Beginning the trek up StoryTeller Mountain

Photo credit: The Storyteller
Photo credit: Sparkle Box

Today we started our climb up the monumental Storyteller Mountain. The children had been equipped with ipads, copies of the ‘legends of the lake’ myth books and organized into groups of four to better help each other with the initial climb. The base of the mountain was relatively easy to traverse as the groups began to experiment and investigate with different storyTelling methods.

The groups generally took quite a long time to work their way through the first three pages of the ‘Enchanted Lake’ myth with some groups needing to be reminded about group collaboration, changing camera angles and suitable voice/character expression; however, I am glad to say that all of the groups successfully made it to the base camp at iMovie editing point.

After a suitably good night’s sleep we continued our journey up the iMovie editing point of the mountain. A few of the trekkers were very experienced with the ipad App ‘iMovie’ and were asked to help those trekkers who had little experience with the application. Initial problems were generally resolved within the groups themselves (however, these issues sometimes required us to discuss them as a whole class). I have included some of the issues encountered on the hike from the base camp at iMovie editing point:

  1. Speaker volume issues – the person speaking was often too quiet so the volume of the audio section of the movie needed to be increased.
  2. Arranging the videos in the correct order was difficult to begin with. The groups eventually realised that they could move the different videos within the iMovie timeline by keeping their finger pressed down on the chosen section of video and sliding it to another position on the timeline.

Overall, the first part of the mountain climb had gone well but I could already see that things were going to get much trickier as we moved closer to the peak.

Video One

First video completed by one of the groups. The filming and editing was completed by the group but the titles and music were added by me.

We began the third part of the climb today with the students split into pairs. This time they were asked to retell the whole story of ‘The Enchanted lake’ as opposed to just the first three pages. It was clear from a very early stage that this was going to be a long climb for many of the students.

The filming was much easier but it also became apparent that the climbers were definitely going to suffer from angle sickness – by this, I mean that the students were only really changing between one or two different camera shots. This undoubtedly made the storyTelling videos less engaging and appealing to the audience.

Another issue which seemed to hinder the students was background noise. This was to be expected with so many groups working in such a small, confined area. We tried to spread the groups out as much as we could but it was difficult to stop the background noise from affecting the final edits.

As the evening wore on it was clear that most of the groups had made it to the second base camp at iMovie editing ridge. After we had gathered round the campfire, we talked about some of the features the pairs might want to include when they were editing their movies. Here were a few of the features we discussed:

  1. Including some sound effects and titles – a limited introduction to this topic so it won’t become the focus of their videos.
  2. Reviewing cropping, splitting and duplicating individual video sections.
  3. Choosing and managing the transitions in an appropriate way.
  4. Possible reshooting of sections which weren’t up to standard.

Video two

This video was filmed, edited and produced entirely by the two boys featured in the video. The video was then exported and uploaded to my YouTube channel.

What next?

Well the next parts of the climb should prove to be the easiest; however, they may also prove to be the most difficult for those children who struggle with role-play, drama and the application iMovie. This is the part where the children will be doing everything independently (with the exception of the videoing part – which will be done by another member of the class). My major concerns with this section of the climb are based on three factors which the children have already struggled with.

  • Using varied camera angles to bring the story to life and engage the reader. I am thinking it would probably be better to have the children change their camera angle for every sentence of their chosen paragraph.
  • Making sure they remember their lines and look directly at the ipad’s camera lense. I am hoping they will make the decision to re-shoot any scene they feel isn’t good enough for their final cut.
  • Ensuring their voices are loud enough and interesting enough to engage the reader. This factor should be less of an issue as they know they can edit the recording’s sound to ensure the volume level is not too quiet or too loud.

In order to help the students with the final trek to the summit, I have created my own storyTelling video based on one of the children’s introductory paragraphs. The students will be able to access this iMovie any time they need to as I will send a link to their email accounts. I will also include another link to our class blog where the students can find their previous storyTelling imovie (if they don’t have a video then they can always check other student’s videos for ideas and improvements).

I hope that these tweaks and adjustments will provide the students with enough impetus to take them all the way to the summit. I have included a few extras which I hope the students might want to include in their final videos i.e. an opening title scene with sound track, images in between each video to give the storyTelling more purpose and credits to thank those involved in the movie making process.

To end with I include two quotes from mountaineering legend Edmund Hillary which I feel accurately capture the feeling of our journey to the summit of StoryTelling Mountain.

