by Monica Spreitzer, DLCoach @ Langley Secondary School
Here at LSS we have the free version of Educreations on our class set of iPads, and we recently used it for a fairy tale story-telling assignment in an ELD (English Language Development) 10 and 11 class. This post will focus on some of the successes and challenges we had using this technology.
Kendall Sewell (our ELD 10/11 teacher) wanted to create an assignment that would allow her students to demonstrate their understanding of their personal reading of a fairy tale (reading comprehension), and at the same time, practice their oral language skills in a low stress, fun and creative way. Students were placed in pairs and given a fairy tale to read and storyboard; they were told that their task was to re-tell the story in Educreations with images to support the story, whether those images were pictures from the internet, pictures they took themselves, or their own drawings. They were also told that their story version should be no longer than three minutes. For those interested, the following two documents (available online) were used to assist students in the process of both summarizing the story and breaking the story into main events with corresponding images for their screencast.
Challenges with the app:
We knew going into the assignment that there would be two challenges in using this app. One is that the free version does not allow you to preview your work and then add more content to it; you cannot preview work unless you publish it, and published work cannot be added to. This means that you must have a very well planned and clearly organized presentation on paper before you begin to record your story. This was a challenge, but also a blessing, as it forced students to plan well, and to rehearse, rather than making it up as they went along.
The second challenge that we anticipated was the volume and the quality of voice recording. As Educreations records, it picks up background noise which competes with the student voice. Students are also notoriously shy about hearing their own voice, so we encouraged them to speak loudly and clearly, and also to do a short practice video before they began in order to gauge how loud and clear their voice was recording. Despite this, many of the narrations were too quiet; the exception to this was when students used their own headphones with a mic attached. In future we would make headphones with a mic available (and mandatory) to all students for this assignment.
We chose to watch the final products as a class in the library using the Apple TV and simply mirroring each iPad in turn. Kendall invited Administration and a few other ELL teachers to join us so we had a more authentic audience.
The quality of presentations varied, but each group was successful in creating a final product. There was lots of laughing as we watched the screencasts, and students enjoyed seeing the varied and creative ways that their classmates chose to use images in support of the story.
The few examples below are used with student permission and give a small taste of how differently the app can be used. They also show the variation in quality, but it is important to keep in mind that the process – the practice of summarizing, re-writing and orally re-telling the story – is as important as the final product.