Learning as I go: Experiences, reflections, lessons learned

Rachelle Dene Poth @rdene915 #FUTURE4EDU #QUOTES4EDU #THRIVEinEDU

bookcreation

​​Storybird in the Foreign Language Classroom

 


I found Storybird a few years ago while completing graduate coursework, and was searching for a different way to present the information, that would be informative, engaging and memorable. I found Storybird and after creating my own book, have relied on it as a top choice for student projects in my classroom.

As a foreign language teacher, I have my students engage in diverse activities to help them learn the material and want the experiences to be meaningful, personal and fun. Because of technology today, I now have the opportunity to offer my students a variety of choices for completing projects and other assessments for class. With the increase in digital tools for classroom integration, there are options available to meet diverse student interests and needs. I want to know what they have learned and can do with the material and being able to provide choices for them, which enhance their ability to be creative, to enjoy the work and watch the learning that occurs because it is more meaningful. Giving students a choice in how to show what they have learned offers a lot of options today.

Storybird is very helpful in my Spanish class. It makes it easy to create colorful and informative projects. I like using Storybird because it is easy and straight-forward to use. It was also great to see my story come to life, and to have a book with my name on it. — Ricky, high school student

One of the favorites for my students is to create an illustrated book using Storybird. It really does not matter what the topic of our unit is, there are so many options available for students to find something that fits right in with the theme of what we are studying. For this reason, I love offering it as one of their choices because they can find something fun to work with while building their language skills. They can choose from so many templates to create an engaging, vibrant book, write their story in Spanish and see it come to life with the variety of images available to them. Storybird helps the students to build their skills and to create something that they can share with others and have made into a beautiful book as evidence of their learning.

Storybird is one of my go to tools when creating a project. It is fun and easy to use, with beautiful artwork that aids in the story writing process. I have used Storybird for several school projects and for fun. It is a well designed application that allows the author to choose exactly what they want.
— Dana, high school student

An added benefit is that in addition to displaying these on the Smartboard in the classroom for all students to see and learn from, we can have their books printed and displayed in the classroom. What could be better than seeing the books written by your students in Spanish on display in your classroom? The books can be used as learning materials for future classes and exemplify what personalized learning and having a choice can do to engage students and increase their learning potential. The students can be creative and have fun learning in the process.

Storybird is really fun. I love the groups of pictures you can choose from for creating your book. The website is really easy to use, and different from other programs I’ve used in the past. Being able to purchase a paper copy of your book is a really great feature. — Maddi, high school student

Some fun examples we have used in Spanish are projects to describe one’s family and create a family album and also to describe preparing for a special event and one’s daily routine. Students have fun selecting their pictures to represent the members of the family or activities in their daily routine, and as the teacher, I enjoy seeing their finished work and knowing that not only did they build their language skills, they had fun in the process and created something that they can share with others and author their own book.

This is a story done about one of my students, after working with Piktochart and participating in their user story last year, thought hearing from students about the benefits of Piktochart and other tools in the classroom.  Thank you to Jacqueline Jensen and Piktochart for this great post, originally posted on Medium. 

User Story: Students Using Piktochart

In this user story, we talk with Dana Grover, a high school student in Pittsburgh, about how she uses Piktochart inside and outside the classroom, why she thinks visual storytelling is important for her generation, and her favorite EdTech tools.

The fast pace of technology advancement is affecting students outside andinside the classroom. At Piktochart, we often talk to teachers about how they are using Piktochart in the classroom. Uses range from creating a new visual take of the traditional syllabus to utilizing one of our 500 templates to quickly turn text-based material into engaging visuals for the classroom.

But we felt like we were missing an important voice in the conversation. What do students think about Piktochart? Do they think that visual storytelling is a trend that will stick for their generation?

Meet Dana Grover

Dana Grover lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and is a student at Riverview High School.

“I am a theatre enthusiast who is involved with the marching and concert bands, orchestra, and chorus, along with the Spanish, drama, cinema, and Model United Nations clubs at Riverview,” she told me. “If someone were to look for me outside of school, they would find me in the kitchen, listening to my extensive music collection, or just relaxing.”

