Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tuesday Tech Tip: Getting Started with Digital Storytelling & Project-based Learning

As a participating district in the Colorado Digital Storytelling Project, we are starting to think about ways to include digital storytelling projects into our classrooms and curriculum.  For us, that's mostly happening at the 4th grade level as we've tied specific project ideas to our Colorado history curriculum, but we have other grade levels across the state (and in our district) who are bringing the power of student creativity and voice into the mix.

At the heart of this, though, is really a focus on how to start looking at project-based learning or PBL.  If PBL is something foreign to you, the video below from the Buck Institute for Education (BIE) is a good overview .

A good project will focus on critical thinking, collaboration, and communication, so as a teacher, it's a good idea to think about what kinds of questions you want your students to answer related to the standards you're addressing, how they will collaborate together and with you, what type of video project will best communicate ideas most effectively, and how you will pace the interim steps and assess the final product.  If you need some starter ideas, we have created some projects to help you think about how to incorporate, pace, and assess video-based projects into your classroom:  https://app.schoology.com/group/241618906/materials#/group/241618906/materials?f=6091296.  If you would like to take a look at an essential project design checklist, the Buck Institute has a good version to use as you're getting started:  http://bie.org/object/document/pbl_essential_elements_checklist.

Here are some quick tips for getting started with students on digital storytelling projects:
  1. Start with "why".  Be clear about your instructional goals.  Why are students doing this project?  Why a video?  Why is knowledge they are building and connecting important?
  2. Address the" how."  When in the planning stages for any project, you'll want to think about how you will help guide students through the different steps involved in the project.  Perhaps providing a check-list would work well, or maybe students will be accountable to each other as a team.  How will the final project be assessed?  Will students be doing a peer evaluation as well?  Give students as much guidance about what the goals are, what the process will look like, and how they will be graded.
  3. Think about the "what."
    1. The script comes first.  We'd suggest that no video projects start until after the script has been finalized as this will help students focus on the most important part:  the story.  Putting those finalized ideas into a storyboard will help students figure out what kinds of images are needed, where they may need to make shifts in their narration, and where to include other types of media.  The image below is a template that could be used for storyboarding.
      Storyboard Template in Google Drawings
    2. Provide a spot to host all student videos.  If you're using the Premium version of WeVideo, create a project first in WeVideo as the teacher and then share the link for that project with your students (these can be collaborative projects or individual projects).  That will ensure that all videos made by your students for this project are collected together and viewable by others in the class.  This also lets you view projects as they're being worked on (you can provide comments as well), and it lets you add media files into the Project Media folder for students to use if you don't want them searching for their own images.  (If you're not using the premium version of WeVideo, you won't have the same collaboration options but students could save finished products into a shared Google folder).
      Choose collaborative or individualized project types here.
    3. Have students focus on narration in the project first.  It's often tempting to start by inserting images, but it's probably a better idea to add any voiceover or narration first.  That will allow students to make sure that the script sounds the way it should (and it allows them to edit it down, if needed).  Students can then add in "markers" for themselves on where images should be placed in the video project.  It will also help them figure out what images are needed, if they haven't gathered enough.
      Tip: use markers to guide placement of images
    4. Provide a way for students to view each other's final products and give feedback.   Videos can be viewed in the project folder in editing mode, but if you want to see a more polished version, have students "publish" their videos.  In the premium version, these will remain privately published within the project itself.  However, if you want  to download them to place elsewhere, you can download the .mp4 version and host it in Schoology, either in a media album or a discussion board, which will provide a gallery for students to view and comment on each other's projects.
As we work on integrating digital literacy into our curriculum though projects like digital storytelling, we'll be providing some creative ways for kids to critically think, collaborate together, and communicate what they've learned.  We're looking forward to seeing what our students create!

    Tuesday, September 22, 2015

    Tuesday Tech Tip: 3 Ways to Use Audio Accessibility Features to Support Students

    When working in digital learning environments, technology provides quite a few ways to help students access and create content.  We had the opportunity to collaborate in the past week with specialists from our Student Achievement Services and Assistive Technology departments, and we thought it might be a good idea to post publicly about some of the accessibility options our students (and teachers) have when working with digital content.

    1.  Voice Typing in Google Docs

    This is a relatively new addition to Google Docs, and for students who could benefit from speech-to-text, it's a great option.  Only available when in Chrome (and right now, only in Google Docs), the "Voice Typing" option under the "Tools" menu lets you speak into your computer's microphone, and it will type what you speak.  While not perfect, it does a pretty good job. You can pause recording if you need to chunk material, and then you can make your edits.   

    2.  Read&Write for Google Chrome

    We've posted about this before, but this free Chrome extension does a great job with reading text to students from a web page or from within Google Docs (the paid version has more features, like predictive text).  So, in the example above, a student could record their thoughts into a Google Doc and then use Read&Write to listen to their written work.  And for us, this can be used while students are taking assessments in Schoology.  Students can highlight the text they want read aloud, and Read&Write will both highlight the sentence and the words being read to the student.

