On Friday, I had my first visit with the grade four students from Carlyle, SK to work on creating their digital stories about storms. It was a very busy day of learning for everyone and I went home completely exhausted!
To begin our day, my cooperating teacher was very sick and needed to go home. She managed to stay until a substitute teacher could come in and help out. Meanwhile, I was in a rush gathering equipment I needed to get the students started on their projects. We decided to work in the regular classroom with the laptops, so I had to re-arrange the classroom set up to get the projector working for the students to see. For some strange reason the projector would not work, so I had to get the principal to come and help me get it going. Then, I set up the sound system. The classroom has a FM system, so I plugged it into my computer and instantly I had surround sound. I finished getting the rest of the equipment set up and scanned a few photos for the students stories. I was finally ready to begin our journey.
From my experience, I definitely learned how challenging it is to enter a school not knowing where everything is or how to use all the equipment. It takes a lot longer to get things set up and ready for the students to work with when you are not in that environment all the time. Also, since my internship in the fall the school has received new equipment to use including the computers, so I was a little unfamiliar with using it all.
Step by step process for creating digital stories with the students:
First, I explained to the students details about the process in creating digital stories and shared my personal story about freezing rain. Previous to my visit, the students had wrote their own story about a storm, then decided on images they would want to find for their stories. The cooperating teacher took them through the story board process for me, so I could get them started on searching for images during my lesson. Their story boards were amazing! I had sent a story board template, but instead the teacher created a different template by photocopying the students stories, then cut the stories into sections and glued these sections onto separate 8 x 10 white papers. Once all the sections were glued on, the students wrote descriptions of pictures they wanted to find for their stories. It was an easy story board template, which allowed the students enough space to make changes to their story ideas.
Before getting started, we had a brief discussion period to remind students of the rules and expectations for this assignment. Then, the students were ready, so we got out the laptops and logged on. While the computers were loading, I explained to the students how important the images are for creating good stories. We discussed good and bad examples of images to find for their stories. As well, we discussed the importance of working with a partner and how to share the computer, so both people have a chance. (I honestly never knew how long it takes to get eleven laptops up and running on the Internet! I was very glad that the students were working in partners because it would have taken twice as long if they each had a computer.)
I used the projector to show the students how to search for pictures on the Internet. I found using the projector was a great tool for teaching all learning styles. It helped visual learners see what they needed to do, as well the auditory learners could listen to my verbal instructions and the kinaesthetic learners could physically do what I was saying on their own computer.
For the stories, I wanted to find good quality photographs, so I used a few different websites. The first one we explored was FlickrStorm. When I created my own digital story, I used this site and found wonderful photos. I learned about using FlickrStorm on the JakesOnline website. It is a good resource because it has a tutorial that shares the step by step process of using FlickrStorm and creating photo trays. It was a nice tool for the students to create their own photo trays that we could download later. As well, the students searched google images for any extra photographs they needed.
I definitely think that the process of searching for images is one of the hardest steps to creating digital stories and it takes a lot of time. We spent the afternoon searching for photos in order to find all the pictures we needed for our stories. Overall the process went well, there were a few problems that I had to deal with in my lesson. One issue that occurred was a few students came across some inappropriate photos while searching on the Internet. They showed me, so I helped to redirect their search. Soon more students were coming up with inappropriate pictures, so I stopped the students for a class discussion. We reviewed how to properly find photos on FlickrStorm, so that the pictures can be commercially used as well, I talked about how to search for specific topics. I noticed that many students did not know how to properly search for topics. They were typing in sentences into the search bar, instead of specific word topics.
This was a real teaching moment for me. I never thought about the students not understanding how to find specific pictures on the Internet. As well, I discussed with the students that they may not find the exact pictures they want for their story on the Internet. If this happened, the partners would have to edit and revise their plans to find different pictures. Also, I provided the students an example of what they can do if they had trouble finding pictures they needed. My example: One group was discussing how they needed a picture of firefighters knocking on a house door, but could not find one. I told this group to maybe try and find a picture of just firefighters because their story will narrate the men are knocking on door. I reminded the students that their narrations with help create the whole picture for the viewer and add those specific details to their story. I found that stopping and redirecting the students helped a lot and we were able to finish finding our images 😀
Reflections on this teaching experience:
From this experience I learned many new things about working with students and technology. If I was to do it all over again, I would know details about my students stories and gather ideas about the types of images they wish to find. I think I would develop a photo tray of pictures for the students to pick from as well as assist them directly in finding additional pictures. Also, I would set a picture limit and enforce the importance of quality pictures to illustrate their story, rather then quantity. I think that it was harder for me to enter the classroom and try to teach the second step of the digital story process because I missed the information and planning of the first step. It is important for a teacher to be involved with the planning process from the start in order to develop a full understanding of creating digital stories with students.
Also, I would practice saving documents and pictures to files before they begin this process. I was told that the students know where to save the files on the computers, yet I still had issues with pictures being saved in the wrong folders. I reminded them about where to save things, yet there still was confusion. As well, I would spend more time preparing students and teaching them how to label files they save to their computer. It was very confusing to look at the computer files and figure out which file was their pictures. I think next time, I would have the students write the file name for the picture on their story board, so it is easy for them to organize into their stories.
Another issue that came up from using FlickrStorm was that some students forgot the first step and make sure they select searching pictures that are for commercial use. If they forgot to do that, the images they collected were copyright and can not be downloaded for their stories. I did give several reminders, but when I was checking their files at the end of the day, a few students saved some copyright pictures. We will have to do more searching for images in my next visit.
As for the inappropriate pictures that they found on the Internet. I think that I would maybe do some pre-teaching about how some bad images can be found on the Internet. I would teach them how to avoid finding them and what to do if a bad picture comes onto their screen. I think a major key to this, is reminding students what the purpose of the assignment and teaching them how to successfully search for specific images. It is hard and frustrating for a teacher trying to create stories for students because of these inappropriate pictures on the Internet. I think an important step in creating stories is being able to choose your own photos to illustrate your ideas. I wish that there was a site specifically designed for students to search on and gather photos. I had done many searches on FlickrStorm prior to my visit and never came across any inappropriate pictures, so when the students found them I was really shocked. This was definitely a big learning experience for me and I would like to learn more about searching for images with students on the Internet. I would love to gather ideas and resources from teachers who create digital stories with their students. Does anyone have any suggestions or ideas for this situation? How do you handle these problems when searching the internet? I do think that it is important we educate students about these problems because even if they do not find inappropriate things at school, they have a chance of coming across it at home when searching the internet. Are there any websites safe/ good for students to search on and find great images?
I will be heading back in a few weeks to work with the students and try to finish their stories. I am definitely going to take my reflections and ideas from this experience to design and plan the students next work period. I am glad to be working with students for this project and to be able to get experience with using technology in the classroom. It is good to experience these problems, so I can learn and make changes to the next lesson plan. I think the key to this process is reflecting and learning from my experience with creating digital stories with my students!