After reading the Jones (2012) article on his experimentation with iPads and using them to improve literacy development in Kindergarten, some key ideas have stood out :
1. Students in this new digital age are, from a very young age, exposed to and comfortable with the use of may different forms of technology. In lots of cases, it is the 5 year old child teaching parents or grandparents how to use an iPad or smartphone. So these children come into schools often with technology and multi literacies playing a large part in their everyday lives.
2. Because these digital technologies are already a part of childrens’ lives, they are largely relevant and engaging tools to bring into an educational setting. Planning learning that integrates the use of iPads will surely be a more engaging and if done well, effective way of developing areas such as literacy.
3. Using such technology removes the language barriers for english language learners as it acts as a scaffold for oral language and communication between students and the teacher. It allows for all students, regardless of language level, to participate in active storytelling and build confidence.
4. The use of the PlaySchool art maker app give students play-based opportunities that many from a NESB may have not experienced before. Such experiences are vital in helping to develop print awareness and building foundations for literacy. Although ‘play-based’ is often thought of in the traditional way, in many cases it has been overtaken by time spend on digital devices. So the idea of play must be adjusted to suit the importance placed on technology and be incorporated into interacting with iPads and similar devices.
How might I use such apps to develop literacy?
The PlaySchool art maker app and other similar apps can be used to focus on many different aspects of literacy. For example, using the playschool app when being introduced to or during the reading of a text to develop ‘predicting’ skills in a more visual and interactive way. Teacher provides background and discussion about suitable picture book and the students in pairs can create a visual storyboard based on what they think might happen in the story. After reading of the text, students could then go back and create a re-telling of the story (developing comprehension), and compare their ‘before and after’ sequences to see how well they predicted events.
Review of Toontastic
Toontastic is a wonderfully engaging app that works along the lines of the PlaySchool art maker. Some differences however are that it uses a more structured approach to the narrative making process by including a ‘story arc’ scaffold that is basically the 5 steps of narratives – introduction, conflict, challenge, climax and resolution. It is very simple to use, with a step by step process of choosing backgrounds, characters and moving and voicing them to create a story. One of the most exciting tools is being able to choose music to go with each step of your story – as the ‘arc’ progresses from introduction into the climax, the music also increases in intensity to match the events unfolding…..very cool!
This app would work extremely well integrated into a study of narratives and the components of narratives due to the explicit use of the 5 steps in the process of creating the digital story. It also builds skill in oral storytelling and creative thinking and would be wonderful to integrate into a ‘digital drama activity’ focusing on vocal expression and improvised storytelling.