Tag Archives: digital storytelling


Images of my awesome NCTIES experiences!breakoutedukristin-ziemkencties17lisabeckancties17

At the beginning of March each year, I prepare to travel to Raleigh, NC for the North Carolina Technology in Education Society’s Conference known as NCTIES.  This year, like two out of the last three years, I had been preparing to present a session with an amazing colleague of mine, Rebecca Thompson. When you pour your time and effort into preparing the right sequence of information to share with the people who will choose your session, you feel that your words must stand out and be ones that they can carry with them.  We had planned and revised our presentation.  I arrived Tuesday night feeling excited.

On Wednesday morning, I attended the Pre Conference which has always been a way for me to dive deep into a topic.  I get to spend three hours with a morning presenter in a room that will hold 30 people or so then spend the afternoon with another presenter.  This year, I got to spend my morning with Kristin Ziemke.  I have read her “Amplify” book which gave me a variety of ways to have my students use technology to amplify their learning.  I really liked that she encouraged me to promote writing about visual images.

First of all, Kristin introduced me to a website which has people draw various shapes for 20 seconds then places the drawings in a database so that a computer can recognize drawings from many different people.  This site is called Doodle drawing and can be reached here:  Goo.gl/2wiPgN

Kristen told us that research reveals that the first 17 minutes of a class is prime time for students to learn.  She called on teachers to do high yield activities at the start of a lesson to reach more modalities.  Research is also revealing that doodling helps learners retain their new content.  When we doodle as we are thinking, we retain the new information better.  As a result, a new definition of note taking is taking shape through the use of Sketch Noting.

In our world, kids know how to use Smart Phones and technology, but this awareness of technology does not necessarily equal understanding of how to create with the digital devices.  They know how to be entertained but not as a tool for learning.  She shared an infographic from Common Sense Media which shows that 81% of 6-8 year olds watch You Tube regularly and 76 % of 9-12 year olds access content on You Tube.  This means that kids are interested in viewing many types of videos to understand the world but may not be able to read the information yet depending on their age.  I love that she said to “put kids in a place of possible and have them publish”.  In order to hook students and engage them from the beginning of a lesson, she suggested starting lessons with video or images and have kids ask questions about them such as:

What do I see?

Why is that in the picture?

I wonder why…

How does this photo or video communicate a message?

Why did the photographer take it?  

She shared images with us from the NY Times Learning Network.  Every Monday, this site places a picture on it in a series called,  “What’s going on in this picture?”  The site has suggestions on how to guide students to closely read the picture.  Teachers and students are invited to leave a comment and read other comments.  The site previews comments to be sure they are appropriate before the comments are posted.  On Thursdays, the site posts an update and tells you what is going on.  The picture comes from some place around the world so that students are given a global perspective and gain empathy as they view others in situations that are not like their own.

Kristen referred to the fact that visuals are processed 65,000 times faster than text through our eyes.  Text plus visuals stimulate both sides of the brain requiring more synthesis, retention increased comprehension.  She encouraged teachers to use the interests of students to show images and graphics which they can compare.  One of the people who have had an impact on her understanding of how reading develops is Smokey Daniels who says we should ask kids as they view images this question:

“What do you see, think and wonder?”

Not only should we ask kids to ponder, but teachers should model how to do this type of thinking out loud.

In the afternoon, I was able to use the steps of Design Thinking which is what engineers use as I developed a video game.  We went through the following steps:






Darren Hudgins, the presenter, told us that Design Thinking is ugly at first filled with uncertainty, patterns, insights and research.  When engineers come up with a concept, they develop a prototype then test, gain feedback and keep designing.

In order for us to go through the Design Thinking steps, each participant had to plan out their game on a grid sheet then develop their fame by building it with colored cubes in a black grid.  Next, we scanned the cubes and the cubes became the setting of our video game.  I knew about Bloxels Builder but had never gone through the design process to create a game.  It was a valuable and difficult process to go through, but I can see the value to allow kids to go through this same design process to build a game.  Partners tested out each others’ games and provided feedback.  The games were not perfect, but they allowed us to see where we needed to make changes.  My favorite part was when we were told that each of us would get to take our Bloxels Builder Set home as our gift.  I have requested a set of 15 Bloxels Builder Kits as a part of a recent grant and hope that I will get them.  They will motivate students to build games based on book settings, characters, science or social studies topics.  Here is the link to the Bloxels website:  Play.bloxelsbuilder.com

