, it is necessary to the authenticity of the story, which the author describes as a combination of Stand by Me and District 9. This graphic novel has themes of racism and immigration, which lends itself to classroom discussion, and the entire book can be accessed online at Pat Grant’s website, for further discussion on how the book translates into the digital medium. Best suited for students in Year 9 and above.

Click the image to go to Classical Comics website.

Click the image to go to Classical Comics website.

          For something completely different, Classical Comics provides graphic novel versions of many popular high school novels – and interestingly, they offer them in ‘original’, ‘plain’ and ‘quick’ text, so that readers of all abilities (and those who are time poor) can access the story more effectively. These are of beautiful quality, and well worth investigating. In addition, the titles have extensive teaching notes available. Staff of BCE can borrow packs of several of these titles which include all three text levels and teachers’ notes – Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth and Frankenstein. These are available in Australia through Book and Volume .

           So where do I start?

Like anything in teaching, it is the pedagogy that is the most vital part of the puzzle. Don’t include graphic novels in the curriculum simply because you can; include them because they are the best tool to use. A great deal of the Australian English Curriculum focuses on multimodal texts – either working with them or creating them – and so familiarity with this format is an awesome way to develop student’s skills in multiliteracies.

An example of how graphic novels might be used in a series of lessons for Year 8 is available here. These simple lesson plans have been developed by myself and our Education Officer – English, Kim Summers, as a way of introducing teachers to the possibilities in using this format in the classroom.

Start just by sharing a graphic novel with your students. Consider a graphic novel version of a text you might usually teach, or better still, deepen your teaching by using both traditional and graphic novel format. Investigate having students create a graphic novel (or part of one) as a writing task. Almost all literature strategies equally apply to graphic novels, but check out this list of easy to implement strategies for graphic novels for more ideas.

Teachers in Brisbane Catholic Education are welcome to borrow from our range of resources to support their investigation into graphic novels. For all other readers, check out our Pinterest Board of resources.

If you have used graphic novels in your library or classroom, share your experiences or advice in the comments below; we’d love to hear from you!

References:

Eisner, W. (2008). Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Hill, R. (Ed.). (2004). The Secret Origin of Good Readers: A Resource Book. Retrieved from http://www.night-flight.com/secretorigin/SOGR2004.pdf
Laycock, Di (2014) The Power of the Panel. Workshop presentation for English Teachers Association Queensland, 31 May 2014.
McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (Reprint edition.). New York: William Morrow Paperbacks.
Oddone, K. (2014). Graphic Novels – bring your teaching to life. Pinterest. Curated list. Retrieved June 10, 2014,
from http://www.pinterest.com/kayo287/graphic-novels-bring-your-teaching-to-life/

Understanding E-Textbooks – it’s not Elementary!

Many  schools are currently wrestling with the concept of e-textbooks. The traditional textbook provided a simple interface to support student learning; the e-textbook creates numerous complexities. However, like everything in education, we are challenged to provide whatever offers students the best learning experience.

The ability to publish books in a digital format is still so new; although we have had access to pdf versions of textbooks and texbook information available via a cd-rom for some time, the iPad, through which so many of us access e-publications was launched on the 3 April, 2010 – just 3 years ago! The Kindle became available in Australia just one year before that – on October 19, 2009.

It is easy to forget this fact, and also to overlook the fact that the physical textbook itself has gone through many iterations to become what it is today. One of the earliest textbooks is Ars minor (The Smaller Art [of Grammar]). It was written in the 4th century by Aelius Donatus, who was the teacher of Jerome who translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin. Donatus’s Ars minor was one of the first items to be printed in Europe, on Gutenberg’s printing press.  By the time education was made compulsory in the 19th century, the textbook had established its place in the classroom; it sold approximately 2 million copies in 18th century America.

So a tool that has been central to teaching and learning for over 300 years is now being challenged by a new delivery method – is it any wonder that for those of us teaching during this time of transition, we are finding that it is not all smooth sailing!

The University of Queensland Library defines etextbooks as follows:

E-textbooks are a subset of the ebook format. E-textbooks are written for students, published for use by educational institutions. They cover core course content. This contrasts with ebooks bought by the library that support research, or to supplement the learning experience. E-textbooks generally come with features not available to print equivalents: assessments, such as quizzes; lecture slides; social media channels, facilitating student interaction. Until recently, e-textbooks have been digital equivalents of printed books…there is an increasing trend for e-textbooks to be born digital, and to not be released in print. (University of Queensland Library, 2012)

Unlike physical textbooks, digital textbooks can take different forms:

  • Hybrid textbooks – print textbooks with a cd rom insert with digital support material
  • Digital textbooks – replicas of print textbooks in different file formats
  • Enhanced digital textbooks – delivered online or in ebook format, these textbooks feature interactive elements such as quizzes, video clips or social media capabilities
  • Proprietary publisher solutions – online teaching and learning environments which contain textbook information as part of the offering (Hallam, G. 2012)

Some challenges may derive from the fact that the potentials of digital delivery of learning materials go far beyond the traditional textbook format, however currently some publishers are trying to replicate the textbook model, using digital tools.

The advantages of e-textbooks seem logical:

  • 24/7 and remote access
  • enhanced mobility and reduction in physical size
  • inbuilt features such as search, dictionary
  • enhancement of learning experience via inbuilt multimedia and interactivity
  • improved accessibility for students with sight impairment

However,  teachers and teacher librarians report challenges including

  • the need for digital  infrastructure including strong WiFi networks
  • the cost of providing/maintaining devices required to deliver digital content
  • the time-consuming nature and complexity of management
  • the inability to provide textbook hire or resale of texts

At present, there are many models of digital rights management, and each publisher retains the right to determine how users may access the content, and for how long. Textbooks may be licenced to individual students via registration keys which may expire after 12, 18 or 24 months, and the ability to transfer ownership should a student no longer require a text varies in complexity, and is in some cases not possible. Schools which previously operated a book hire scheme cannot offer this cost-saving measure when using digital textbooks. Students themselves often find that they find the traditional paper textbook easier to manage, depending upon the subject material.

It is not surprising that these challenges exist, given how recently digital textbooks have become available. As technology improves, and as publishers establish more effective models of distribution, these issues will reduce. In fact, one product which seems to address some of these challenges is LearningField, which is  a new initiative from the Copyright Agency. From the Learning Field website:

The website and application provide an industry solution for the distribution of digital textbooks to secondary school students. LearningField provides a resource-rich digital platform which allows teachers to select the best material to support the differing needs of Years 7–10 students across all subject areas. Initially content is provided by publishers Cambridge University Press, Jacaranda, Oxford University Press and Pearson.

While paper textbooks will probably exist for quite some time yet, initiatives such as this show that there is scope to move beyond traditional models of content delivery, and to embrace the potential that digital technology provides. The next few years will most probably be a bumpy journey, and currently e-textbooks are anything but elementary; but one good thing about the rate of technological change is that we certainly will not be waiting for too long!

For a summary of this post and for further resources, check out this interactive image: http://www.thinglink.com/scene/447617168394158080

References:

Hallam, G. C. (2012). Briefing paper on eTextbooks and third party eLearning products and their implications for Australian university libraries. Retrieved from http://eprints.qut.edu.au/55244/

The New England Primer. (2013, October 11). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_New_England_Primer&oldid=576716878

University of Queensland Library (2012a). E-Textbook FAQs. Retrieved October 18, 2013 from http://www.library.uq.edu.au/about-us/e-textbook-faqs

Resourcing the Maker Movement – ResourceLink ventures into the Makerspace!

This title is available to BCE staff to borrow through ResourceLink, or to purchase online through Amazon.

This title is available to BCE staff to borrow through ResourceLink, or to purchase online through Amazon.

This is the first of two posts on the Maker Movement – inspired by a recent visit to Brisbane Catholic Education by two educational leaders, Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez.

Their ‘Invent to Learn ‘ day inspired the twenty or so fortunate educators who were participating in their workshop, including myself, to take up the challenge and bring hands on tinkering and making to learning.  Gary and Sylvia gave a fantastic overview of why the ‘maker movement’ is such a powerful way to bring learning to life in the classroom, before setting we teachers loose at a range of learning stations, where we could see for ourselves the enjoyment and reward of ‘making’, as well as the clear connections this hands on learning has for Maths, Science, Technology, The Arts, English and more.

Inspired by this day, we decided to plan a ‘Maker Faire’ for students at one of our schools, and how we did this and what happened will form the second ‘maker movement’ blog post. This post focuses on some of the many wonderful resources already available for teachers who wish to learn more about how to bring about this learning in their classrooms, and why it is so powerful.