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves

People do not decide to become extraordinary.They decide to accomplish extraordinary things

Failure!

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Photo credit: Heinzmarketing
Since I first started the Coetail course, all the way back in February, I think it fair to say that I have been heavily influenced and affected by the different ideas and philosophies that I have been exposed to. As both an educator and parent, my personal outlook on teaching and learning has undoubtedly changed. I look back at the way I used to be and wonder how I could have been so blind to so many of the ideas that I have had over the last eleven months. There is no doubt in my mind that this state of change has come about thanks to three game-changers:

  1. The growth and development of my understanding when it comes to all things technological. This would also include my own understanding of how I can better plan and use technology to further develop the learning in my classroom. This has largely been achieved through my participation of this course.
  2. The second is through the growing number of discussions that I have had with colleagues at my school. These are people who also feel the same urge that I have to push/improve the integration of technology within our school’s learning environment.
  3. The Third area has been the school’s willingness to heavily upgrade the digital infrastructure of the school. This has included a large investment in the number laptops and tablets as well as a significant improvement in the WiFi and broadband connections.

As a result of these significant changes (some might say monumental changes) my personal feelings and attitude has gradually been transformed – I feel more confident in my own abilities: I feel angry and frustrated with myself and others for not realising my potential: I feel more able to enthuse and motivate the students I teach in a less restrictive way: I feel worried and nervous about the future – I am afraid that these feelings will be lost when I finish this course.

These are but a few of the many feelings I have about ‘Technology Integration’ within teaching and learning.

However…

I wanted to include these mainly positive feelings because this week was a bad week for me and the application of ‘Technology Integration’.

This week I encouraged, enabled and made technology accessible to my students so that they could more effectively achieve their learning goals. Were the results everything I hoped they would be? The answer to this question has to be a resounding ‘No’!

Where did it go wrong?

The use of blendspace to create our own word banks and setting descriptions didn’t really work; the reason being that the videos selected were confusing to the children – they found it difficult to separate the characters from the setting.

In a second lesson with a digital focus, the creation of historical news reports on the Ancient Egyptian Farming cycle using 2ink’s Green Screen iPad App meant that the children spent too much time on – learning to use the application – and not enough time on presentation and content.

Overall, this week has been a sobering lesson in the problems that can be experienced when you try to change lessons to have focus that is supported by a digital format.

If I was to further break the lessons down , I would actually say that I was substituting an independent blendspace focus (using the SAMR framework) for a more structured whole class video session. On reflection, I think that the way forward would be to change the videos for more relevant videos; and also to have the whole class watch all the videos together (with an option for those children who still needed time to review the videos being given the opportunity to use an iPad or laptop to review the videos after everyone has watched each video in turn).

With the second lesson it is more about the children getting used to a new piece of software and being given the time to experiment with this software. The App is tricky to use at first and it takes time to understand how to create effective videos using a Green Screen. I still think that it should be used but I would give the children more time to play with the Green Screen technology before using it to present their historical news reports.

Wow! What a week!

So that’s it! I have had enough…

No clearly that isn’t the case! However, it has made me realise that although technology has it’s place, it is sometimes the case that more traditional methods are just as pertinent. To me, this means that we have to be very careful when integrating technology in our lessons, units and curriculums. It is the learner that we need to be concerned with. We need to make sure they are provided with the best learning route to achieve their individual learning goals.

Ahem…

However, I have also learned this week that if you do persevere and give the children time to get used to a particular learning tool (whether that is an App, program or device) then students will embrace it, use it and adapt it to become more complete learners. When it comes to ‘Technology Integration’ the key areas for me are:

  • Time – students and educators being given the time to experiment, play and use devices, Apps, programs and connections to enhance their learning.
  • Motivation – providing a medium that stimulates and encourages the students so they actively want to learn.
  • Failure – the opportunity for students to fail when they are working with new technologies and learn from that failure.

Finally I would like to end with this quote about Technology Integration from Wikipedia as I believe it accurately and concisely captures the essentials of what we should be doing to empower learning through ‘Technology Integration’. I have underlined the last section because, for me, this is an essential but often forgotten element of ‘Technology Integration’.

“Effective integration of technology is achieved when students are able to select technology tools to help them obtain information in a timely manner, analyze and synthesize the information, and present it professionally. The technology should become an integral part of how the classroom functions — as accessible as all other classroom tools. The focus in each lesson or unit is the curriculum outcome, not the technology.”