On Thursday, Rebecca and I shared our presentation.  Since we had worked tirelessly on this project for the past few months, it was so good to finally share our ideas.  We had researched HyperDocs and begun to use them this year in our teaching.  I also had brought my eight Lego Storymaker Kits to provide participants with the chance to create Lego scenes and create a digital story using Pic Collage or Google Slides.  I am sharing the link to our presentation here:  goo.gl/uXRbhT

Breakout EDU was another interesting experience.  I worked with a group of teachers as we solved clues to open locks on a box.  Each clue was fairly difficult but we brainstormed together on how to break out or open the box.  Here is the link to the presentation: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1IYL347lGD-amuhW1Yi-ZPvo5JRtP3FAtGGA7cVoWOlI/edit?usp=sharing

I always enjoy hearing Richard Byrne give the “Best of the Web” for each year.  Here are some tools that he mentioned.  Some of them I already knew about but there are several others that I plan to check out:

A beta version of a Creative Commons search engine

Inklewriter.com – It allows kids to write “Choose your own adventure” story and think about logic then publish on web.

Thehistoryproject.com – This is a timeline tool that has built in recording piece.  Example Project:  Record interview with grandma and save as podcast.

Edublogs.org – Almost all premium features are not completely free on Edublogs as of last month.

Splashapp.co – Like Snapchat but with virtual reality.  Android with ios coming soon.

bit.ly/divvr – Create your own DIY Virtual Reality Headset

CoSpaces.io lets you design a VR experience and publish.

NathanHall.com – Has Webtools that don’t require registration so kids can go and make things.

Sworkitkids.com – 30 sec. Exercises for a brain break for kids

CheckItOut is a google form and great to keep track of who borrowed stuff and get them to bring it back.

Flippity.net – add on that makes Google Sheets templates in one click.  Quiz Shows, flashcard with voices and pics,

OpeneBooks.com or app has a ton of e-books

TeachYourMonsterToRead.com  – has letter matching games

Quill Connect – a new quill.org feature.  Helps students learn to see fragments that they must arrange into complete sentences.

Choosito! – a search engine that ranks websites to their readability levels 

CamFind app – take a pic of anything and it will tell you stuff about it.

Littlebridge.com – website of how to interact responsibly online and teach through games how to be responsibile citizens

Classtools.net (developed by guy from France)

Wiser.me – blending worksheets together. Interactive quizzes and share through Google Classroom

Formative.com – new features in next month that will give you more data and give them more option on how for students to give feedback.

JoeZoo – Grade and edit students writing.  Create comments to enter into Google Docs to use when grading writing

Quizalize.com – Quizzes which can be done anytime.  Teachers could have families take a quiz night and do a link that starts between certain times.  They play game and see score of others but less of a race.

Triventy – lets kids contribute to a quiz, students can collaborate on what they think should be in quiz and teacher approves them

Nudgemath.com and it is an app – Interactive math lessons

On Friday, I was blown away by two colleagues of mine in my school district, Suzanne Blaszak and Chris Grabon.  They presented “Content Creation with Chromebooks”.  I am sharing their Google Slide presentation so that the world can also take their teaching with the Google Suite of tools up a notch!  They love Google Drawings and now, I do too!  There are so many templates that they gave which we can modify and push out to our students by having them make a copy of the Google Drawing or Google Slides.  Check it out:  https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/12YrB5KPv-S53Orc3RnUtpJOToR5nFfcMLn2L0c31w5Y/edit#slide=id.p

Chris shared how to make stories or interactive timelines using www.sutori.com from the History Channel.  Wow!  It has an interactive timeline which the kids could bring in more multimedia that they create!  Adobe Spark poster, You Tube clips, iPad Green Screen creations that are uploaded to You Tube and Audio Files can be placed on the timeline.  I can’t wait to try this with my kiddos! Kids will join my class which I create and in the free version you get 200 free views.  The students can create and share stories on a Google Sites website, collaborate with others, upload media directly and create up to 3 groups with 50 students in a group.  For example, Chris created an Explorer Group for his class to join.  You can put questions in a quiz format in Sutori for audience participation.  They also have a “Did you know?” feature to add cool facts to their story or timeline.

