Nowadays, technology has become extremely prevalent in the classroom. It is not unusual to walk into any elementary school classroom and see computers, laptops and Smartboards being used in nearly every lesson. One of the most recent pieces of technology that has made a mark on education today is the tablet, specifically the iPad. Many schools now have carts, similar to laptop carts, that hold multiple iPads that travel around the building, giving teachers access to use them in different lessons. As mentioned in Peter Levy’s post Putting the iPad to Work in Elementary School Classrooms on the education and technology blog The Journal, having access to iPads in the classroom opens up many opportunities for both teachers and students.
One specific use of the iPads is for digital storytelling. How many times do you think you will have your students write their own stories? It’s a typical Language Arts and Writing lesson plan that comes around time and time again, but how often does it truly engage your students? Through digital storytelling, students are able to see their own work come to life, beyond the limitations of a piece of paper. Here is an example of a student-created digital story:
Applications (also known as “apps”) for the iPad, such as Puppet Pals and Toontastic, provide a space where students can write their own story, record their own voice reading it, and create a visual depiction. These, along with numerous other apps that can be found in the App Store on iTunes, allow for students to create videos through moveable characters, drawing tools similar to Paint on a computer, and self-uploaded images.
Andrea Timbrook, of iPad Apps in an Elementary Classroom, a website dedicated to reviews of iPad apps that are designed for or are useable in the classroom, wrote this Toontastic review. In it, she mentions the cross-curriculum uses for this free app (which applies to other digital storytelling apps as well). While the application can clearly be used within the Reading, Writing and general Language Arts curriculums, it can also be incorporated within the Social Studies and History realm, as students can use Toontastic to recreate a historical event, or give a short biography of a famous historical figure.
Another benefit of Toontastic is its story-sharing network. As stated on the Toontastic website, “cartoons can be shared online via ToonTube, Toontastic’s Global Storytelling Network, to help children connect to friends and family and learn about other cultures, customs, and lifestyles through stories created by their peers around the world.” This is currently relatively unique to the Toontastic app, but is a factor that will surely be implemented into many digital storytelling applications in the near future. Giving students the opportunity to share work that they are proud of both builds up their self-confidence and inspires them to work hard at their creations due to the fact that they can be shared with other children their own age from all around the world. To learn more about the full digital storytelling process through this app, and how to apply it to the classroom, feel free to check out the Toontastic Classroom Wiki or the Toontastic Learning Goals, and watch the video below.
Toontastic is just one application of many that provide a great foundation for creative writing and digital storytelling, one that ties most directly into the elementary age group. However, digital storytelling as a whole can be used in any classroom, and can be related to any subject, from elementary school storytelling to a high school history class. How can you use digital storytelling in your own classroom? Would you have students create a mini-biography, or use characters to teach the 10th grade science class about biology? The opportunities are truly endless, as are the amount of apps available on iTunes. From cartoon characters designed to appeal to young viewers, to detailed drawings and diagrams, all ages can find a option that meets their needs. To see more of the “best of the best” digital storytelling apps for the iPad, check out Tech & Learning’s “Top 10 Apps for Digital Storytelling.” Hopefully you’ll find the use of iPads and apps for digital storytelling in the classroom as useful and interesting as I do!