Melissa Giddins

Exploring technology and literacy in education.

New Technologies, New Stories

I am currently involved in a project entitled ‘New Technologies, New Stories’ which essentially has gathered a group of teachers together from K-12, to each write a unit of work engaging students with technology in order to write narratives.  For me, the project can be summed up in one key question: How can we use technology to improve students’ ability to write narratives? With the imminent arrival of laptops into Year 9 classrooms, it became particularly relevant and lead to a further involvement in the Laptops 4 Learning project.  As such, I am now required to think very specifically about targetting these ideas at Year 9 students.

After letting it all roll around in my brain for a while it has fnally consolidated into a series of ideas, so I thought I would share my current thoughts – comments welcome please!

I came up with seven ideas in my first brain storm and here they are in a highly skeletal form:

1. Multiauthored narrative using a wiki. This was the idea that received initial approval for the New Technologies, New Stories project. The idea is that the class works in groups. Each group creates a wiki.  The wiki is for shaping the world of the narrative, as well as the narrative itself. Prior to beginning to write narratives, the group divides itself into sections and they each set about working and researching different areas of the world of the narrative. It would begin with a big discussion to nail down a few facts (time period, etc) and then students can research for their chosen area: history of the setting, geography, local statistics, local characters – kind of like putting together a tourist brochure for the town their narrative will be set in.  They can make it all up, or choose an existing town.  This will obviously work on their descriptive language skills as well as teaching the art of researching background and giving characters some depth. Once they have a wiki loaded with information about the setting for their narrative, they begin to write a narrative – either collaboratively on the wiki or individually.

2. Reading a class novel then students choosing a character and blogging as that character. Students create a blog as a character of their choice and create an About Me page, then write in response to teacher-provided stimulus questions with the voice of the character they have chosen.

3. ‘Story in instalments’: students blog 3 paragraphs or so in each post. After each post, students are to read other students’ posts and make comments: predictive comments about what they think might come next, feedback regarding the writing, or even write something that could be added to that students’ story – such as the event again from a different character’s perspective, etc. Ideally, the teacher should model this by starting the whole process with the first story instalments, and students would start by commenting on the teacher’s blog story and then go on and begin their own. Students would need at least one lesson per week to post and comment, more likely two, one for posting, one for commenting.

4. Genre study in a wiki. Class wiki is created and students, either individually or in pairs, research different genres and create a class resource (the wiki) that has information about the characteristics of a large number of genres. Genre switch exercises could then be done, either on the wiki or on a teacher blog, where a piece of writing in one genre is rewritten in different genres. 

5. Podcasting radio interview with ‘author’ or characters from a class novel.  Students use a tool such as Audacity (free to download from the web) to create a radio show, complete with music, etc, where they interview the author or various characters from a class novel that has been studied.

6. Vodcast a news item re an event in the narrative. Students record a tv-style news report, with anchors etc, reporting on an event that happened in the novel.  If the new laptops do not come with webcams, students could record on their mobile phones and upload to laptops (shock, horror, did I just suggest actually using the mobile phones they are not supposed to have at school??!!)

7. Creating a trailer for a movie version using MovieMaker. This could be done for either a class novel that has been studied, or for a narrative that the students have written themselves.

Obviously, that is only the skeletal version of each idea.

Step Two in the brainstorming process was the idea of using more than one of those ideas in the same unit of work. For example, what if we did the Genre Study wiki FIRST and then students had all this knowledge and a great resource at their fingertips to enable them to write within a specific genre? Then, the story in instalments would allow students to practice their writing, get immediate feedback from teacher and peers, while laying great groundwork for the big collaborative story writing wiki. Ideas 2, 5, 6 and 7 could all be used in one novel study unit of work rather than a narrative writing unit of work, though I think that Idea 2, blogging as a character, could also be Step 3 in the process towards the collaborative story writing wiki. So putting it all together:

  1. Students could start with the Genre Study Wiki, learning the art of using a wiki and focussed research, and increase their knowledge and understanding of various genres. (Almost like jigsaw cooperative learning with technology!)
  2. Students then (or at the same time) begin understanding blogging through the Story in Instalments Blogging activity.
  3. Students then create a character and begin to blog as that character, answering stimulus questions provided by the teacher.
  4. Students work in groups to create a wiki that is the imaginary world of their narrative, and then work to write a narrative that incorporates the setting they have created, their understanding of genre and the characters they have made (and have been blogging with).

Now I am off to investigate these ideas in more depth – work out what will and won’t be included in the final proposal, and the overall value or worth of these activities in relation to meeting syllabus outcomes, etc. There will no doubt be further posts about this project, as it starts to take shape.

P.S. If you saw an idea on here that you like, take it and run with it, but be sure to let me know how it went! I would be most interested.

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April 21, 2009 Posted by | New Technologies New Stories | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments