Digital Storytelling Reflection

  1. What was the target audience for this story? Which curriculum standards does this align too? How would you use this within your class (e.g., as homework, as part of an assignment)?

The target audience for my digital story is students at the middle school level (sixth through eighth grades) and could be used in any of the three grade levels. Students in these  grade levels are considered Novice language learners based on the proficiency descriptors designed by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL); this means that they have limited ability to use the language for communicative purposes. Since the story uses images and animations to provide visual representations and gestures that correspond with the spoken Spanish (extralinguistic support which helps communicate meaning), this story is ideal for students at the Novice proficiency level. The digital story meets two of the overarching standards outlined in the North Carolina Essential Standards for World Languages: interpretative communication and culture. Interpretative communication occurs when students are presented with language in which they cannot negotiate meaning, this means students cannot ask questions about what they heard/viewed or read. Likewise, students cannot seek further clarification from the speaker or author.  The digital story presents students with the language and the only tools they have to determine meaning is through the use of the visuals and their own knowledge of the language. From the story, students would be identifying word and phrases demonstrating which would demonstrate understanding of the language. The culture standard requires students to identify the “3 P’s” of culture: Products (items), Practices (what individuals of a culture do), and Perspectives (beliefs of a culture). The digital story would introduce students to the Products (el zócalo, the ruins of Teotihuacan, la ofrenda) and the Practices (the observance of Día de los muertos) within the cultural context of México.  In my class, I would use this story in two ways. The first use would be as part of a “flipped” homework assignment where students would watch the video for homework and complete guided notes. Students would then complete in-class activities related to the video the next day. If I was teaching exploratory Spanish, I would create three to four more videos about different Spanish-speaking countries and would have students complete station activities where they would watch each video and complete various assignments related to each video.

2. How do you feel about the story that you created for this assignment? What parts of it do you particularly like? Dislike? Why? What did/do you enjoy about this assignment?

Overall, I did not like the story that I created for this assignment. After viewing the other stories in class, I feel that my story fell flat and was missing details that would have made it feel more like a story. I had a character and a plot line that featured the different stages of the story arc, but the emotionally that drives the story was weak. In my opinion, this made my story appear boring and forced compared to the others. Part of this has to do with the topic I selected. When teaching culture in the language classroom, the goal is to introduce students to the people of that culture and involve them as participants, not observers. Language teachers strive to select videos and images that will allow students to see themselves being a participant in the culture. The images that I selected to use in the story is the element that I like the most. PowToon had an excellent collection of images due to its connection with Flickr that allowed the cultural elements to stand out. The transitions between different scenes of the story and my voice over were my least favorite elements. I struggled to make the transitions seem seamless and flow directly into the next image. The end result was a rushed and forced movement which was not visually appealing. Part of this was due to the voice over. I had to make the voice over fit in the time set for the duration of the image. If the voice over exceeded the time of the image, PowToon added time to the duration which then effected the transitions between images. Of the major assignments we have completed in this course so far, this has been the only one that I did not enjoy and I am disappointment in its quality; I have turned in better quality work than this. I struggled with completing this project due to the creativity it required; I am not a creative individual nor do I enjoy creative projects because I care more about content and accuracy than creativity. It would have been easier for me to write a paper about my topic in APA format than to make it a digital story. This is one area where I know I will struggle as a teacher. In addition to encouraging students to develop their analytical skills, they need experiences to engage in creative thinking and this is skill I do not know how to develop.

3. Did you do your story in a similar way as others? Explain similarities or differences you noticed

When I compare my story to the others from class, I can identify a few similarities. My story along with the others followed the standard story arch format where a character is introduced along with a problem that needs to be solved. The character then begins the journey to solve the problem facing obstacles along the way until finally, the problem is resolved. I also observed that like many other projects, I provided voice over in my story which I believed helped to personalize the story for the students who would watch it. There was an interesting trend that I noticed about everyone’s story: most of them were designed to be used as an instructional tool by the teacher instead of being a student created assignment. Some stories looked like they could have been made by students themselves but overall, most were “teacher quality” with regards to the use of the design elements.  With older elementary level students, middle school students, and high school students, these stories could be created with teacher scaffolding and multiple practice opportunities. There were two notable differences between how I made my story and how the rest of the class made theirs. First, almost everyone featured music in the background of their stories  which added to the flow of the story and the transitions. I tried to find music in Powtoon that I could use,  but there was nothing that would have been appropriate. All of the available music was either rock-based or pop. My video needed music that reflected the culture of México and could not be found in Powtoon and I did not know to locate it as an outside tool. The second difference I observed was that the majority of people used Videoscribe which gave their stories a clean, polished presentation versus the comic book appearance that PowToon gave to certain parts of my story.

4. Now that you have completed this assignment and viewed your classmate’s submissions, what would you do differently if you had to redo the assignment?

