Can technology help kids become better communicators, storytellers and writers? That’s the question we asked when I embarked on a project over the past year with Apple Education and Chris Blundell, from the School of Teacher Education and Leadership at QUT (QLD University of Technology).
We built a community of practice by placing my Young Writers’ StorySchool online video writing workshop into 113 classrooms in 41 schools around Australia and New Zealand and offering the teachers and T/Ls regular online professional development sessions.
The Aus-NZ StorySchool program drew on iPad, it’s native apps and in-built assistive technologies to explore audio, video, maps and augmented reality and bring the creative process to life for young writers. QUT captured data throughout the program and we made many surprising discoveries on new ways for students to communicate, express themselves and not only enjoy writing, but REwriting. (Almost unheard of in the history of young writers.)
This short video from participating school, St Bernard’s in Wangaratta, illustrates the impact of the program on students and the effect that video and other tech can have on young learners, inspiring them to create and communicate.
Five Key Takeaways from ANZ StorySchool
- Watching kids work with StorySchool, I came to realise that reWRITING, always a challenge for students (and humans in general), might be better thought of as reITERATING, in that different versions of a story or project can be approached using different tools. Students used text, illustration, video, augmented reality, audio etc, throughout the drafting process. Tech tools allowed experimentation using multiple media, bringing the development and communication of the idea to life in exciting ways.
- By connecting teachers from a wide variety of schools and allowing information-sharing on the best tools to get kids writing and communicating, the community of practice was able to supercharge teacher-driven innovation and compound student development. The monthly teacher PD sessions were key to this.
- StorySchool videos are an effective tool in inspiring kids to write but they are, in no way, a replacement for good teachers. In fact, the most exciting parts of the project occurred when teachers built on the videos to add their own twists, then documented those evolutions and fed them back into the community, who then adapted and reiterated themselves.
- For students, writing personal stories, close to their own experience and using technology to capture and explore those stories (camera, sound, video, speech-to-text, Maps, vision boarding and so on) brought the process to life. It was less about coming up with the perfect words or trying to sound like ‘a writer’ and more about telling a compelling story that they loved in language that matched the story and using tools that made sense to them.
- Based on feedback and data gathered by Chris Blundell from QUT, it was clear that students’ creative confidence and interest in writing improved, and even previously reluctant writers were far more engaged and willing to give it a go.
Try Young Writers’ StorySchool for yourself. The first short video lesson is free!