Manipulating media for Christmas

I have been playing around with media on iPads and the internet, and combining sound, images, video and text in various ways on a Christmas theme.

One of the benefits of the iPad is its versatility when working with media. Many apps can be integrated with one another to create shareable digital products such as animations, songs, films, designs, slideshows, and ebooks. By giving children open-ended problems and creative tools to engage with, the iPad can become a real tool for thinking rather than just a collection of apps, allowing them to refine and present their ideas in a purposeful way.

Bearing this in mind, here are some ideas you might like to try on a Christmas theme.

How about creating an eCard on the iPad by customising an image using the sketch effect in BeFunky (free) and then adding a message and layout in Phoster (£1.49). This type of activity will give children a feel for how the iPad can be a dynamic art tool giving them experiences they couldn’t gain in any other way. They might also think about the poetic language of carols:



The source images for these cards came from the Flickr search tool Compfight, which helps you find Creative Commons licensed images for remixing and resusing.

Sticking with the idea of images, you could use the Comic Life app (£2.99) to create instructions for a Christmas recipe. This would be a fantastic way to document any practical classroom work. One of my GTP students had the great idea to combine images from Toca Hair Salon in Comic Life. Read more on her blog Sara’s Sources.

iPads can also make movies and combine sound and animations from other apps. How about creating a film based on a Christmas story in iMovie (£2.99) and adding your own music from Garageband (£2.99), or a stop-frame animation in I Can Animate? (Here’s a video on how to add the music). Or you could use the wonderful iMovie trailers to document preparations for Christmas. (Here’s how). Our Year 3 students at the University of Northampton made trailers on the theme of story genres:

Another advantage of the iPads is their portability, making it easier to capture learning that takes place outside the classroom. And one great way of getting out and about with technology is through QR codes, quick scannable images, like bar codes, which take you to a digital destination such as a written or spoken message, a document or a website when you hold a webcam, phone, iPad or iPod camera up to them. 

Try using Scan by QR Code City. (Here are some instructions).  Imagine how engaging it would be for your children to have the code for book trailers they made in iMovie inserted into library books, to go on a treasure hunt looking for coded clues, or to have a talking display of work in the classroom. You might try making a seasonal QR code trail based on finding the carols to spell a mystery word by encoding links to youtube videos.

Using online tools, rather than the iPad, you could continue the theme of exploring media by capturing your typical xmas day as a 5 frame story in Animoto:

Or PhotoPeach:

These two tools are so simple to use and yet produce results which children would be proud to share. Both tools also allow you to add text, opening up possibilities for creating or interpreting poems in words and pictures, or for exploring themes in other subjects.I used Compfight to find these creative commons images to make my slideshows: Magic bokeh! by kevin dooleymerryxmas by nivekhmng,The Grinch by pareeericaChristmas Tree Fruit by Lutz-R. Frank, and Happylucky by in da mood.

I hope this has given you some ideas on ways to help children create using digital media and how mobile technologies can offer rich cross-curricular learning opportunities.

Plan-Write-Publish digitally

I’d like to think about how the process of creating digital products such as e-stories, slideshows, presentations and multimedia posters compares to the writing process, and how we can combine tools and software to make this engaging and meaningful for children.

The skill of capturing thoughts on paper is something that children need to practise and learn, and a common approach to helping them do this is to guide them through a writing process of planning, drafting, editing, revising and publishing. These are often presented as stages and writers may go back and forth between them:

The Plan>Write>Publish process  applies equally well to the creation of digital products  and we can draw from a wealth of online tools to support thinking at each stage.

Firstly, let’s look at planning. How can we support children to gather and organise their ideas, whether they are planning a story or presenting on a theme?

Three of my favourite ideas-gathering tools, which all work well on the interactive whiteboard (IWB) are Wallwisher, Wordle and Wallwisher is basically an online noticeboard, on which anyone can post stickies if they have the URL. Here’s how.  One of the advantages of gathering ideas this way is that you can then move them around to decide which to keep and what order to put them in. This works for planning or analysing a story plot as well as for preparing a presentation on a theme. Another plus is that it encourages contributions from the children who don’t always join in class discussions. In this example from Tom Barrett’s Interesting Ways series they have collected text and images about fast food and stacked them into arguments in preparation for writing:

Wordle makes word clouds from any text you type.  Repeated words are displayed more prominently and you can link words in phrases using the tilde symbol (~).  One use of this could be to gather phrases describing a character from a book chapter and display them in Wordle in preparation for writing a character description. The example below is based on a downloaded extract from Eek the Runaway Alien by Karen Inglis on the LoveReading4Kids website:




Alongside these, you may want to think about mindmapping and brainstorming planning tools  such as and popplet which I looked at here.

Moving on to thinking about drafting, I would suggest investigating Primary Pad or Google Docs.  Primary Pad describes itself as a ‘superfunky collaborative writing tool’ and in my experience it really is! Children love the fact that they can write together in real time and see each other’s contributions appearing in different colours on their screens. In my classroom they got hooked on the process and begged to be allowed to use it at home.

Having gathered ideas and explored them, you’ll be ready to choose a publishing tool for your work. You will be spoilt for choice as there are so many engaging ways of combining words, images and sometimes sound and video into a shareable digital product. Here’s my top ten, well eleven actually.

Photopeach and Photostory are similar, but the first is online and the second a free download. They combine photos, music and text in a lively way by panning around the images.  These students have used Photopeach to make summaries of novels, an idea which could be adapted for younger ages. Animoto goes one stage further by choreographing the panning in time to the music you choose. Last year some of our student teachers used Animoto to interpret poems. Watch them here and here.

When you make a presentation in Prezi you place your media on a virtual canvas and zoom in and out to show them to your audience. You can jump around your content in a non-linear way and respond to your audience’s input rather than just go from slide to slide.  This prezi on the theme of rainforests makes good use of the zoom feature.  Here’s my prezi on story tools. Click on the arrow to view.

With Glogster you can mix text, websites, images, music and video to make multimedia posters, which you can then embed in a blog and ask for peers to respond to them.  This provides a great summative assessment activity where pupils show what they know.

Some presentation tools are designed for story-making and the creation of eBooks. Storybird, Storyjumper, BookR and Little Bird Tales let you put together images and text to make page-turnable books online. Have a look at Oxenhope Primary School’s Storybirds.  Zooburst is an interesting example of the genre as you can make 3D pop-up books and even include augmented reality.  Also worth looking at is StoryScrapbook, a free download that allows you to make multimedia pages, similar to Glogster.









Issues to think about when using these tools include: making sure to use creative commons images and attributing them correctly; checking whether there is an advert-free ‘edu’ version of the tool; and testing the tools in your setting to see how your broadband copes. It is a good idea for you to demonstrate safe practice in selecting and uploading appropriate images.

Bearing these issues in mind, once you’ve made your digital product, whether it be a themed presentation or an eBook, there will usually be a facility within the tool for peer review via comments.  This provides an opportunity to revise and edit in response to feedback before publishing to the wider world, which is a great way to help develop critical skills and self-assessment in the context of a real sense of purpose.

Once your young authors are happy with their work  we can draw upon technology again for opportunities for presenting and publishing to the school community and further afield.  Most of the above sites have their own galleries, there are your school blogs, and you can often email products to parents or share the unique URL for their children’s work, all of which can give a tremendous boost to children’s self-esteem as writers.

At the end of the day, I agree with Mr G Online that the tools and apps can’t improve learning without good teaching, ‘Of course, all of this is pointless if we don’t have teaching and learning strategies in place. The apps don’t create the text. But they do make teaching writing and writing  itself a better experience.’