Note: This is the third in a series of posts this week about how I try to support learners in my room by using mentor texts for digital writing. These posts, plus writing by Bill Bass, Katie DiCesare, Troy Hicks, Kevin Hodgson andFranki Sibberson are being collected at Mentor Texts in the Digital Writing Workshop
I am very fortunate to have iPads in my classroom. Getting these tools was some of the most challenging writing I have ever done. It is much easier to fly by the seat of my pants here than it is to write a grant. It has been fascinating watching the class use the iPads to create, explore, and play around with devices that almost seemed to be designed for kids. It is almost like anyone under the age of 15 was born with the genetic predispostion to inreact quickly and fearlessly with a touch screen.
One of the apps that I have on the iPads is Poem Flow. Sure some of the poems are well out of my reach, let alone the reach of my 4th grade students, but the app is free and it is fun. I really didn't think too much else about it. If one of the poems was appropriate for reading and thoughtful discussion we would look at together as a class. Sometimes the kids explore the app on their own during reading workshop time. The kids were captivated how the poem would slide in and out of the sreen, with words fading away only to be replaced by new words.
When we started a poetry exploration in depth that included writing our own poems, I overheard one of my kids say, "Wouldn't it be cool if we could make our poems flow." My first thought was, "Yeeesh, it can't that hard to do, why didn't I think of that." That night I started playing around with making a "Poem Flow" by using Keynote. All it took was some placement of the lines of my poem and the use of the "dissolve" transition. Well that and whole lot of debate about which background, font size, font color and where I wanted the lines of the poem to appear. But in all honesty that was big fun for me.
Note: Unfortunately, I don't think slideshare allows for the Keynotes below of my poem and Janice's poem allow for the transitions that can be seen if you "play the slideshow." So until I can find the time to convert these to movies and upload them to Vimeo, just pretend you can see the "flow" as your navigate the slideshare.
I knew that it would take about 10 minutes tops of instruction to show the kids how to build a project like I had done. So I added "build a "Poem Flow" as one of the publishing options for our poetry unit. Not every child did one, but the ones who did definitely enjoyed the process of manipulating their poem into a more movie like presentation. In the future, I would love to plan the time into the poetry unit for them to do a voice over and make their Poem Flows an actual short movie narrated by them.
Here is Janice's Poem Flow:
When I think about the explosion of app publication that has happened in the last few years, I am sure the possibilities of using some of these as mentor texts for digital work are bountiful .
I think of some of the games that kids (and adults) ferociously play like Angry Birds, Cut the Rope and Doodle Jump. Imagine the possibilities if we look at these games as not games, but pathways to think about design and storytelling. Kevin wrote of this kind of thinking in one of his posts recently and I think looking at games as mentor texts is something we should deeply consider. There is a reason why I still spend too much time trying to get 3 stars on the current level of Angry Birds that I am stuck. Hopefully it is a bigger reason than my son was ahead of me the last time I checked.
I also think some of the productivity apps that are out there can also be examined for design purposes. I have just started playing around with Skitch. I still am not 100% certain how I will help my kids use it in the classroom or if we will use it. But what I do know is that you can create some artifacts that look remarkably interesting with it. The way Skitch allows you to annotate images, maps and webpages with a varitey of tools is fascinating to me.
When I think about the kids I serve, nearly all of them have access to some sort of iGadget or Android device that uses apps. The entrance into these apps is so easy and intuitive that if we start to look at them in terms of design and not just another game, notetaking tool, voice recorder, etc. we may find some ready made mentor text for our children to consider.
Late addition: As I was in the process of writing this post at various times today, Troy's post hit my twitter stream. I learned something new about the Poem Flow work we did. I can now sound super smart and call this project "genetic type" or "kinetic typography." I also learned that I might have hundreds of new mentor texts available to me, I just didn't know they were out there. I love it when something that emerges from the kids in my room actually has a intellectual sounding name. Maybe if I get observed during our poetry unit next year I can slide "kinectic typography" into my normally sketchy lesson plans. So thanks Troy, you made me tap my fingers and say "excellllent".