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: 

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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.

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Sample Class Blogs

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Year 6RC – Life in Year 6

Age group: Stage 2-3

This is a great example of a class blog as it is informative, collaborative and engaging. The blog is comprised of posts by different ‘student reporters’ who write about different topics such as the school’s 106th birthday, sports training, and recounting interesting or funny activities and events that happen in class.

There are also numerous links to other class blogs around the world. This indicates that this class is an active participant in the global blogging community and is open to sharing and collaborating with other classes.

Content/features that I particularly like about this blog are:

  • ‘Blogging Guidelines’ page outlining rules to ensure safety for the class – this is great practice for sharing any content online
  • ‘Flag Counter’ to indicate the number of visitors to the page and where they are from – this is a wonderful tool to keep students engaged and excited about their blog and its spreading popularity
  • Having different ‘student reporters’ for posts – this allows equal contribution by students about topics that interest them
  • Equal balance of visuals and written commentary to engage the audience

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The Ins & Outs of Year Four, Room Five

Age group: Stage 2-3

This comprehensive class blog is a great example of using blogging to share class learning activities. There are sections for different topic areas including Maths, Art, Science and Sport; as well as information written to communicate with parents,  such as the importance and requirements of a home learning program.

The blog has won numerous awards, including the Interface Blog of the Year and Edublog World Blog of the Year nominee. While they have been successful with the blog it is interesting that the class is trialling moving to Twitter as their primary online platform.

Content/features that I particularly like about this blog are:

  • Categorisation of posts into various learning areas, as this helps to navigate a content-rich blog
  • Varied and interesting links to class blogs they collaborate with and other educational resource sites
  • Links to individual student online portfolios which showcases each student’s work, achievements and learning insights. This is a great way to engage students, provide accountability for their work and blog, and allow them to share their successes with the wider online community
  • Links to the class’s Twitter, Youtube and Edmodo indicates the class is keen to make the most of new literacies to enhance their learning experience

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Class Blogs: Learnings from Belmore South PS

Class blogs have become increasingly popular as a teaching and learning tool. It is simple, powerful, interactive and easily accessible to teachers, students and the wider educational community. Belmore South Public School in particular has found great success in implementing class blogs and observe a large difference to the way students learn and how they demonstrate their learning (Pericles, 2008, p.4).

In the article ‘Happily Blogging @ Belmore South‘, the practices and benefits associated with class blogging is highlighted and provides interesting insights and ideas for consideration in a primary classroom:

1) Use of blogs for communication. Students are able to use personal blogs to post assignments, news, or create an online portfolio to showcase work to parents. Similarly, teachers can post class activities, news and information on a class blog, and have a central place for ideas and suggestions (Pericles, 2008, p.5).

2) Use of blogs for collaboration. One of the great benefits of blogging is interactivity – others can comment on what you have written and open up a two-way conversation (Pericles, 2008, p.5), peers and teachers can provide questions and feedback on work in progress. Moreover, class blogs can be shared with any partnering classes globally – allowing collaboration and connection with authentic audiences (Pericles, 2008. p.5).

3) Use of blogs to create a quality learning environment. The practice of classroom blogging with its highly individualised content allows for negotiation with students to develop and agree on particular guidelines regarding topics, commenting and responses and general blogging rules. This facilitates a quality learning context as principles of explicit quality criteria, high expectations and student direction are established and agreed upon (Pericles, 2008, p.5). Furthermore, the use of new technologies allow students to make their learning within school highly relevant (Pericles, 2008, p.6).

Click here for the full article. 

Pericles, K. (2008). Happily blogging @ Belmore South. SCAN, 27(2), 4-6

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Review: The Media Show – Greenwashing

On this episode of The Media Show, puppet hosts Ema and Weena mock and highlight how media and advertising campaigns use misleading tactics to ‘greenwash’ consumers regarding the environmental practices of large corporations. This includes:

  • Use of a green screen to show picturesque backgrounds and seem environmentally savvy
  • Use of broad, vague, irrelevant or simply fake claims
  • Use of awards and celebration to inflate perception of industry and legislative approval of company practices

This video clip is a great resource for teaching students about the media – its purpose, intent and credibility. By being made aware of how companies can intentionally mislead consumers and identifying key tactics, students are better equipped to know what to look out for when consuming information on the internet. In a time where online content is highly accessible and sought out by children, and when children are highly influenced by external factors, the skills to discern credible and accurate information is of great importance and value.

Furthermore, the format of the segment is perfect for the classroom – it is easy to follow, informative, humorous and engaging; and displays a real world example (BP advertisement) as well as step-by-step unpacking of the sins of greenwashing for students to easily understand – all within 3 minutes!

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New Literacies

Literacy can be seen as a function of social, cultural, institutional and technological change (Lankshear & Knobel, 2012, p.45). This means that the resulting methods of communicating and engaging with different types of media have paramount implications for what it means to be ‘literate’ in a 21st Century classroom.

e-bookfeatured-images-600x340Gone are the days of exclusively engaging and learning from simple print media, or ‘traditional literacies’ – textbooks, encyclopaedias, journals, etc. Enter the endless opportunities and breadth of digital media – the internet, social networks, blogs, smartphones, tablets, gaming, video, applications and programs. In order to keep abreast of the knowledge, skills and fluencies required for students to thrive in a technologically-evolving culture, new, digital literacies must be integrated into the teaching and learning process.

What’s exciting is the very essence of new literacies as information consumption linked to changing values and technologies. This implies a continuously transformative practice (Houtman, 2013): what is considered new today may not be new tomorrow. Teachers therefore are responsible for adapting and embracing new methods of imparting information to students to suit the current literacies of their world, “increasingly become orchestrators of learning contexts rather than dispensers of literacy skills” (Leu et. al in Houtman, 2013).


Houtman, E. (2013). New literacies, learning, and libraries: How can frameworks from other fields help us think about the issues? In the Library with the Lead Pipe.  Retrieved from February 14th, 2014

Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2012). ‘New’literacies: technologies and values. Teknokultura. Revista de Cultura Digital y Movimientos Sociales, 9(1), 45-71.  Retrieved from Accessed February, 2014