He encouraged us to have students add the Awesome Screenshot Google Extension on their Chromebooks.  He has his fifth graders take a screenshot then with the Awesome Screenshot extension, capture a certain area of the picture then annotate on top of the image.  When students locate an image, they can make it their own and add to it.  You can also blur faces on an image with this extension.

When he wants students to record their voice, he likes Recordmp3online to record audio.  He likes Vocaroo to record audio too.  In Vocaroo, kids would convert the recording to mp3 then save link and place on your website.

Suzanne shared Adobe Spark which allows us to create pictures and videos or posts.  She likes students to use Adobe Spark Page where you can add text, images, add video, add a glideshow option to layer text on pictures in background and link to an example on a web page.  Here is an example of a student ‘s presentation.  Students usually post their Adobe Spark link to a Padlet for their classmates to see and provide feedback as they look through each one in Padlet.  In Adobe Spark Video, Suzanne’s student included season images created in Google Drawings.  They brought the images into Spark Video and recorded their voices to narrate reasons for the seasons.  Here is the video example!

Adobe Spark states that kids have to be supervised by the teacher.  Some teachers create a class account.  You can have students to login to their Google accounts and then give them the teacher’s birthday to prove that the teacher is supervising them.  Adobe Spark is also an app for iOS users.

I have dear friends, Jennifer Moore and Melissa Toner, who used to be at my school but have moved to other schools this year.  They presented on Friday on “Connecting with 1:1 Technology in the Special Area Class”.  Jennifer is a former Music teacher and know is a Technology Facilitator at a K-8 Oaklawn Language Immersion Magnet School in Charlotte.  Melissa is a Media Specialist at Park Road Montessori school, a  K-6 school in Charlotte. I miss them dearly at my school but they mentored me so much and I will always adore them! Their amazing presentation can be found here:  goo.gl/vP46wn

I was able to catch another session from Kristin Ziemke on Friday.

Kristin emphasized that teachers put power in the hands of kids when we invite them to track their thinking, fluency, and opinions of books. She likes for young learners to do Visual Book Reviews.  She will have first graders rank a book with stars that kids draw on top of their picture while they are holding their favorite book.  Teachers can set up kids to guide others in book selection.   Communities of readers talk about their books so when teachers print the Book Reviews and place on class walls to let kids see book recommendations from other kids, it empowers kids.  It is important for teachers to model for kids how to upload a picture of themselves with a book to a Padlet space.  Kids can scan a QR code to get to the Padlet quickly.  Then they learn how to leave a comment in Padlet about their picture too.

In addition, Kristin spoke about the fact that we put power in hands of kids when we invite them to track their thinking, fluency, and opinions of books.  Kids listen to audio snapshots that they took of themselves reading a book and chart what they need to work on as a next step.   She talked about helping kids craft a vision for how to record themselves and talk about their thinking.  For example, on Chromebooks, use Movenote to have kids talk about their thinking.  Ex.  What did you learn in science?

She also encouraged us to have a space online to capture, narrate and illustrate ideas using a limited amount of tools.  She differentiated between Practices vs. projects.  The nature of a project signals the end of unit every couple of weeks.  If it is a practice, then it happens consistently across subjects different times a week.  They go deeper with thinking if they know the tool already.

She has templates at her website to place directions at a center to remind them how to record to capture, record and share.

She teaches kids to represent in a drawing tool to capture, narrate and illustrate their thinking.  Less is more because they know these tools very well.

Here are some of her favorite tools for students to capture, narrate and illustrate their thinking:

Book Creator



Explain Everything


Camera on iPad

Google Drive


She has her students write and blog for real audiences and have blogging partners.  Wonder Wednesday is when kids blog what they wonder about.  Then blogging partner can respond back.

I also was able to learn more about the Dash and Dot Robots.  There is a ton of information at bit.ly/dashdotcurriculum about how to use them.  They won’t work with iPads 1 or 2, but will work with iPad 3, 4 and iPad Air or Kindles.  I am hoping to get some Dash Robots in a Charlotte Hornets Innovation Grant.  There are so many ways to build in coding experiences in Blockly or in the Wonder app with Dash.   We can tell kids that we can program Dash to do word problems to test dimensions that they would generate for area and perimeter review.  For example, If a rectangle has a Perimeter of 200 cm., what could the dimensions be for the rectangle that Dash will create?  One teacher, drew the perimeter on pieces of chart paper to allow students to self check so that if their Dash robot stayed on the rectangle, then they would know that they had programmed Dash correctly.

