Digital Storytelling and iPads in the Elementary Classroom

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.

"How-To" instructions for Toontastic

Toontastic app for the iPad

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!

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10 Responses to Digital Storytelling and iPads in the Elementary Classroom

  1. Elizabeth L. says:

    Anna,
    I really liked your post! I had no idea you could do so many things with digital storytelling. My favorite part of your post was the idea of ToonTube and ToonTastic wikis. Like we talked about in class, it is very important for teachers to make sure that their students are safe while using the internet. Different websites like ToonTube and ToonTastic serve as great examples of safe and reliable sites for students to use. How soon do you think you would make the transition from posting videos on ToonTube to posting videos on YouTube? When do you think students are mature enough to be exposed to everyone on the internet versus just a selected audience?

  2. mindoug says:

    What a really nice post! My husband and I have just released an app for the iPad called Felt Board that we hope will serve as another nice storytelling resource for teachers and students, as well as an opportunity for open-ended creative play for children while using the iPad. If you are interested in more info, I’d be happy to provide it. Thanks! Mindy

  3. Hilary S. says:

    I really liked your post Anna! I find it so interesting that iPads are becoming popular in the classrooms. I enjoyed learning about Toontastic. I’m glad that there are age-appropriate applications for children, one of my biggest concerns with technology and children is that they so often are exposed to things such as TV shows that are above their age level. I especially like that Toontastic has clear cut learning goals and educational components, so there’s no doubt that it’s not just another “toy”. Toontastic sounds like it can be a great way to incorporate iPads into my class, thanks for sharing!

  4. Christiana C. says:

    I really like the idea of students being able to create their own digital stories. I think the apps you talked about are great for introducing students to technology from an early age. I think that being able to record your own voice and tell your own story is a really cool way to improve the timeless class activity of making your own story. I may be a little hesitant about letting kindergarteners use such expensive technology, however I am a fan of integrating technology early on. Overall seems like a great tool!

  5. Meagan W. says:

    Great post Anna! I also wrote about using iPads in elementary school. Like your post said, it required a lot of homework by the teacher before you can pass off the iPad to a student but I guess you do need to look at the benefits they can provide. I used to be very against this type of technology in the elementary school setting, but after doing research on my own and reading post like your I am starting to see the benefits of using this type of learning tool! I loved the first video you posted, it really shows that even the youngest of students can use the technology and I’m sure they enjoy it. Do you see iPads replacing the traditional computer lab/ typing classes? I am curious as to where iPad/tablet technology will be in 5 years!

  6. Emily D says:

    Anna,
    This is such a relevant post! I have heard so much about the possibility of IPads in the classroom, in addition to any educational institution, and I love that you picked a specific benefit of using them. After our experience with digital storytelling, I know that I learned the assets of such an assignment, and it looks like the IPad makes it even more hands-on and creative. The ToonTube idea is so creative, visual, and fun that I imagine kids of all ages would react positively to it. Writing stories is something that helps students practice writing skills and it provides a real audience for their writing, which is why this whole digital storytelling is such a great multimodal tool. Awesome pick!

  7. Kaitlin L. says:

    Oh my goodness that cartoon was adorable. I love the idea of ToonTube, and I think even older kids might get a kick out of. However, I looked at the list of top 10 apps, and by far the one I was most taken with was number 10, the comic strip maker app. I love the idea of using graphic novels in the high school English classroom, and having the students create their own comic strips would be a great way to have them learn about composition, imagery, stylistic limitations, and a whole host of other literary goodies. I don’t have an iPad, but I have been starting to consider it, especially since I keep hearing about great apps for teachers like these.

  8. Hannah D. says:

    Anna, this is such a cool post! I really like how you explain all the ways students can interact with the iPad in the classroom. I never realized how useful Puppet Pals can be for kids! I agree with Emily, this is really relevant! I think a lot of schools are trying to implement technology in the classroom and iPads are definitely popular. I agree that it will take a lot of teaching for the students to use them, but I think its a great idea! Maybe I will use them in my classroom one day! Great post!

  9. Patrick C says:

    Anna, great post. I like how there is more and more incorporation of technology such as the iPad into the classroom. The apps for the iPad seem to be very useful for teaching students. This allows students to be more creative and be more interactive with their learning. I am not sure how I feel about all this technology being given to students at such a young age. Regardless this is a very interesting post and I learned a lot about it.

  10. Riley K says:

    I found this to be my favorite post so far, truly informative. As a child I always loved playing with action figures and making up crazy story lines for them. ToonTube is the coolest idea I could have ever imagined as a kid. Creating animations and such is a great tool which allows students get involved and excited. Using the iPad in the classroom is becoming more and more prevelant and this is a great new tool that maybe students can use during their breaks in class. It provides a fun new aspect to the classroom and allows students to use their imagination which is extremely important for young children to do.

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