The books mentioned in this blog post are all available for sale online, but are also available to borrow from the ResourceLink library for staff of Brisbane Catholic Education.

The seminal text in this area is of course Stager & Martinez’s recently published ‘Invent To Learn‘. Accompanied by a fantastic website, the book begins with ‘an insanely brief and incomplete history of making’, which brings readers up to date with the work of Jean Piaget and Seymour Papert, exploring the Reggio Emilia Approach and highlighting how hands on learning has featured in classrooms during many periods of history, but has never been as accessible as it is now:

‘Today we have the capability to give every child the tools, materials and context to achieve their potential…thanks to the personal fabrication and physical computing revolution… unencumbered by the limited imaginations of today’s education policy makers.’

Stager and Martinez provide not only theory and sound arguments for why kids learn better by making – they also provide strategies, advice and resources for teachers who want to bring making into their classrooms.

The maker movement is all about hands on – and so the first titles that were added to our library’s collection are ones that inspire exciting, innovative and ‘dangerous’ projects – just the thing for those looking for something to make or do.

Unbored is available to BCE staff for loan from ResourceLink and available for sale online.

Unbored is available to BCE staff for loan from ResourceLink and available for sale online.

Unbored is a huge resource. According to the introduction by Mark Frauenfelder, co-founder of Boing Boing,

‘it is the first kids’ book to truly encourage a hands on approach to creating a personally meaningful life –  a powerful antidote to those forces that constantly try to shape us into passive consumers of pre-made reality.’

With Chapters devoted to you, home, society and adventure there are over 350 different activities, games, challenges, story excerpts, comics and more to keep kids and adults entertained for months.

Visit unbored.net for a sample of activities and ideas from each of the book’s chapters, which are complete with exhaustive resource lists with further reading and websites.

50 Dangerous Things is available for loan to BCE staff through ResourceLink, and available to purchase online.

50 Dangerous Things is available for loan to BCE staff through ResourceLink, and available to purchase online.

Another terrific title we have added to our collection is 50 Dangerous Things (you should let your children do) by Gever Tulley and Julie Spiegler. Tulley is best known for his school, Brightworks which is a non-profit private school, currently catering for 30 students. The students learn through a hands-on pedagogical approach where students investigate their own ‘arcs’ – projects of their choosing which have three different phases: exploration, expression, and exposition.

In 50 Dangerous Things, Tulley and Spiegler give explicit instructions (with note paper provided to jot down observations, improvements and new ideas) for 50 wild and crazy things – things that some kids have never even considered trying.

These projects range from mastering the perfect somersault to constructing your own flying machine, and reflect the truly sheltered nature of some childhoods compared to those of 20 or 30 years ago. While some projects are challenging and do require adult supervision (such as changing a tyre or experimenting with fire), others, such as climbing a tree or walk home from school encourage kids to take back the childhood experiences many adults took for granted.

This is available to for BCE staff to borrow from ResourceLink or to buy online.

This is available to for BCE staff to borrow from ResourceLink or to buy online.

For indoor making adventures, we purchased Super Scratch Programming Adventure! – a colourful, graphic based book which gives students step by step instructions for creating different games using the free to download Scratch program, which will run on most basic computers and enables kids to experiment with graphical programming. Scratch was developed and is maintained by the MIT Media Lab, and is a simple tool allows kids to program their own interactive stories, games, and animations — and share these creations if they so choose with others in the Scratch online community.

This video is a great way to learn more about Scratch.

The Super Scratch Programming adventure gives kids a starting point for making different games – and once they have begun coding in Scratch, they are free to iterate, improve and develop the games in complexity and quality. It’s the hands-on ‘getting inside’ of the computer game that empowers kids to explore and take an active role rather than passively consuming pre-created games; it also gives kids a huge kick when others play or interact with one of their own creations!

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Morten Diesen: http://flickr.com/photos/mortendiesen/8091682612/

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Morten Diesen: http://flickr.com/photos/mortendiesen/8091682612/

Each of these hands on ideas books are open exciting avenues for teachers – but will your principal let you take this path?

Thankfully, ResourceLink has also added to its collection books that give you the theory and the research that shows that operating in the makerspace is a credible and worthwhile investment.

Two of these books available for loan to BCE staff (and available for sale online) are World Class Learners by Yong Zhao and Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner.