Here are some incredible ideas that the teachers from Forestville Road Elemenary School shared in their session:

In Literacy, kids can retell a story, make costume for Dash to retell the story, explore the setting of story and create a map for Dash to go through based on the story.  In science, have students travel at different speeds to knock down a tower to focus on force and motion.  Students can build a “body part” for Dash that will give him new abilities. There are ways to build with Legos on top of Spheros.  Ex.  Create a butler Dash to bring snacks and drinks to others.  The kids can program Dash to go to points on a paper timeline and have it stop to tell important information at each point.  Dash can be programmed to line dance.  Pick a song from GoNoodle.com and create a line dance for Dash (more forward, left,right, lights to represent claps) then they have to line up and dance with Dash!  The xylophone attachment is awesome to have kids program a song.

Here is a great idea called “Trick or Treating with Dash” – The teacher made a 15 foot Wonder Way and placed 8 houses on it along the path which has signs that has the type of candy that will be given out.  Each child had a job:



Time Keeper


Each child had chance to program Dash to get to the house that they wanted to go to.  They kept commands on a chart at first.  They had to program the Dash robot to roll to their chosen house, program a doorbell sound, record their voice saying “Trick or Treat?” and program Dash to get back to start.  They would look at what they wrote and troubleshoot to see what worked and what didn’t to get Dash to his destination.  Those who did all the steps, got to design a costume for Dash.

The Wonder League is a competition that students can do that has challenges.  You can use mats such as a Twister Board, vinyl tablecloth, tape on the floor (use tiles as a guide) or print banners.

She also charges multiple Dash robots with a USB charger that has 12 USB ports and stores them in mini boxes.  The Dash robots do spin sometimes as they are charging.

NCTIES is a place to wrap my head around innovative lessons and always supports me in developing ideas for the future in my classroom.







Coaching Service Announcement in Powtoon

focus glasses

During the last few weeks, I have been taking a MOOC on Coaching Digital Leadership from the Friday Institute at N.C. State University. This week, while pondering the Four C’s, I developed a Coaching Service Announcement. You may have heard of the following Four C’s for 21st Century Learners: Communication, Critical Thinking, Collaboration and Creativity. I attempt to plan lessons that embed the Four C’s, some of which I have included in my previous blog posts. As a part of the MOOC, participants were asked to create a Coaching Service Announcement using a digital storytelling tool known as PowToon. I am sharing the video link here and welcome your feedback.  




Digital Storytelling with Audacity and WeVideo

Sound Waves Image Credit:  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sonic_boom.svg

After completing a four week MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) on Copyright in August of 2014, I decided to enroll in another MOOC.  Well, I actually enrolled in two MOOCs. The first one is “Powerful Uses of Digital Storytelling” in Coursera which is taught by two professors from the University of Houston.  The other MOOC is on developing digital leadership with educators and is taught by facilitators from the Friday Institute at N.C. State University. There have certainly been challenges of balancing the assignments with my teaching job and my family, but feel that the process of learning has benefited me personally and professionally.  I look forward in a future blog post to sharing my learning from the digital leadership course, but today I will focus on how I learned to develop a digital story using a Storyboard, record my narration using Audacity and create the actual digital story using a free video making tool called WeVideo.

This experience of storytelling in a digital format was explained to MOOC participants as a series of steps to follow while planning a digital story rather than only elements.  Many examples of storyboards were provided at the University of Houston’s Digital Storytelling website along with multiple high quality examples of digital stories that spanned multiple genres. The instructors shared the Seven Elements of Digital Story Telling which helped me choose a topic for my own story that I created during the course.  I chose not to tell a personal story with emotional content, but rather focused on a science topic related to energy.   I appreciated the short video clips that the instructors recorded and shared with students to allow us to understand steps of choosing a topic, writing a script and locating images that are free to use on the internet, finding copyright free music to play in the background of our narration at jamendo.com, recording our voices using Audacity, how to save and export the audio file properly and how to use the editing tools in WeVideo to draft and edit our stories.   Here is the link to my digital story on Sound Energy:  Sound Energy Digital Story

