Want to tell a digital story?

Hi folks,

Something I love using with kids of all ages is a digital story. Being able to tell stories with visual, audio and interactive components helps students transcend some of the limits of language in written, traditional stories.

When working with the excellent app Explain Everything Classic (iOS, Android), I like to make a collaborative story with the students providing story elements or dramatic support as a way to introduce the tool. After that, students create their own stories (or other explaining videos) using the techniques I demonstrated in the story. Although in my stories the narration is a strong focus, language learners can do much with few words in Explain Everything, having the option to add video, audio, images, motion and text to support their story elements.

Here is a collaborative digital story called Asteroid Hero, as told by me with some story elements and characters provided by students. It’s recorded during a live, 15 minute demonstration of the tools for students:

During the making of this story, I demonstrate the following tools for the students:

-Drawing, moving and resizing objects.

-Adding and cropping photos or (cc licensed) images from the internet.

-Grouping and ungrouping objects

-Arranging objects into layers

-Adding video

-Recording and fixing our mistakes

If you’re interested in learning those same things, I’ve made you this handy  “The Making of Asteroid Hero” video using Quicktime to screen record my actions on an iPad.

I’d love some feedback in the comments and especially, if you try out your own digital story in the manner, I would love to see it, hear about it, or perhaps someday even collaborate with your class for one!


Visuals, Infographics, and the Noun Project


Lately I’ve been learning a bit about design, and this week I’ll be starting new lessons on creating infographics with Grade 3 students studying the solar system. An infographic is a powerful and easy way to engage audiences with content, help readers connect with information through the use of visuals, and an opportunity to inquire into new media types and literacies. To make this happen, I want to softly introduce the CARP design principles (contrast, alignment, repetition and proximity, a.k.a CRAP outside of schools) and create links for the English language learners (ELLs) to connect their understanding of their solar system inquiry with the new tools. That’s a lot of new stuff for third grade.

I decided I would start with a look at how we can make design principles and language accessible to ELLs and non-technical readers (3rd grade).

While exploring resources to help teaching design, I loved Keri-Lee Beasley’s (@klbeasley on Twitter) free iBook Design Secrets Revealed for it’s accessible language and clear tutorials, but for now the design elements aren’t the focus of the lesson. Third grade is inquiring into our solar system. I needed to incorporate some of these principles, while keeping the spotlight on the unit. I decided to minimize the new vocabulary and focus on the project element with a demonstration.

Luckily for me there are tools that help students with the CARP design elements without us having the time to make teaching the language explicit. For this exercise, I will use a free version of Piktochart. The built in ruler tools and easily scaled/recoloured vector images will help students visualize concepts like contrast and alignment from my demonstrations, taking some of the pressure off of teaching these aspects explicitly until the students have some practical understanding.


As I search through the clipart and prepare my demonstration, I realize that although there are great graphics included on Piktochart, there is no icon for the planet Jupiter, which students may want to display as the largest and heaviest planet in our solar system. Third grade students are already well versed in searching for “labeled for reuse” images, but for infographics (and language learners) there is no better site than The Noun Project, an easily searchable library of freely licensed vector images indexed by keywords.

Now things are starting to come together. I have a lesson that embodies the integration of design, language supports, and unit research.

  • Students will work with the librarian and homeroom teacher to research and gather facts about the solar system. This will be ongoing over several weeks.
  • I will introduce the tool with minimal focus on design vocabulary in the first lesson, while students get comfortable with the interface, tools within Piktochart will help students visualize design principles.
  • With subsequent lessons I will shift focus in live demonstration toward the vocabulary of the CARP design principles, making connections to the hands-on experiences of the students without distracting from the unit focus.
  • The use of The Noun Project connects students with resources that can help build understanding and extend that understanding to others in a non-divisive language.

I’m pretty excited to be using such a vibrant, relevant form of new media and visual literacy with young learners.
Keep an eye out on Twitter or future postings to hear how it turns out!