Both of these titles are available to BCE staff to loan or to purchase online.

Both of these titles are available to BCE staff to loan or to purchase online.

Zhao argues that students leaving school today will be entering positions which increasingly require creativity and entrepreneurial skills – and that current educational systems which focus on standards and high stakes testing are not necessarily the best methods for developing these:

…existing evidence suggests at least that tightly controlled standardised curriculum, a uniformly executed teaching approach, narrowly prescribed and carefully planned learning activities, and rigorously watched and frequently administered high-stakes testing do not produce creative and entrepreneurial talents, although they may lead to higher test scores. Zhao, p17.

Zhao concludes that students who have autonomy to follow their interests and passions, who are given the opportunity to produce and create and who are not limited to working solely within the limits of the classroom will have a greater chance of developing the skills and qualities required by a 21st century workforce.

In Creating Innovators, Wagner echoes these findings, identifying schools, colleges and workplaces where cultures of innovation are nurtured through collaboration, interdisciplinary problem-solving and intrinsic motivation. Below is just one of the 60 videos created to support the text. 

The maker movement is innovative, exciting and has so much potential for learners – stay tuned for our next post about how we bring it to life in one of our schools.

Making Creative Commons Easier: Greasemonkey and Flickr Creative Commons Images

Update! The script is now working again thanks to the incredibly fast work of Alan Levine – thanks so much!

PLEASE NOTE!!

Yesterday Flickr changed their entire layout, and as a result this script does not work in Flickr’s current form. Alan Levine has told me that he needs to change this script again for this to work – I’ll keep you posted on progress…this article comments on the constantly changing nature of Web2.0.

Flickr has a huge collection of images which users have uploaded and shared under Creative Commons Licences. This means that the owners of the images have licenced the images to allow others to use them, as long as they follow the conditions of the licence. If you have never heard of Creative Commons, you can learn more about it here on our Copyright Copyleft wiki.

The easiest Creative Commons Licence to work with is Attribution,  which means that the image can be replicated, republished or remixed in any way, as long as the original creator is attributed as such. The Attribution licence looks like this:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

There are thousands of gorgeous images available on Flickr under this licence, and attributing images is fairly simple; Creative Commons explains the process in detail on their website.


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by steren.giannini

Although the process is simple, in practise it requires quite a bit of flicking from one screen to another, copying and pasting information. Alan Levine, known for his CogDogBlog decided to do something about this – and created an amazing little Greasemonkey script that places all of the information you need to correctly attribute an image on the actual image page on Flickr – pretty cool, huh?

Greasemonkey is a Mozilla Firefox extension that allows users to install scripts that make changes to web page content.

Greasemonkey can be used for customizing page appearance, adding new functions to web pages (for example, embedding price comparisons within shopping sites), and numerous other purposes. In this case, we will be using a Greasemonkey script to alter the appearance of Flickr pages, so that the attribution information is available for each image.

Please note that this solution works most easily on the Firefox web browser. If you cannot use Firefox, it is possible to achieve similar results in other browsers, although the process is more complicated. For more information on this check out this PC World article.

A second caveat: if you try the process below on a school computer and it does not work, it may be that certain security settings have been established to block scripts from running. While some scripts are malicious, this script is not. Talk to your IT tech about making changes to allow this script to run. I have never run into this issue, however it may come up as each school sets up their security differently.

Below is a step by step process for installing Greasemonkey and the Flickr Creative Commons script onto your computer, for quick and easy Creative Commons attribution! Although the process seems long, you only need to do this once and it should continue to work forever. I’ve included the process as pdf to download, so that you can share it with others.

Download the PDF here

Once you’ve installed this script, each Flickr image page should have the following information available, ready for for you to either embed onto a web page, or to copy and paste wherever you use the image!

2013-05-14_0814
This is a closer look. These handy little windows of information will save you loads of time!
2013-05-14_0815

iPad uPad wePad; Going 1-1 at St Oliver Plunkett

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be invited to St Oliver Plunkett to be a part of their 1-1 iPad rollout to the very excited Year 6 class.

Oliver Plunkett logo bannerLed by their fabulous teacher librarian, Ann-Marie Furber and fearless class teacher, Brooke Maguire, with consultation from the very dedicated and talented Education Officer Learning and Teaching Technologies, Danielle Carter, the Year 6 class participated in a series of workshops in order to develop their skills before they were officially given management of their very own devices.