Since my school district is a Google Apps for Education School District, I knew that I could add on WeVideo for students to use in their Google Accounts for free.  Audacity is already installed on our school computers too so I had the necessary digital tools in place to be able to replicate the steps of digital storytelling with my students.  As each week progressed in my Digital Storytelling Course, I was able share the steps with my school’s Media Specialist and together we developed a planning guide to use with our fourth graders.  She and I consulted with a fourth grade teacher who told us that fourth graders would be studying forms of energy during October such as light, heat and sound.  We decided to have students research forms of energy using print and digital resources in the school Media Center and record their notes on a sheet with four guiding questions.  We considered our planning sheet to be students’ storyboard.  Here is an example of the sheet that we showed to students as the example:  https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Fzqxae-_HiE10E5qFCEBf1TKLpGvggoxIu1Hc5GCjCM/edit?usp=sharing

I learned later in the course that it would be better to add larger images to a digital story in WeVideo starting at least at 1,000 pixels.  I included the size of the images to show students so we could analyze the clarity of the smaller images.  I found fairly clear free images that were free to use or share in Google Advanced Search and added them to my final story.  This coming week, I will be showing students my completed MOOC Digital Story on Sound Energy as a way for them to envision what they are about to do too.  I will show them how to do Google Advanced Image Searches and how to properly attribute the images.  They will look at their notes and determine how to construct narration that will not only explain the type of energy, but also give examples of how this energy form shows motion and include examples.  They will record their narration in Audacity then upload the WAV file to their free WeVideo account.  I will show them how to put together a WeVideo Timeline Storyboard and how to stretch various images that they have found to play as their voice narration plays.  I am excited about showing them the animation known as the Ken Burns effect which allows users to zoom in or out on a still image for effect.

This project has been a wonderful example of collaboration between the Media Specialist and myself as the K-5 Technology Teacher.  As a result of our collaboration, we have realized that this topic of energy has proven to be a bit of a challenge due to the advanced reading level of many of the printed or digital texts that she is using with students in the Media Center.  The use of online resources at www.ncwiseowl.com has also provided online encyclopedias with kid friendly explanations of energy forms.  I know that we tackled a rigorous project to do in the first quarter of the school year, but look forward to teaching students the digital citizenship piece next as they locate images and possibly, some background music at jamendo.com.  I know that students will be able to create future digital stories with their scripts written out clearly as a result of this initial training.

I will also have students share their storyboards with each other before proceeding with locating images and recording narration to provide helpful feedback using a rubric with the following elements like the one which was used in my Digital Storytelling MOOC.  I also will ask students to self evaluate their digital stories on energy to see if they have met the goals outlined in the rubric below.

The Purpose of the Digital Story:

4 – The Purpose of the digital story is established early and a clear focus is maintained throughout the entire video.

3 – The purpose of the digital story is established early and a clear focus is maintained throughout most of the video

2 – The purpose of the digital story is somewhat difficult to understand, but becomes clearer by the end of the video.

1 – The purpose of the digital story is not clearly expressed.

Clarity of Voice of the Recorded Narration:

4 – All of the narrator’s words can be easily understood.

3 – Most of the narrator’s words can be easily understood.

2 – Some of the narrator’s words cannot be easily understood.

1 – Most of the narrator’s words cannot be easily understood.

Quality of Images:

4 – All images are of high quality and are appropriate to the topic of the digital story.

3 – Most images are of high quality and are appropriate to the topic of the digital story.

2 – Some images are of high quality and are appropriate to the topic of the digital story.

1 – Few images are of high quality and are appropriate to the topic of the digital story.


Yes or No – Image URL’s were provided.


Meaningful Use of Music:

4 – The music nicely complements the audio narration and the content of the digital story.

3 – The music only somewhat complements th audio narration and the content of the digital story.

2 – The music is too loud or distracts from the audio narration or the content of the digital story.

1 – Music track caused viewers of the digital story to not be able to understand the audio narration.

Yes or No – The song track’s URL was provided from jamendo.com along with proper description of

Creative Commons – BY – NC – SA

I also plan to allow students to use StoryboardThat.com to plan out a story as a way to differentiate and provide images for students.

