Thursday, September 23, 2010

Decisions, Decisions

This year the ICTL Department has come up with the following goal:
To develop and encourage different ways for students to show their understanding using technology.  
Our plan is to expose students to a range of different tools, which could also be used in summative or formative assessments, so that students have a choice in how they best show their understanding.   Our aim would be to do this for a minimum of 2 units of inquiry this year in Grades 2, 3, 4 and 5.  This is already being done for one unit in Grade 5, with ICTL support of the PYP Exhibition.

During our first unit of inquiry with the Grade 3 students I have already tried to introduce the idea that students may choose different ways to show their understanding.  I decided to introduce this to our teachers by using digital storytelling to support the narrative adventure story writing being done in class with all 4 classes of Grade 3 students, but using a different Web 2.0 tools with each class.  I gave our teachers a choice about which tools they wanted to use with their students.  The aim was to show them that we all have different ways of showing what we know and that it's OK that the way of doing this is not the same across the grade level.  My hope is that once the teachers are comfortable that they can choose to do things that are different from their colleagues, that they will let their students choose to do things in a different way from the other students in the class too.

One of the teachers in Grade 3 is also the Primary Drama Coordinator.  She decided she wanted to have the students use drama to tell a story, to photograph each other showing the relevant parts of the story and then to put these photos into VoiceThread and have the students narrate the story.  Another teacher was working on settings - she was having the students use art to create lovely watercolour paintings of the settings.  She decided she'd like to continue to use art and chose Storybird as the tool for her students to use for making an online book with the story art provided on the website.

One of our teachers decided she wanted to use animation.  She chose to have her students use ZimmerTwins to write a story about decision making.  The final teacher had her class create characters in Bitstrips, which could then be turned into a comic strip.

The task for each class was the same and I used Jason's Ohler's book Digital Storytelling in the Classroom to go over a visual story map that all students would be following:

The task for all students was to make a story that had an introduction which would include the setting and the characters.  The character would encounter a problem that would cause some conflict and would eventually transform him or herself in order to find the solution for the problem.  There would have to be a conclusion to the story.  This story map reinforces the central idea of  the unit of inquiry which is "The decisions we make can cause and resolve conflict".

All of our students have explored the Web 2.0 tool chosen by their teacher.  Soon they will be ready to create their stories.  At the end of the unit I would like the teachers to share how the students created their stories and talk about the plus and minus points associated with the tool they chose.  By sharing these tools with the rest of the grade I'm hoping it will let the other teachers see some different possibilities that they could use with their classes later in the year for other writing assignments.  Already the teachers are enthusiastic about the choices they have made.  Hopefully they will come to understand how enthusiastic the students will be once we give them choices and ownership of their work too.

Photo Credit:  Decisions, decisions by Garrett Coakley


  1. Well done Maggie. By showing the teachers and students a range of options you are reinforcing the idea that the tool itself doesn't matter! In my opinion, this actually takes the focus off the technology (as it should) and directs it onto the learning.

  2. I really like this approach Maggie. So often I would introduce web 2.0 tools in my computer lab and use them to create a digital story, they always turned out wonderful. The problem was that students didn't understand they could take the skill or tool and apply it to situations outside of my classroom. For example, they wouldn't have thought to use Zimmer Twins to show understanding of a book or time period in history. This was partly my fault as I introduced the tool in light of how we would be using it to tell a story. It is important to teach kids (and teachers) how to think outside the box and consider these tools for multiple purposes. I look forward to hearing about how the choice of tools works out for each teacher!

  3. I love that you are also showing your teachers that these tools can be used to effectively allow differentiation for their students. As the drama teacher wanted her students to portray the story, and the art teacher wanted to use the beautiful artwork in storybird, so too the students should be allowed to choose the tool that best fits them. As the saying goes, one size may not fit all.

  4. This is excellent, Maggie. It would be great to get to a point where kids (and teachers) have a range of tools at their disposal and are able to use them appropriately and apply them in different settings. This should be the goal. (Can you come and help us get there?!)