Dana first learned about Piktochart about a year ago. In fact, a big part of her discovery of Piktochart was thanks to her Spanish teacher, Rachelle Poth, who we profiled recently in our video user story series. Check out how Rachelle uses Piktochart in her classroom. Video on Youtube of User Story

Piktochart User Story — Rachelle Poth

“Technology is a big part of our Spanish curriculum,” said Dana. “We find new and interesting ways to use it, and showcase our knowledge through it. When I started taking Spanish, all of our projects had to be created using some sort of digital presentation application.”

Dana said when Ms. Poth discovered Piktochart as a tool for students to use to create their presentations, she was quick to share it with all of her students, “as she is prone to do with all great tools,” recalled Dana.

Dana said the way class projects are set up leads students to use new websites each time something is created. “So when I had already used Visme, Sway,Glogster, and others, I decided to try Piktochart,” she said.

“What made me want to explore Piktochart more was when my peers presented in class and I saw how organized and aesthetically pleasing their projects were,” Dana said.

When she thought about what she and her peers needed in an EdTech tool, Dana pointed to one must-have:

“We need to be able to express ourselves in creative ways. Piktochart lends itself to this perfectly,” said Dana.

“Everyone wants technology to be fast and easy to use,” she continued. “Teenagers want lots of choices when creating projects, because we are our own projects, and we want to be able to have choices and create ourselves in creative ways.”

Dana’s Work on Piktochart

When I asked Dana to share her favorite project on Piktochart with me, she was quick to point to an infographic she made about one of her favorite shows — HBO’s The Leftovers.

“Piktochart was the perfect tool to use for this project,” she said. “The Leftoversis such a good, well thought-out, creative show, and I needed a website that was going to be able to do it justice. I was really pleased with all of the options I had when making this project. I felt like I was able to create exactly what I had envisioned it to be, which is not the case for a lot of tools.”

Dana’s Tips and Tricks for Using Piktochart

Dana knows what’s it’s like being new to using Piktochart, so I was curious to hear some of her tips and tricks for newbies.

“The first thing I would show them would be text features, photo options, and background choices,” she said. “Not only are those the basics to creating an infographic, but Piktochart does a really nice job of making these features accessible, easy to use, and extensive in their range of creativity.”

Dana said that when she first started making infographics, she wanted to make the visual longer. The problem, she recalled, was that she couldn’t figure out how to add blocks to build on to her visual.

“It probably took me a good 10 minutes before I realized that when I had a block selected, in the upper left hand corner was a button to add more blocks,” she said. “And below, there is the option to re-size them, which is really helpful.”

For those who are new to using Piktochart, this is what Dana is talking about. This is how to add more blocks!

Dana told me she loves how many symbols, shapes, and colors can be put into visuals she creates using Piktochart.

“Lots of applications have options, but not nearly as many as Piktochart for creative purposes,” she said. “My presentations don’t have to be dry when I use Piktochart. Whatever I envision for my project, odds are I can create it with Piktochart.”

Dana’s Favorite EdTech Tools

When she’s not creating on Piktochart, Dana said she loves using Storybird. Storybird lets anyone make visual stories in seconds. The team curates artwork from illustrators and animators around the world and inspires writers of any age to turn those images into fresh stories.

“Storybird is another great website because it is fun to use and really simple,” said Dana. “I love that people are able to write their own stories and use professional artwork to accompany it. The best part is that you can order your story as a hard or soft cover book. Everyone who worked on it is cited — the author, the illustrator, and the website.”

Another tool in Dana’s toolbox is Sway. Sway, a digital storytelling app, was recently released by Microsoft and is part of Microsoft Office.

“Sway’s layout is very interesting, with options to make a beautiful cover page and online poster-style infographics,” explained Dana. “There are a lot of options on Sway when it comes to pictures, so when I created mine, I only used images from the website, which was really helpful to save time and citation effort.”


Looking for more ways to utilize Piktochart to make students excited in the classroom? Or maybe you’re looking for ways you can use infographics to make your next school assignment shine? Take a look at how teachers and students alike are using Piktochart in the classroom!

