Monday, November 12, 2012

Digital Storytelling Revisited: Photo Story Tools

Last week, I wrote about combining digital bookmaking and the Language Experience Approach to give ELLs with emerging literacy skills the opportunity to publish their stories. This week, I looked at a few other tech tools that could be used for bringing students' stories to life in the L2 classroom. Photo story tools, such as imovie, stupeflix, and animoto, are an example of these kinds of tools.

I wonder
A photo story is a short video which usually features a slideshow of images that may be accompanied by speech, music, or text. Being a mac user, I decided to begin my foray into the realm of photo stories by trying out a program  I already had on my computer; imovie. Taking the text and images from the story my students had written about their field trip to the Garden Walk, I used this program to create a slideshow of their story. Not only did imovie give me the option of adding text to each of these images, it also let me add a sound recording of myself reading the sentence that went along with that image. In a classroom equipped with the appropriate technology, a tool like imovie could be a great resource for differentiating instruction, allowing students who needed extra reading practice with a story the class had created to use headphones to listen to it being read at their own pace while following along with the text on the bottom of each of the images.

Since not all instructors will have access to a program like imovie in their classrooms, I decided to also try out one of the free photo story tools offered online. The tool I chose was stupeflix, because I liked that it offered the option of adding text and sound to each of the images in the slideshow. I ended up uploading pictures I had on my computer of my family members and myself doing different things and make a simple story using the present progressive, as this is one of the first grammatical structures I teach my students to use. Although I was not able to record myself reading the story the way I had with imovie, stupeflix does have a "text to speech" feature that lets you type out a sentence you want the computer to read for each image. Although computer generated, the speech was surprisingly native-speaker-like.

I imagine a tool like stupeflix could be a great resource to give students who already have some basic literacy skills the chance to demonstrate their command of a specific grammatical feature by creating a photo story with photos that have been taken by the class or that they themselves have taken. They can then use the "text to speech" feature to listen to their story being read by a "native speaker," before themselves reading and presenting it to the class. In a class of students with emerging literacy, on the other hand, the instructor could use stupeflix to create a photostory like the one below that highlights vocabulary or grammar currently being taught in class. Students could listen to the videos with headphones and follow along with the words on each slide as they heard them being read aloud.

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