Thursday, March 25, 2010

Learning Without Boundaries

Preconceptions: Don't Get Stuck In What You Think You Know

For many students, prior knowledge learned in the home, at school, or through experiences in the community, intertwines and manifests in preconceptions that can become "learning blocks" inhibiting the ability to take in, conceptualize, and accept new knowledge. The global explorations of the Internet allow students a new depth of prior knowledge that encompasses a diversity of beliefs, sociological/economical/political realities and unique ideas. The student is given a new level of experience as the ability to access and apply new knowledge is taken to a new level of conceptual acceptance.

When introducing the student to the Internet world of knowledge, the teacher must not fall victim to these same "learning blocks" of preconceptions. The technical tools of the Internet must be shared, utilized and applied equally by everyone in an educational community. Ideally, this community consists of students, teachers, parents, administrators and anyone else who is a part of the learning experience.

A secure, teacher friendly, 2.0 tool that allows the student the ability to share images, videos and documents with feedback from voices from around the world is, an exclusive educational component of VoiceThread.

Imagine a student in Chicago sharing information and ideas with a student in Japan without leaving the four walls of her school. A teacher collaborates with other educators located in countries throughout the world. A soldier in Iraq speaks to a classroom in Idaho. Each group shares pictures and tells stories. Voices are heard across a cyber-global existence that introduces a new world of knowledge that can be interactively evaluated and connected and become a part of the lives of all involved.

The creation of a digital library is the fundamental concept that drives VoiceThread. At, this library is created by an education community comprised of students, teachers, professionals and parents. It can become a global collaboration of cultures, beliefs, information and ideas.

Commenting avatars communicate via a computer microphone, phone, text, audio file or webcam, and there is no softwall to install. Synchronized video doodling allows commentators to visually accentuate ideas and interpretations. For the classroom, voicethreads and comments can be secured and monitored on

The Educational Possibilities

  • Create

  • Collaborate

  • Practice

  • Explore

  • Solve

Digital stories and documents can be created in a collaborative, interactive environment established by the educator. Language skills can be practiced and documented through project designs viewed, interpretted and commented on by peers. Global exploration becomes real as places are visualized and the stories behind the pictures are given international voices. Math problems can be solved and science theories can be shared through a cyber-diversity of perspectives.

Professional Development and VoiceThread

From actual VoiceThread posted to the main site to those found in, teachers can find a cornucopia of lesson plans, research and tutorials. In addition, each VoiceThread has teachers' comments from throughout the world. There are excellent support materials found at VoiceThread Forum as educators post questions, problems and ideas to a moderator. This site provides help in the form of video tutorials, discussion posts and manuals.

Arts: A Natural Integration

"The arts, especially the visual arts, have often been regarded as a kind of discharge of personal expression, where expression refers to an emotional release through visual materials" (Eisner 232).

The personal expression released by a student in a VoiceThread presentation is done through a visual image. This image is created by visual materials that include paintings, drawings, photographs, videos and slides. The personal expression is heightened as the student's voice is added to tell the story, interpret imagery, present a concept, or vocalize other components of creative, critical thought.

This personal expression is presented to an audience comprised of a global stage as others are invited to view and share the experience of the visual materials and become part of the emotional release. The audience is encouraged to add to the story through equally personalized interpretation, conceptualization, and vocalization of creative, critical thought.

This interaction manifests in a collaborative effort that breaks down the barriers of preconceptions as prior knowledge is shared and authentically experienced. Concepts are changed through expansion of experiences and complexity of ideas as the learner becomes his own creator of a learning process that has allowed exploration beyond the prior knowledge of home and school and ventured into the community of an educational world.

All facets in this new learning environment connect, interact and collaborate. Core curriculum, the arts, and technology integrate with an end product of heightened critical thought that is conceived through the authentic expansion of experience.

To View my video on VoiceThread please go to my Youtube account at:\my_videos?features=mhw5

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Art, Literacy and Technology: Integration for the 21st Century

“The arts, if they are about anything, are about the creation of a personal vision."
(Eisner, 2002, p. 44)

In today’s ever evolving technological world, the personal vision of the student is expanded by the infinite possibilities of Internet exploration. With this expansion comes a new definition of literacy as portals to communication become global, offering today’s student educational experiences that promote heightened critical thought through creative expression. A new place for the arts in education has emerged and unless its importance is realized, the opportunity to explore and accomplish will be denied.

Digital Storytelling opens a new window to communication as digital tools intertwine and an individual's story is unveiled. What is created are real stories told through images, video, audio and the written word. Art is truly integrated, and "... multimedia technology has opened up the world of the artist. Today, anyone who can move a mouse can jump in and give it a go" (Ohler, 2000, n.p.).

Through Digital Storytelling, all students can share lifestyles, beliefs, life lessons, and significant life moments. The world of literacy becomes open to everyone as stories are illustrated, visualized and told.

Before there was the written word, there was storytelling. There were pictures in caves, on walls and on pottery. People danced, sang and chanted life. Digital Storytelling goes beyond the written word. It is a way for all students to understand the power of literacy.

Digital storytelling provides a process for the individual to shape a story through multi-media art projects. Digital storytelling becomes digital literacy as tools of technology are used to create, organize and evaluate.

The Process:


A digital lesson unit integrates the literacies of writing, speech, artistic design and technology. Students engage in activities that encourage collaboration by the entire educational community as they read and write media. The digital lesson unit is scaffolded as students are guided through a process that is: brainstormed, mapped, scripted, spoken, technologically designed and presented.

  • Students collaborate and share through brainstormed ideas
  • Teachers enter the process as they provide input to the story map.
  • Students engage in shared ideas as the mapped story evolves into a script
  • Technology is integrated as the words, pictures, and video are embedded to enhance the script.
  • Community becomes an audience as the finished product is published.

Communication Is For All Through Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling knows no language or learning ability barriers. Because it integrates four forms of known communication, all students are given the ability to tell their stories. Students narrate what is written. They hear the voice as it interprets the words chosen to define a digital image. Likewise, the digital image defines the chosen words through visualization. Students both hear and see their stories beyond the reading of the written words on a page. Creation and interpretation is owned by the students as they evolve from story maker to storyteller.

Digital Storytelling is Authentic Learning

A digital story tells a story through the perspective of what the student deems relevant and worth learning.

  • The final product is student centered as they uniquely create their own project.
  • Students take ownership as the story is personalized.
  • Critical learning is engaged as basic facts become concept based and result in projects that engage higher-order thought.

Digital stories promote collaboration.

  • Students are encouraged to share knowledge and initial ideas
  • Students work together to create a meaningful end.
  • Students provide feedback that is constructive and leads to a means for improvement.

The digital story lesson plan involves the entire educational community.

  • Teachers interact with students as learning facilitators, guiding students at all levels of production through scaffolding
  • Parents, teachers and community become involved as available resources and audience.
  • Community professionals provide information to both students and educators.

The digital storytelling outcome is a project founded in an environment of active learners that goes beyond the traditional classroom.The result is a learning experience that combines personal relevance in the "real world" with individual educational needs.

  • Students are actively engaged at all stages of the digital story.
  • The story goes from the page to an audience who can become involved beyond the classroom.
  • What is learned is knowledge relevant in today's ever evolving technological society.
  • Students produce an end result that is based on knowledge that is read, written, technologically understood, critically analyzed and meaningfully presented.


The objective of a digital story needs to be clearly realized by the teacher. The goal of digital storytelling is objectified by the individuality and uniqueness of educators. Suggestions for assessment include, but in no way are limited to the following. The student(s) will:

  • Present a story that is effectively researched and documented.
  • Present a story that integrates communication that is written, oral, digital and artistic.
  • Present a story that is logically sequenced through written story mapping and digital storyboarding.
  • Present a story that meets the academic requirements of the assigned project.
  • Present a story that the intended audience can relate to and interact with in a way that contributes to the academic importance of the project.

Digital Open Source Tool For Digital Storytelling

There are a number of tools that are open source, trial based and available as software. Whatever the tool, ability to sequentially organize images through a storyboard and synchronize scripted narration is important. After experimenting with several, I chose Photo Story 3 to demonstrate in a video tutorial. It is easy, doesn't confuse and produces a quality product.

Photo Story Tutorial Video: An Alternative to Youtube

To view my tutorial go to an alternative to Youtube, and via the "videos tab" click "e-learning." I am Melojill and the video is "Photo Story 3 for Windows." This doesn't require downloading and is an extremely user friendly alternative to other open source screen capture tools.