While the school maintains ownership, the students manage the purchasing of additional apps, and the care and maintenance of the iPads for the time they are at the school. This means the students have 24-7 access to their learning. The rollout has been a carefully managed process, with a great deal of professional development and pre-planning being done before the students had access to the devices.

The bootcamp itself was a terrific opportunity to work with a group of enthusiastic and excited Year 6 students. The workshops they participated in dealt with simple tips and tricks for managing their iPad, Email etiquette, run by Ann-Marie Furber, Teacher Librarian, Successful Searching, run by classroom teacher Brooke Maguire and Copyright and Creative Commons, run by myself, Kay Cantwell, Education Officer Digital Learning. Once the students had completed these workshops, they were officially licensed to take ‘ownership’ of their devices.

Evidence of the planning undertaken prior to this 1-1 rollout was the well established resources that had been developed in order to maximise student learning. Rather than be overwhelmed with apps, or being seduced by limited, content focused apps that had all of the bells and whistles but little quality pedagogy, lists of Core Student and Core Teacher apps were developed, as well as a list of apps suitable for Inquiry Learning.

Core Teacher AppsCore AppsInquiry Learning Apps

This, along with a ‘workflow wall’ which creates a visual list of apps the students need to access in order to complete a task, allows students to make use of their iPad as a tool, rather than as a source of low level learning or as a time filler activity and games device.

The students loved both the Bootcamp, and of course the idea of having these devices to aid their learning; some of their feedback after the sessions included:

I give today a 5 because learning all these new things about this amazing device
& that we are the class to be chosen is pretty cool.

I give today a five because we had lots of learning opportunities and it was totally AWESOME!!!!!!!!

I give today a 5 because it was fun and cool way to learn

I give today a 5/5 because it was a very good learning experience for me.
Thank you to all the teachers for making it a great day!

This is a list of what the students learnt:

Bootcamp Summary

I’m sure the 1-1 iPad rollout at St Oliver Plunkett is going to be a huge success – due to the careful planning, the focus on learning, and the fact that the iPads are not being viewed as the be-all and end-all, but just another (albeit incredibly powerful) tool for the students to utilise in their learning journey.

Postscript:

See below for the Copyright Resource that I created to help the Year 6’s begin to understand the crazy complexities of copyright, and the potential of Creative Commons. With a content creation tool such as the iPad at their fingertips, it is vital that the students know how to access resources that they have permission to use when creating multimodal works. Link to the Presentation and Booklet.

copyright_cool

6 Ways to Keep Track of Digital Information – A Resolution for 2013

Every day we face new influxes on information – in our email inbox, on our Facebook page, in our Tweetstream, in feeds for blogs that we subscribe to,  in discussion forums, and just the stuff we stumble upon while surfing the internet. As busy people, it is often at precisely the wrong time that we find that fascinating article, or when we are looking for something else that we discover a great resource for the future. Keeping track of all of this digital information is important – we all know how quickly our time is sapped away while searching online. Fortunately, there are a number of tools that are easy to use, and which we can use to manage our digital information, so that we can virtually ‘file’ and share with others the quality articles, resources and media to be easily drawn upon again, or to be read at a later, more suitable time.


cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Will Lion

This blog post therefore focuses upon what is becoming known as ‘content curation’.

Traditionally the term curator refers to someone who looked after objects in a museum exhibition. Nowadays, many of us are curators of the knowledge that we find online, using tools to shape and organise this information around themes or topics, gathering together in one place these randomly placed discoveries. However, Beth Kantor, in her excellent primer on content curation hastens to add that being a quality content curator is more than simply aggregating links – content curators, like museum curators, choose the quality pieces connected by a meaningful theme, create a context for presenting them and organise and possibly annotate or extend upon them to them in order to maximise value for others.

Why should teachers and teacher librarians develop their content curation skills?

Content curation has always occurred in schools – resources were always gathered around the topic of teaching, in order to support and extend  student understandings. The difference is that in the past, this consisted of gathering ‘hard’ content – books, posters, newspapers, kits etc (and these were usually gathered together by the teacher librarian, the leading content curator in the school). Nowadays, the teacher librarian and teachers not only have access to these resources, but also to a huge range of digital resources – many of which provide fantastic, engaging learning opportunities for today’s students. In addition, content curation is very central to education – as Beth Kantor states,

Curation is all about helping your audience dive in and make sense of a specific topic, issue, event or news story.  It is about collecting, but it is also about explaining, illustrating, bringing in different points of view and updating the view as it changes. (Kantor, 2012)

It’s a pretty pithy summary of what an educator does on a daily basis.