If I had to redo this assignment I would several things differently. First, I would have looked at more examples and took notes on the transitions other individuals used, the placement of music, and how they developed their story arc.  Second, I would have added background music to my story because I know that the presence of music would have greatly enhanced the quality of the story versus just the Spanish language voice over. Since this story would have been used in a Spanish class, I would just write text in Spanish with music and eliminate the voice over. The story would still be addressing the interpretive mode of communication and culture, only the focus would change from interpretive listening to interpretive reading. Third, I would change the story arc, I do not know how I would change it but I know it needs to be changed to include more emotion and it needs to be more concise. Finally, I would focus on the editing. The transitions need improvement along with the timing. With the elimination of the voice over, I believe that the timing and transitions would improve and appear more fluid versus the short, choppy movements present in my video.


Web 2.0

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Last week, my methods class sat down together to create a lesson plan incorporating a cultural topic. The four of us, along with one of our methods instructors, started our planning by watching a video about a Bolivian wedding ceremony. When I say watch a video, I do not mean that we watched a short five-minute clip from YouTube or another website: we watched an actual VHS tape recording. As soon as the instructor started playing the video, I had to stop myself from laughing out-loud as I saw how terrible the video quality was along with those famous blurry lines of a off-track VHS tape.  In 2015, five highly educated individuals with access to a plethora of digital tools such as YouTube, Vimeo, and exceptionally designed websites were watching a VHS tape that could not be shared with others nor accessed by any other means other than the VHS tape.

The experience described above is almost unheard of in todays K-12 classrooms due to the almost exclusive use of digital resources. Materials that were once confined to a physical disc or tape have made the transition to digital formats accessible by almost any device that can connect to the internet. The same transition has happened to projects and other student work; the dominance of tri-folds and bulky poster-boards has given way to Glogsters and Piktocharts. This change in how teachers introduce content to students and in how students demonstrate their knowledge is the result of Web 2.0 tools. According to a CBS News article, Web 2.0 tools are the follow-up technologies to the internet that function similarly to PC based programs, but are hosted on the internet. These tools are interactive, allow the user flexibility and creative freedom in use of the tool, and provide ways for individuals to share and collaborate while information is constantly updated.  The power in Web 2.0 tools is that they are accessible anywhere with an internet connection and available to almost anyone free of charge (for many tools).

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Web 2.0 tools have become popular with teachers because of their transformative power in instructional practices and in the performance of students. With tools such as YouTube and Vimeo, teachers have access to digital media content from around the world on almost subject. In addition to accessing digital media content, Web 2.0 tools allow students to create their own video content with tools such as iMovie and then share those creations with tools like YouTube. Social Media tools allow students to connect with learners all over the world outside of the four walls of the classroom. Google tools allow the creation of documents and presentations that anyone can create and edit together with people in different parts of the world at the same time. This ability to move learning from outside of the four walls of a classroom and the confines of a school is one of the powers behind Web 2.0 tools according to Andrew Marcinek in a post for Edutopia.  In an educational culture where best practices for instruction include promoting digital literacy, increasing cross-curricular instruction, and creating student-centered learning environments, Web 2.0 tools allow students and teachers to work towards achieving these goals. The limitations that once restricted what students and teachers could do in the classroom due to limit resources is gone; if there is a Web 2.0 tool, there is now a way.

Web 2.0 tools are not only changing how students learn, they are also changing how teachers prepare for instruction. It is already known that social media tools such as Twitter are connecting teachers with fellow educators around the world, but other Web 2.0 tools are allowing for collaboration in developing engaging lessons. Lisa Dabbs, in an article for Edutopia, examines the use of Web 2.0 tools by teachers to identify how different tools can lead to increases in student learning and add to the knowledge that teachers have from their  specialized training. Dabbs identifies tools such as Pinterest, which is used to visually organize information for lesson planning and live binders, a tool which allows users to upload information and documents to create a virtual binder. As with other uses of technology, the key to using these Web 2.0 tools is that teachers receive professional development in how they can be utilized and that their school culture supports the use of such tools.

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Of the many Web 2.0 tools available to teachers, one of my favorites is Plickers. Plickers is a free formative assessment tool that is both engaging for students and easy for teachers to use. With Plickers, teachers create an account and download an app to their smart phone or tablet device and print a set of cards (one for each student). Each card has a unique shape on it and has answer choice options A-D printed at various points on the shape. Teachers upload questions for their students to answer to the Plickers site (or use pre-made questions made by other teachers) and present them to students one at a time. As teachers present the questions to students, students hold up their card with their answer choice facing upward and the teacher, using a tablet or smart phone, scans the room capturing each students card.  What makes this tool ideal for formative assessment is that as the teacher scans the cards, he/she can see if the student answered correctly or incorrectly and at the end of each question, the teacher can see the overall performance of the class. This tool gives teachers instant results and since it only requires one personal device to be used by the teacher, it is easily implemented in the classroom. The video below shows a teacher using Plickers for formative assessment:

Works Cited: YouTube Video-

Tablets in the classroom

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This week in ECI 201, something rare happened: a Digital Native became a Digital Immigrant, well at least within the context of learning how to use an Ipad. Prior to checking out an Ipad last week and before Thursdays class, I had never used an Ipad or any other tablet device for school or personal use. My preferred devices to use have always been either a traditional desktop, laptop or a smart phone. Among the products in the  technology spectrum, I have used the oversized Gateway and Dell PC towers and monitors, the enormous Dell Laptops, the Blackberry Torch, the Iphone, and most recently, the Macbook. When new products entered the market, the next time I was ready for an upgrade, I eagerly traded up to newer devices and software. However, on Thursday, for the first time in very long time, I struggled to use technology. It confused me, it frustrated me, and it made me think about how I was using technology to accomplish a task. I was already somewhat familiar with how to navigate the Ipad software since it is the same platform used to run the Iphone, but learning the fine details about moving between apps, rotating the screen, or using particular apps was a learning curve. Although challenging, once I learned the basics I realized how powerful of a tool the tablet can be in the classroom with students and for teachers in designing instructional activities.

Being an educator in 2015 means that we have a well-developed idea and model of what a twenty-first century learner looks like: the students we encounter in our classrooms each day.  The students in todays classroom are unique in that technology is no longer an “add-on” to their lives; it is fully embedded in how they live and work in a rapidly changing world. In our society where we value immediacy and convince, traditional laptops are no longer able to meet this need. To this end, more individuals, companies, and educational institutions are turning to tablets for many reasons. First, (and the most likely reason), is that tablets are portable and easily assessable: they require little room, are lightweight, and can be used for a variety of different purposes. In a post for Edutopia  Ben Johnson, a school principal, describes how tablets can be used in a science lesson emphasizing their power and ease of use. While conducting an experiment, students can use a tablet to photograph and video the different stages, record minute-by-minute oral or written observations, and share that information with teachers and other people. With one handheld device, students can accomplish what was once done by hand more accurately and in a more appealing format. It is students completing tasks like this that Johnson believes demonstrates how tablets are changing student learning experiences. With tablets, students can engage in problem based learning in which they identifying global or local problems, look for solutions, and then present those solutions to appropriate audiences.

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Using tablets in the classroom have benefits over using laptops. Some of the most common uses of tablets is to run apps that allows students to explore topics and create products, and to use apps specifically designed to address students’ individual learning needs (often remediation) in different content areas according to student needs. Matthew Lynch reported in an article for the site Gizmodo, that studies have found that the use of apps designed for educational purposes improve student learning. Lynch mentions a study that found the use of apps for specific purposes such as vocabulary develop and math skill practice lead to higher learning gains. These apps also increase student engagement in the classroom. Lynch describes a study in which 54% of students self-reported they were more involved with classes which used technology.  These apps are often designed for use on portable devices and many times do not work or function very well on traditional laptops, which then makes them less effective or impossible to use with students. With the popularity of tablets increasing, many textbook publishers are now producing virtual books that are interactive, more up-to-date and easily updatable. As in the example of apps, these digital textbooks are often more easily used on a tablet. Apps that allow the use of word-software, presentation software, and data analysis tools mean that reports and graphics can be created from the tablet device and shared with global audiences without ever needing a laptop.

The power of using tablets in the classroom can be seen the video below of a New Jersey school district whose teachers and administrators describe the implementation of tablets using Google Play apps as fundamental in changing instructional practices and enhancing student learning:

While tablets have the ability to be a transformative tool in the classroom, as with any tool used for instructional purposes, there are drawbacks and limitations. Both Lynch in his article for Gizmodo and Johnson (in a different Edutopia article reflecting on his schools implementation of tablets) state that one of the challenges of incorporating tablets into the classroom is shifting control away from the teacher and trusting students to use the technology without teachers controlling every their every move. This can be difficult for teachers who want to ensure that students remain on task but for students to experiment with the tools available to them, they must have the freedom to do so. Students are not the only individuals who need to be allowed to experiment with using tablets to learn. Johnson found that in his school since teachers were “computer literate”  it was assumed that they would know how to incorporate tablets and apps into their lessons: he was mistaken. Teachers need additional training on how to use tablets if they have never used one before as well as in how to evaluate apps for use with students.  Other disadvantages that can come from using tablets include the lack of a keyboard for students who may prefer or need one for input versus relying on touch screen. Additionally, tablets cannot play CD’s or burn information to CD’s if necessary, and for some students, the screen size many not be large enough if they have a vision impairment.

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When thinking about which type of device I would prefer to have in my classroom, I lean towards laptops but I can see the value in the use of tablets. As I prepare to enter the classroom to student teach in the spring, I am excited by the fact that my school is BYOD; therefore, I will have students using tablets, phones, possibly laptops and Ipods. Regardless of the device, I want my students to use their devices to customize their learning and to conduct research beyond what I provide in my instruction. Students may remember some of the content I provide to them, but when they take control of their own learning and seek out information for their own personal desire, that is the information they will remember when they leave my class.

Works Cited: YouTube Video: