Digital programme lights up literacy learning

Issue: Volume 100, Number 14

Posted: 3 November 2021
Reference #: 1HAQwN

There’s a happy buzz in the activity space at Pegasus Bay School Te Kura o Manga Kawari, where a class of Year 2 and 3 children are working on a range of tasks that build literacy – and make them creators of digital content.

Harper shares her digi drawing before adding her recording.

Harper shares her digi drawing before adding her recording.

Tamariki in Róisín Anglesey’s class are working on their digital technology skills, while reinforcing their reading, writing and oral literacy skills.

“Junior teachers are working on building creators not consumers of digital objects with independent reading activities. I try to avoid consumer apps and create tasks, so the children become designers of their own digital solutions,” says Róisín, who moved to the school because of its strong digital focus.

Located north of Christchurch, Pegasus Bay School opened in 2014, and has been using the digital platform Seesaw to engage with whānau. But Róisín says they have redefined Seesaw to become more child-focused by using a range of engaging activities. When asked for a name for the digital tasks and challenges programme she has developed and added to Seesaw, she laughs and says, “It’s just called digital literacy activities!”

Students gaining understanding of some digital applications and how they work falls under Progress Outcome 1 in the curriculum: ‘Designing and developing digital outcomes’.

“The activities become routine, and the kids become so comfortable that when that when we do other digital objects, they’ve got those basic skills like logging on, turning on the microphone, and the basics of movie-making. They’ve got a solid foundation of the digital technology curriculum to build on,” she says.

“The beauty of that tool [Seesaw] is its flexibility, it’s a really simple space to create content, and the ability to share is massive,” adds principal Jared Kelly. .

Digital challenges

When Education Gazette visits, there’s a group of highly engaged tamariki from ‘Mrs A’s Homeroom’ working on rotations of activities around a book they have chosen.

“We’ve got some learners who are very shy. We put the iPad onto selfie mode, and it sounds very simple, but the number of shy children that will read to an iPad and not a teacher has been very interesting,” says Róisín.

“They film themselves reading the story and then they upload it onto Seesaw for their parents to see. They absolutely love seeing themselves on Seesaw; the parents really enjoy it. We do one at the start of the term and one at the end of the term and you can see the progress,” she explains.

Other children are doing digi-drawings in response to a story they have read. These will be turned into animations for everyone to enjoy.

“A common Junior class activity is, ‘Go and draw a picture of what we’ve just read’ – and you can almost hear the sigh. But if you say, ‘Go and do it on an iPad and add a voice to it and record yourself reading it’, it takes off,” says Róisín.

Tamariki are also busy making animations and retelling a story, picking a character and making it talk through ChatterPix, and filming themselves reviewing the book. Manipulating digital content in this way encourages tamariki to be creators of digital technologies.

“They can tell their own story and manipulate the characters. They absolutely love doing it and then they get to post it straight on Seesaw, it goes home, and the parents get to see it. There’s been an outstanding response from parents.”

Lots of learning

 Róisín Anglesey reads Pete the Cat to the class.

Róisín Anglesey reads Pete the Cat to the class.

When it comes time for Róisín to read a class favourite, Pete the Cat, the children follow along on their iPads. But don’t think they’re only engaged in what’s on their screens – they animatedly chant responses throughout the story.

“They will read with me, then there are follow up activities which reinforce the learning and the teaching. They’re also learning about the structure of a book. There’s been a lot of background teaching beforehand about character, setting, plot, and the beginning, middle, and end of a story.

Using stop-motion (manipulating objects and figures frame by frame to create the illusion of movement), and a list of high-frequency words, tamariki spell out a word and make a stop-motion movie.

Debugging, or fixing mistakes, is another important skill that tamariki learn when working with digital technologies.

“Sometimes they will play it back and the words aren’t right, and we go back and fix it – it’s a fun way of learning spelling,” explains Róisín.

The children also have conversations around digital citizenship, such as being respectful and positive and seeking permission for pictures when creating digital objects.

Huge engagement

The innovative approach to teaching and learning combines designing and developing digital outcomes with literacy as the focus, which engages children in interactive learning.

Ashton is engaged in Mrs A’s digital literacy activities class.

Ashton is engaged in Mrs A’s digital literacy activities class.

“There’s an absolute minefield of apps out there. There are so many apps that make promises, but a lot of the time, it’s just kids sitting in front of the device doing nothing. These activities allow the children to think for themselves and create content.