    3.  Audio Recording in Schoology

    We've posted about this before as well, but since that post, Schoology made some enhancements to their video/audio recording tool.  In the Enterprise version of Schoology, we have the ability to record either webcam video or audio directly into updates, discussion boards, assignments, and assessments. For teachers, that means you can record yourself giving directions or reading portions of text out loud for students to hear.  For students, it means that they can provide an audio or webcam response in a discussion board or an assessment.

    Any time you see a microphone icon in Schoology, you'll get this window when you click it.  You have 11 minutes of recording time with audio, 10 minutes of video recording time per recording.  

    And, even better, we can provide audio feedback directly to a student when in a Schoology assignment submission.  While you can also type a comment, giving students audio feedback can make it more meaningful for the student and give comments a more personalized feel.

    Bottom line:  for students who have accommodations as part of an IEP, these tools may not meet the needs of the student, so be sure to check with someone from the Special Education/Student Achievement Services department about your options.  However, when thinking about solutions for our students when audio can enhance learning, these are worth exploring.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2015

    Thinglink: Oh, The Things You Can Link!

    Thinglink is an impressive digital platform that allows for students and teachers to create interactive and dynamic media using "hot spots". Get ready, it's time to display creative thinking! 

    Enhance your student's learning experience by integrating meaningful sites and resources to make an even more awesome Thinglink! Smashing apps really pushes innovative thinking.

    Here are some of my favorite things to link with Thinglink: 
           The Stars = Guides on the tech tool

           Red & Microphone = Examples and possibilities


    As a teacher, you can embed your Thinglink into Schoology discussions, pages and even assessments! Using Thinglink is an engaging and interactive way of providing students with multiple sources and diverse media.
    Students can create their own thinglink and share them in a discussion. Or, they can embed their Thinglink as part of their Schoology portfolio!

    ProTip: When grabbing the embed code be sure to check the box for iframe embed.

    Another option for accessing Thinglink is by copying and pasting your URL into a QR code generator.  Thinglink works really well on mobile devices and tablets. 

    Tuesday, September 1, 2015

    Tuesday Tech Tip: Colorado Digital Storytelling Project (with WeVideo)

    September 1, 2015, marks the official launch date of the Colorado Digital Storytelling Project.  Designed to give Colorado students an opportunity to create video products that build content, literacy, and digital skills, participants across the state will be using the premium version of  WeVideo as a platform to create, collaborate, and publish their creative projects.

    Here in our district, 4th grade students will be joining the project, along with other grade levels who have opted in.  But, in addition to CCSD, classrooms and students from other locations around the state will also be involved, like students from Poudre RE-1, Roaring Fork SD, Denver Public Schools, Littleton Public Schools, Jefferson County Public Schools, Mesa Valley, Douglas County School District, Peetz Plateau School District, and Elizabeth School District.  And others are welcome to join, even past the start date.

    Sample Project Ideas for #ColoDSP
    The project is focused on letting kids tell digital stories in ways that are meaningful for them and what they are learning, and the parameters are very flexible.  Student videos can be anything that combines the art of telling stories with multimedia, like documentaries, memoirs, narratives, research projects, dramatic presentations, etc.  Expectations for teachers joining the project are:

    1. Create at least 1 shared class project (hopefully many more!) during the 2015-2016 school year that is tied to a lesson or unit being studied in class (this can collaborative or independent work).  Student videos will be created and collected as part of the teacher "project."  Project ideas that anyone can use (like seen on the right) can be found here.
    2. Share class videos within the class or school group to let students see each others' work in a non-public venue (like within the private WeVideo Gallery, in an LMS, or in Google Drive).
    3. Submit a brief reflection at the end of the school year, sharing what you learned and (more importantly) what your students learned as a result of using digital storytelling in the classroom.
    Finally, we will be inviting teachers to submit an exemplary video (or videos) to be part of the Colorado Digital Storytelling Film Festival at the end of the school year.  Some of these may even be shared at ISTE 2016 here in Denver or highlighted by WeVideo as outstanding examples of student creations.  (Submission of exemplary videos is optional.)

    Any teacher, school, or even district can join the Colorado Digital Storytelling Project by filling out the Google Form. Current cost for particpants (per user) is $1.75 for the year.  This cost covers the license for the Premium version of WeVideo (fully COPPA-compliant), which includes user management, live collaboration, green screen effects, increased storage, shared media libraries, private Gallery space, and the opportunity to take part in the film festival.  

    WeVideo has some exciting enhancements planned for management and its overall look this month, and we're looking forward to sharing more about that.  So, be looking for more information in the coming weeks, and follow the hashtag #ColoDSP on social media.  In the meantime, be thinking how your students could use digital stories in your classroom.   Even if you aren't part of the official project, we'd encourage you to check out WeVideo and explore the possibilities on your own.

    CCSD Bright Spot: 5th Graders Create YouTube Style How-To Videos Using WeVideo

    When Technology Teacher Jen Sevy from Fox Hollow Elementary kept hearing her 5th grade students explain how they learned to do things they...