This is the story of a digital storytelling project that I have undertaken with my class of 25 junior infant boys using ICT to enhance learning in Literacy in their first year in primary school. Having considered a number of possible technologies, I finally decided on Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2010. I selected this piece of content free software to create our digital stories for a variety of reasons. I was familiar with using it and audio can be recorded straight into each slide avoiding the need for a separate audio recording software. Ideally I would have liked to have used iMovie but I did not have access to a MacBook at this time. Another piece of software I considered using was Photo Story 3 but I decided against it for two reasons. The first reason was that it is was originally designed for Windows XP and will not run on Windows 7 64 bit, Windows 8 or on the Windows Multipoint Server used in the HP Multipoint systems in our school’s computer lab . The second reason was that Photo Story 3 is no longer being supported by Microsoft as XP support ends next month and I felt it was important to introduce my junior infants to a piece of i-Learning technology that they are likely to use throughout their educational journey. There would have been one big advantage of using Photo Story 3 in that it is wizard driven, so it is very easy to use and the children could have selected music to accompany their story. I also considered using Windows Movie Maker. Windows Movie Maker is one of the tools for digital storytelling recommended by Jason Ohler but it has a major drawback in that adding music as well as narration is not as easy as it is in iMovie for example. For this reason I felt it was unlikely that the children would be able to add music so PowerPoint 2010 fitted my requirements and I was more familiar with using it myself and therefore more comfortable using it in the classroom. A further advantage of using PowerPoint 2010 was that it could be used both as a teacher tool and as part of a student centred approach. In addition to using it with the pupils to create their digital stories I also was able to use it for post reading activities after using the big book of each story. When eliciting the oral retelling of the story from the children as a whole class in preparation for creating their digital stories I used PowerPoint to present the pictures from the story for the children to help prompt them in retelling the story. I also considering using Audacity to create podcasts but I felt the advantage of being able to include the children’s artwork using PowerPoint 2010 was significant and would aid the visual learners in my class.
There were three main aims of this learning activity. The first was that the children would be introduced to the concept of digital storytelling and enabled to create their first example of a digital story in small groups of three or four students. The second aim was that through creating the digital story, the children would be enabled to demonstrate their understanding of the beginning, the middle and the end of a story. The final aim was that creating the digital story would offer a way to assess oral language development throughout their first year in school. I decided that before creating their own digital stories using a story map, that it would be necessary to draw the children’s attention to the beginning, middle and end of a story. At a whole class level we planned a unit of work around a big book over each two week period. Examples of the books I used include ‘The Pig in the Pond’ by Martin Waddell and ‘The Gruffalo’ by Julia Donaldson. Children had practised retelling the story first as a whole class activity and then in their groups prior to adding in the digital element. At the end of each week one group created their video presentation to show the rest of the class on the interactive whiteboard when finished. Over the course of eight weeks, each child had the opportunity to work in a small group to create a digital story. It was important that the children had the opportunity to use the technology themselves but in order for me to be able to act as facilitator I felt that aiming for one group per week was a reasonable target. I was cautious about not taking on too much in the beginning particularly given the age group that I am teaching. The whole class worked in their groups to create a picture for the beginning, the middle and the end of the story. One group per week then had the opportunity to work together to create their digital story. I showed them how to use PowerPoint where necessary but first giving them the chance to try and figure out how to add a new slide or a photo. I showed them how to record audio as this is a slightly more difficult task for children of their age. We used the iPad to take pictures of their own art work. Children were encouraged to retell the story in their group in their own words, adding in their own details where they wished.
Once the PowerPoint slideshows were created, we used the video export facility that is available in Powerpoint 2010 to create our own digital videos of each story. These were then uploaded to Skydrive and each group were given the link to their own story on SkyDrive so that they can showcase their work to their parents and other family members at home. I chose SkyDrive rather than the school website or Vimeo because it allowed the parents more control over who can view their sons’ work. After each group had created their digital story and it had been watched by the rest of the class using the digital projector the group brought the link into one of the other junior infant classes to showcase their work to their peers. They also talked to the other junior infant teacher and the class about how they made their digital story. I found that this approach increased interest levels and the motivation of all my students and that everyone really enjoyed having a wider audience for their work..