I would love your feedback on how you use digital storytelling with your students.

Go Animate

WRITE. Every day in March write a slice of life story on your own blog. SHARE. Link your post in the comments on each daily call for slice of life stories here at TWT. GIVE. Comment on at least three other slice of life stories/blogs.

This is Day 26 of 31 of the Slice of Life Writing Challenge from www.twowritingteachers.wordpress.com.  I have created a GoAnimate video below to illustrate an afternoon that I had recently.  My students love to use GoAnimate to create digital stories.

“Mrs. Maples, can I please use GoAnimate?” begged a fifth grade boy to me this week.  I introduced the GoAnimate website to my fourth grade class last year and this boy who asked me this week was in my class last year.  He wanted to share information about Ecosystems that he had researched using Discovery Education’s website and present it with the tools found at GoAnimate.  I loved that he remembered this awesome Web 2.0 tool that allowed him to create, communicate, collaborate with a friend to write a script and critically think about the proper settings, characters, props, dialect and dialogue to get his point across.  As I remember, he and his buddy created an entertaining description of the California Gold Rush of 1849.  Since I am now his Technology Teacher, I have decided to allow him to use GoAnimate for his Ecosystem presentation.

I have created a GoAnimate presentation below for your review.  Click on the link and you’ll get to my “Tooth Break” Go Animate movie.  I created it using stick figures.  It zooms in on a trying afternoon that I had from this past week.  I hope you’ll create a free account and get your students to write scripts to tell a story digitally!

Tooth Break by lisa.maples on GoAnimate


Author Kevin Janison’s Visit

WRITE. Every day in March write a slice of life story on your own blog. SHARE. Link your post in the comments on each daily call for slice of life stories here at TWT. GIVE. Comment on at least three other slice of life stories/blogs.

Today is Day 12 of the Slice of Life Writing Challenge from twowritingteachers.wordpress.com.  I was thrilled to hear children’s book author, Kevin Janison, today as a guest speaker at my school.  He was very entertaining as he enlisted audience participation when he read aloud his new book “Deputy Dorkface:  How Trutherton Got Its Honesty Back”.

He shared how he brainstormed book ideas and his book making process from start to finish. Many of his stories are ones that he told his own children as bedtime stories when they we’re small. Once he writes a section of a new book, he reads it aloud to a group of children to gauge kids’ reactions and makes changes to his book after he gets their feedback.  After sending his book to his publisher, he gets the draft back telling him how to write, for instance, in a more active voice.  Once he makes revisions, he sends his draft back to the publisher along with his thoughts. After 30-40 times of sending the transcripts back and forth, Kevin and the publisher finally decide on the final draft. He also discussed the process of finding an illustrator and told how he met his illustrator.

It was so interesting to hear him talk about where words will go on the page and the overall layout that the publishers and art directors go through when putting his books together.  He had kids compare the published illustrations with the original illustrations that he showed on screen.  Our second and third grade classes were entertained and engaged.  Some of my third graders began a blog entry after his visit about what they thought of his visit and were very complimentary.

His visit reminded me of the hard work that writers and artists go through when creating a story and illustrations.  He encouraged kids to write about events that happen in their homes and lives.  In addition, he suggested that kids could draw something they can feel to make the image in their writing come alive. I have placed a link to his books here:


I loved one of his pages that had speech bubbles all over it. I could see using www.storyboardthat.com to plan a story and add speech bubbles to it as character’s speak. There are many other digital storytelling options, but StoryBoardThat was demonstrated at the NCTIES Conference last week and thought it fit well with planning a story after hearing a published author today.  There are multiple story frames to choose from and a variety of characters, scenery and objects to choose from with which students can build a story.  Perhaps they could write speech bubbles in their comics that describe an interaction with two figures from history.  Maybe they could generate dialogue between two characters from a book that they’ve read.  Ultimately, students could start from scratch and be inspired to write using the prewriting tools at the StoryBoardThat website.  Some parts of the site are free and others require a fee, but I see many uses of the website to help facilitate student writing.

I look forward to sharing more of his Deputy Dorkface books with my students.  All of the other titles that Kevin has written about Deputy Dorkface appear to have a nice character education connection.