So what do you need to know about content curation? Here are some tools that you will find useful. You do not need to use all of them. What is evident in many articles is that content curation is often done ‘on the fly’, so use the tools that best fit in with the flow of your day. For example, if you already use Twitter quite a bit, you may prefer to use Storify. If you have multiple year levels to manage, you might find Diigo lists a useful feature. If reading blog posts and other social media in a magazine style layout suits you, you may choose Flipboard for your iPad, or Scoopit.

The best part about content curation is the ability to easily create beautiful looking and interactive resources around topics students and teachers need access to. This is particularly useful if students are researching topics where quality information is difficult to find, or to support students who spend too much time being overwhelmed by the quantity of information and not enough time actually creating their response. Curation tools help to cut through the noise, and promote direct access to quality information.

In addition, students should also work on developing their curation skills. Being able to quickly and critically evaluate a range of information sources is a vital research skill, which is of growing importance when considering the huge amount of information accessible.

So here are 6 of the best content curation tools currently available. Check them out, have a play with each of them and decide which ones best suit your information management needs.

1. Storify: Create a story around a topic being discussed on Social Media

Storify allows you to search a range of social media (with Twitter being used most commonly) to create a newspaper style document with tweets, photos or videos that can be saved to read later, or shared among others. Storify is particularly useful if you are following a particular hash tag (for example if you know of a conference going on) and you wish to record all of the tweets posted by participants, but can’t view them all as they are posted. You can nominate to save all tweets with that hash tag, then go back later to read what was said. Here is an example of a Storify which captures a professional conversation which took place on Twitter.  Take a tour of Storify.

2. Diigo – Social bookmarking and more

I have written previously on the power of Diigo for saving, organising and annotating websites, and for making them available to others. Without doubt Diigo is a powerful social bookmarking tool, and a must have in the toolkit for any contemporary teacher.

3. Flipboard – Create a personalised magazine on your iPad

Flipboard allows you to import your blog subscriptions, Twitter account, Facebook account and many other interesting web publications into a unique iPad interface which ‘flips’ like the pages of a magazine. Each page is tiled, and with a tap on the screen, enlarges so that you can read the entire article, still in the magazine style layout. Flipboard is fabulous for when you want to gather together and browse multiple web sources, and allows you to quickly flick through and find particular articles of interest.

4. Scoopit – Curating articles from social media and online sources

Scoopit is a growing curation tool that gives you a number of different ways to collect information. You can connect your social media accounts, scoop items directly from the web as you discover them or draw them from a list of suggested scoops based upon keywords which you nominate.  Without doubt this last feature is a fabulous time-saver, as many interesting articles are provided for you to scoop onto your page without having to go searching for them. You can also rescoop from other members pages. Once you have scooped articles, you can also add your own comments onto them, making this tool particularly powerful for directing students to specific parts of pages or sections of material. To get an idea of how Scoopit could work for you, have a look at Gwyneth Jones’ page, the Daring Library Ed Tech Scoopit.

5. Pearltrees – building visual mind-maps of resources

Pearltrees is a visually beautiful tool, which allows you to store your digital resources as pearls, which are connected together in a mind-map format. It’s simple click and drag interface means it is very simple to organise your pearls into trees. You can also work with others to co-curate on a topic, which is useful if a group of teachers are all working on a similar topic. Another interesting aspect of pearl trees is the ability to scroll through the pages you have ‘pearled’; this makes it easier for younger students to select the weblink that they want. You  can see this feature in the video below:

6. Pinterest – a digital pinboard

Pinterest has grown exponentially since it was launched, and very quick and easy to use.  The open nature of Pinterest means that it is possibly more suited for teachers or older students, as there is no way to limit access to just particular boards. Despite this, many teachers are finding it a very simple way to collect great classroom ideas for later inspiration. The best way to start is to find some pinners who have similar interests to you, and follow their boards. You can repin their pins, as well as add your own pins from pages you like on the internet. Add value by writing a short description so others know what the image links to. To get an idea of how Pinterest works, check out one of my boards on mobile learning.

