Digital Media in the Primary Classroom

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iPads and Digital Stories

We’ve previously discussed the emergence and salience of digital media in the classroom, and iPads are no exception with its increasing accessibility, versatility and effectiveness as a classroom resource. In the article ‘iPads and Kindergarten – students’ literacy development‘, Jones (2012) highlights the benefits of integrating iPads to develop literacy as well as technical capabilities in young students. With the myriad of educational applications and games available, iPads have been shown to significantly increase engagement levels as the learning shifts from the teacher to a student-centred practice, becoming a “powerful medium for meaning-making” in a play-based context (Jones, 2012, pp.36-37).

Many aspects of literacy development can be targeted with iPad applications, including better understanding the narrative structure and features such as settings, characters, dialogue and plot development. This enables students to create their own texts, summarise and retell texts already seen, and reflect on their own learning through playback of any composed stories and videos (Jones, 2012, pp.36-37). Furthermore, adding layers of interactivity, communication and discussion to how picture books and stories are traditionally studied enables the teacher to provide more scaffolding and ongoing tracking and planning in order to meet different student learning needs (Jones, 2012, p.36).

PlaySchool Art Maker app 

screen480x480-2The PlaySchool Art Maker app is a wonderful tool to encourage oral and visual literacy in the classroom. By selecting characters and backgrounds, students are able to record short stories, creating dialogue and basic movements to bring their story to life.

A key aspect of literacy that can be developed is creating dialogue between characters, where students can consider the context and setting, the characters chosen and what they are doing, thinking, feeling, and saying – and how this translates to actual dialogue in story-telling. Teachers can model how to construct call-and-response dialogue by discussing with students what personality their characters have and their relationship to other characters, and how this can be portrayed using words, tone and expression to drive the story forward. Furthermore, students are able to develop technical capabilities by familiarising themselves with the different functions of the application – drag & drop, matching, recording and playback functions can all be driven by the students.

Puppet Pals: App Review

screen480x480Puppet Pals is another educational app for creating digital stories. Users can choose a number of characters and backdrops for scene changes, as if composing a stage play. The app is set up like a stage with puppets, and users can opt for a full view to see onstage and backstage, or close-up view of the stage only. Users can then record their plays – dragging characters to create movement and voiceovers for character speech – and play back as a movie.

The app required some navigation to understand all the features, particularly how to change the backdrops, so it is recommended that teachers explicitly show features and how to use the app to students. While the backdrop changes are great for story progression and consideration of settings and context, there is a restricted number of characters, with more variety available through in-app purchases. Character scaling is also an issue for grasping spatial perspective, as an example squirrels were the same size as people!

The coolest feature that was found was the ability to upload your own photos of characters and backdrops – the opportunities for this in the classroom is endless! Students can use themselves, each other, scenes around school or the home to create genuine, personal and relevant stories. The use of the microphone to narrate and record their own voice also adds to the creative potential. Finally, the different views of onstage and backstage can be used as a great planning tool for script writing, where students can consider stage directions and take a macro view of producing a play.


Jones, M. (2012), ipads and kindergarten- students literacy development, SCAN31(4), 31-40.


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Lessons using the IWB

Sample IWB lesson based on ‘The Lost Thing’ by Shaun Tan: 

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 4.55.57 PM

Lesson notes:

Aim: To identify and use adjectives to add more information in writing a description of a picture/scene.


  • ‘The Lost Thing’ by Shaun Tan – book and short film
  • IWB and slides
  • Student workbooks and pencils

1. After reading the book or watching the short film, explain to students that they will be writing a detailed description based on a still image/picture.

2. Show students the prepared IWB slide, introducing the use of adjectives in describing a picture.

3. Start with the first picture, call students one at a time to come up to the board and choose appropriate adjectives that describes the picture, dragging it in its box. Ask students which noun the adjective relates to and where they see that in the picture, obtaining class opinion/agreement on their peer’s choice.

4. Repeat with second picture. Using the ‘infinite cloner’ tool, advise students they can use the same adjectives for the second picture if they think it is appropriate and can justify their choice. Discuss with students why the same adjectives can be used to describe different nouns.

5. After completing the drag-and-drop activity, ask students if they can think of any other adjectives that describe either picture, and write these on the slide.

6. Advise students they will now commence an independent writing activity, using the adjectives already scaffolded/brainstormed or any others they come up with.

The sample IWB lesson has been designed to use student-led “handover” to facilitate learning. Latane (2002, as cited in Higgins, 2007, p.219) suggested that interactivity with technology needs to be between students as well as the student and the teacher, have instant feedback and the opportunity to explore ideas in addition to the presentation of material. The lesson allows these practices, as each student is asked to think and interact with the material as well as justify and discuss his/her choices with the class and receive peer feedback. This was concluded by a class brainstorm of other ideas/words that are not already on the board. The teacher’s role is to guide the learning activity and prompt discussion, providing a strong scaffold for the subsequent independent writing activity for students.


Higgins, S., G. Beauchamp, and D. Miller (2007), Reviewing the literature on interactive whiteboards, Learning, Media and technology32(3), 213-225.