Recently posted on Edueto Magazine

The path to integrating more technology into the classroom

So if you have been following along with my posts since I started writing

 

for Edueto, you can see that my method of and path toward integrating technology has taken many turns. I first started by trying to find one area of my teaching and my classroom that I could improve. After some consideration, reflecting on my practice, observing the daily routines, I determined there was a “disconnect” occurring between my students and myself. I did not feel that I was as accessible to them and their needs as I could be or more importantly, wanted to be. But the counterpart of this was that I also felt the students should bear some of the responsibility and be accountable for accessing classroom materials and asking for help when they needed.

Over the past two and a half years, it has been an ongoing, evolving process. One which has led to greater reflection, additional changes, and more than I could have imagined. It all started with the simple addition of one tool into our classroom, Celly, for messaging. This first step solved that disconnect and brought about so many positive changes for my classroom. From the beginning of this tech integration journey until now, the variety of ways that we have found uses for Celly are tremendous.

Once I felt comfortable with that first step, I began working with other areas of technology integration. I began using Edmodo for our LMS, which helped with the original issue of “disconnect” and provided access for the class resources and a central location for students to get what they needed. Edmodo provides a lot for teachers and students and has many apps available which we use and enable students to connect with automatically.

These initial steps evolved into the integration of alternate assessment tools such as Kahoot, Quizlet, SurveyMonkey, Riddle, Quizizz and more. These are just a few of the great tools that can be used for formative assessments and some also for student reflections. Once I felt comfortable with these choices, and I could see the benefits for my students, my next step was finding more ways for the students to show what they had learned and what they could do with the material. My prior post focused on project based learning and the benefits, so I would like to share one tool, Storybird, and how it can be used to give students an engaging, creative way to present information.

Storybird

While I have always enjoyed the traditional paper style presentations, I found that moving over to digital formats and letting the students choose from a variety of the creative web tools available for completing their projects, served many purposes. It was important that I offer resources that would give students meaningful ways to demonstrate their learning, but also have fun and be creative in the process. I wanted something that could meet their unique interests. So I started looking for different ways for students to present their information, but still be comfortable with creating the end product and learn something new in the process, technology skills.

One of the first tools we tried was Storybird. It has been one that my students have enjoyed using in Spanish and for other classes, and have shared with family and friends.

I first came across Storybird in the summer of 2014 while taking a course in special education, and I had to create a project that would describe legislation in this area. While there were many choices out there for presentation formats, I wanted to create more of a book style presentation, with vivid images that would add to the information. My search led me to Storybird and so I decided to give it a try.

Getting started

It was really easy to get started. I created an account and searched the available themes, until I found one representing an educational setting, and began creating my project. The themes are full of images created by various artists that contribute to the book with their vibrant illustrations.   Storybird was very easy to use, to add my information and also to select from a variety of very vivid and engaging images to highlight my content. Editing the images and changing the layout was simple, and I really enjoyed presenting my information in this way.

When I assigned the first project of the new school year, I added Storybird to the list of student choices and several students used it for their projects. Each student chose different themes based on their individual preferences and the end products were vibrant, engaging, and authentic, but most of all creative.

Student Reaction

The students were very excited about their work with Storybird and truly enjoyed being able to have a choice in how to show what they had learned and finding a theme that best suited their own personal interests. In addition to creating and seeing these beautiful books online, you can have them printed into a book and see the story come to life. I was truly amazed the day I opened the package and saw the beautiful books that my students had written and had been prepared by Storybird. Each student’s book had their name on the cover and I had placed an inscription inside the cover, to detail the purpose for creating the book. The students were excited to see their names on the book and enjoyed reading each other’s. I wanted more to add to our classroom library and so I asked the students to share their work with me so more of their books could be printed and displayed in our room.

Since then I have shared their work at conferences and with other colleagues, and the students have proudly shared their work during technology showcases. I recently found out about a few students who had used Storybird to create books for telling a story to a sibling, inviting someone to a homecoming dance and several other really neat uses for Storybird. Technology can really enhance the learning process and benefit students in your classroom, but it is when students extend this learning to other areas and uses, that you realize it truly has made an impact on their learning.

There are many other great tools out there for project based learning. Offering a variety of choices for students enables them to find something meaningful and enjoy the experience.  If you have not used Storybird, try it out. Students have used it in many of their other courses after Spanish and have found exactly the theme they needed. I will continue to share some of these tools with you and some examples, as always feel free to send me your comments or questions I would love to hear from you.

story

 

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