The most important thing to remember is that these tools are meant to assist the management of the flow of information. Use them as part of your work, not as an additional task which must be done. If it isn’t quick and easy, try something different – the beauty of having so many tools is that there truly is something for everyone!

Make a resolution to choose one content curation tool to manage your information in 2013- and at the end of the year, you will be amazed by how much you have collected!


cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by ransomtech

Reference:

Kantor, B. (2012, July 13). NTEN Webinar Reflections and Resources:  The Unanticipated Benefits of Content Curation. Beth’s Blog. Retrieved January 31, 2013, from http://www.bethkanter.org/nten-curation/

A Day in the Life of a Mobile Learner

The flexibility of mobile devices is without doubt what affords them their great potential.  Whether you have a 1:1 tablet arrangement, a bank devices or a single device per class, there are many possibilities for creative use. A mobile learner takes advantage of this flexibility; they use it individually, with a buddy and in groups,  taking it to where the learning is – to the playground, to the library, on the excursion – and using it in a variety of ways – as a source of information, as a tool for recording learning, as a method of expression or a channel for collaboration. This post aims to exemplify just some of these modes of use.

The SAMR model developed by Ruben R. Puentedura encourages teachers to move beyond simply substituting the mobile device for what they might otherwise do with another tool, and

‘enables teachers to design, develop, and integrate digital learning experiences that utilize technology to transform learning experiences to lead to high levels of  achievement for students’ (Beyond Substitution, 2011).

The SAMR model

SAMR, a model designed to help educators integrate technology into teaching and learning , was developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura.

While this model is excellent in encouraging teachers to imagine creative new ways to engage students in constructing new understandings, it also provides a place for apps that simply present more traditional teaching strategies in innovative ways. The key as always is balance – and the seamless use of technology – so that it does not dominate the learning but merely enables it. Just as picking up a pencil does not disrupt the ‘flow’ of a lesson, but just enables the student to record their learning, so too should opening up an app on a mobile device not be the focus of the lesson, but just the process through which students access the information or learning opportunity.

The presentation below ‘A Day in the Life of a Mobile Learner’ seeks to present the many ways a mobile device (in this scenario, an iPad) could be used throughout a ‘typical’ day for a student in the middle years of primary school. Below the presentation is a more detailed account of the day, with suggestion as to how each of the activities fit within the SAMR model, to enhance understanding of how the model looks in action.

If you cannot view the Prezi (above) please use this link.

A day in the life of a mobile learner: the adventures of Kid A

The app images link directly to the page where you can download these apps. For other useful teaching apps, check out the ResourceLink Pinterest board for apps.

Before School:

Kid A goes to the school library, and borrows an iPad from the ‘Gadget Garage’. He then chooses ‘Fred and Ted’s Road Trip’ to download  onto the Overdrive Media Console.  When the bell rings, he returns the book on Overdrive, and then returns the iPad, before moving to class.

First up Kid A participates in Literacy Block.

Kid A participates in a number of different activities.

The first thing Kid A does is practise his morning talk with a buddy. He recorded the talk using Dragon Dictation, and then pasted the text into the the VisioPrompt app, which converts the iPad into a teleprompter. Having his talk on the teleprompter enables him to feel more comfortable when talking in front of the class, and also gives additional reading practise. This is an example of Augmentation, as the apps allow Kid A to do the same task (morning talk) but with functional improvement.

Kid A has a spelling list of words that he practises by typing into WordFoto. The act of typing the words in and searching for a picture that connects or represents the words helps Kid A remember them better. When he completes his wordfoto, he places the picture into the Dropbox app, so that his teacher can print it out later for him to take home. Having a visual stimulus assists Kid A and encourages him to spend more time practising his spelling words. This is an example of Modification – although the task of recalling spelling words is the same, the method used is significantly modified by the Wordfoto app.

Kid A now joins with three classmates and plays Futaba, using the pre-prepared list of vocabulary words and images his group compiled the previous week. Futaba is unique, as it allows four students to participate in a game using the one iPad simultaneously. This is an example of Substitution, as there have always been word games that students have played where they match words with images – the iPad in this case simply provides a different channel for delivering the game.

Next week, the students in Kid A’s class will be exploring the instructional text type of recipes. In preparation for this, Kid A works through the Cookie Doodle app, reading each stage of the recipe and noting the verbs used at the beginning of each instruction. The Cookie Doodle app is an example of Redefinition – the task is redefined through the use of this app, as it allows a level of interactivity with the recipe that would only otherwise be possible through actually cooking.

After morning tea, Kid A starts his maths rotations.

During this time, he works individually and in groups, completing number skill activities and also more open ended problem solving tasks.

First, Kid A practises his ‘add to 10’ skills, playing the game Mathris, a number facts game based on Tetris. (Substitution).

Working with a partner, Kid A then uses ScreenChomp to develop an explanation of how to multiply by two digit numbers. This whiteboard app records the verbal explanation and the writing on the screen and converts it to a video, which Kid A emails to his teacher. The video forms an excellent piece of evidence for the teacher in assessing Kid A’s understanding of multiplication. It also allows the teacher to pinpoint if and where there are any difficulties (i.e. if Kid A needs more practise with basic maths facts, or in remembering the strategy for multiplying double digits etc). Previously this opportunity to watch and listen as a child explains the process of completing an equation was limited, as teachers did not have the time to sit one on one with every child – therefore this is an example of Modification – the app provides data gathering in a way that was previously extremely difficult.

To wind up their maths rotations, Kid A leads a whole class game invented by the teacher,  using the speaking calculator app. Another example of Augmentation, as the presence of the app allows for a functional improvement on previous games using calculators, by the presence of the ‘speaking’ feature.

Time for the class to begin working on their integrated unit, which is one on sustainability.

The class is exploring ways that they can change their school environment so that it better reflects principles of sustainability.

They begin with a simple ‘substitution’ exercise – working in small groups to complete a KWL graphic organiser on the iPad, using the Tools  4 Students app. This is emailed to the teacher for later use in a whole class activity.

Next, Kid A buddies up with a friend, and walks around the school, using the iPad to take photos of parts of the playground where they think environmental practices could be implemented. They return to the classroom, and use the Skitch app to annotate their photos, explaining why they took the photo and what change they believe is needed. This combination of activities is an example of Modification – although it could previously have been completed using a digital camera and pen and paper, the use of the iPad camera and Skitch app have made the learning far more about the process rather than the tools.

Finally, the class adds the finishing touches to a display for their upcoming parent morning. This display is two-fold. Firstly, the students wrote poems about the school environment, and published them as posters for the classroom walls. They then recited these poems to the class, while a classmate recorded their presentation using the video recorder on the iPad. Today, the students use the Aurasma Lite app to attach the video to the posters, so that parents can view through the Aurasma app and see their recitations. This is an example of Augmented Reality, and is definitely a task that falls into the Redefinition category of the SAMR model, as it was not in any way possible prior to the use of augmented reality apps in the classroom.

Further information on Augmented Reality and augmented reality apps will be featured in an upcoming blog post, so if this activity has intrigued you, stay tuned!

The afternoon session brings Health and Physical Education and Art.

The HPE and Art activities are simple examples of how basic substitution apps such as PE Games and FacesiMake can be used in creative ways that encourage higher order thinking and collaboration skills.

The PE Games app is essentially a HPE Games book that is accessible on the iPad. The flexibility comes from being able to add your own games to the ones already included. Students can be encouraged to work collaboratively by providing them with access to the app and the required resources (e.g. balls, hoops, beanbags), and asking them to work together to understand and play a game that is randomly chosen by shaking the iPad/iPod touch gently.

The FacesiMake app allows students to exercise creativity in designing a face using innumerable number of items, including pieces of fruit, household implements, stationary items…the options are endless. Suggesting that students use this app to create a new character for a story that they are to write, or to imitate a famous work of art adds another layer to what is essentially a very fun and non-messy way of creating unique images of faces.

Kid A’s day is over too soon! He has never been as engaged, and during the  day, he has worked independently, in partnership with his buddy and in small groups, as well as in whole class settings. He can’t wait to see what apps he might use tomorrow…but that is a blog post for another day!

References:

Beyond Substitution: The SAMR Model. (n.d.).2011 Summer Tech Institute. Retrieved August 1, 2012, from http://msad75summertechnologyinstitute.wordpress.com/beyond-substitution/
Please note: The Prezi in this post was embedded using the very helpful tips found at https://boisebarbara.clarify-it.com/d/62kpct