“The key benefit is allowing the children to routinely use the curriculum in designing digital objects, and at the same time, building that foundation to continue to learn about, and with, digital technologies. AND it’s hitting the literacy objectives as well,” says Róisín

Jared agrees. “The level of engagement is huge. It’s not passive, it’s interactive, and that’s a really critical part of that learning model,” he says.

“Whether we like it or not, digital technology is a very direct avenue to engaging students’ learning. Our job is to make sure that it’s engaging with purpose, and I think that’s what this achieves exceptionally well. Putting an iPad in front of children is a really easy way to get them engaged, but is the content making a difference? Is it having an impact in a way that we want it to have?

“We’re pretty particular about the types of learning that we want to have here – one of those things is around experiential learning. With a programme like this they are really immersed in it – there’s a personal connection to what is happening, so I think we’re using technology in a really intriguing way and that aligns really strongly with our philosophy around experiential learning,” he says.

Global audience

Róisín says that technology in the classroom has always been her passion.

“It just works for me! Since the introduction of the revised technology curriculum, the Ministry of Education has run several workshops and courses. I think I have attended them all! I also took extra courses to become an Apple Teacher and a Seesaw Ambassador,” she says

Sienna uses an iPad to selfie read.

Sienna uses an iPad to selfie read.

In July, Róisín was invited to take part in the annual virtual Seesaw Connect conference accessed by teachers from more than 150 countries. She was the only teacher from Aotearoa to present at the conference.

Innovative teaching practices are also needed to support the use of digital technologies in the classroom. Róisín modelled this by using the flipped classroom model for her workshop.

“I chose five of my digital activities. I pre-recorded everything with a selfie stick. I used my own child to demonstrate some of the activities.”

Along with another teacher from Ōtautahi, Róisín was also involved in Seesaw facilitator groups for teachers from New Zealand and Australia.

“I had never done anything like this before and it was a very interesting experience. We did four sessions via Zoom, and we just discussed my course, Seesaw content, family engagement and other Seesaw issues. It was more about making connections, because it’s so good to know that someone in another location is going through the same digital wonderings as you are,” she says.

The people at Seesaw, based in San Francisco, were excited by New Zealand’s philosophy of making children creators, not just consumers, of digital technology.

“That was the first time the Americans has ever heard anything like that. It’s just what we’re doing in New Zealand!” says Róisín.

Next goals

Róisín wants to extend the use of her digital initiative to other subjects and more teachers at the school.

“It lends itself to so many different subjects – I’m keen to try something in maths. I’m still at the early stages of thinking about it,” she says.

And she’s got the backing of principal Jared.

 “To me, the iPad is a really exceptional tool for amplifying the type of learning that we do here. If we see it as a tool by which we’re going to measure, then we’re not going to see the whole value; but if we seek the transformational learning opportunities that can come from a digital context, then that’s where the value sits,” he says.

“The critical part of it is we want these kids to be highly capable at using digital tools as they move through the school, so that by the time they reach those senior classes, they’re actually leading a whole heap of that learning and are able to create great digital content.”


Student kōrero

Lewis and Nate love to share with each other – here they compare ChatterPix characters.

Lewis and Nate love to share with each other – here they compare ChatterPix characters.

Education Gazette talked to some tamariki from Pegasus Bay School about their literacy programme.

What is your favourite literacy activity?

Jay: Animation, because it is really fun and it makes books cool. I’ve animated lots of books and it make books fun.

Mia: Stop Gap Motion, because it is so cool and active. I like making videos.

Lewis: ChatterPix, because it is really funny and I can make the characters say funny things.

Ezra: Stop Gap Motion, because you have to take lots of photos and use lots of skills.

Alyssa: ChatterPix, because you make the books come alive and talk to you.

Ashton: Digi Drawing – I like the challenge.

Gabby: Digi Drawing – it was hard at first and then I got awesome.

What is one thing you are most proud of learning from doing the activities?

Harper: My first animation story – it was the first time I had used animation and I was a movie maker.

Jay: Pete the Cat story – sometimes it was hard but then I got the hang of it. My family was proud.

James: Digi Drawing – sometimes it is hard to draw the picture and use the tools but it looks awesome when it is done.

Maitland: Stop Gap motion – it is hard but when it is done it is awesome.

Caitlin: Selfie Reading – I can be brave with my reading. Sometimes I feel shy when I read, but Selfie Reading makes me brave.

Tell me about something that you have found challenging to learn, and have mastered?

Jay: Using the recording tool, now I know I can use it by myself and I feel happy.

Caitlin: Tricky reading in front of friends; I then read to the iPad and the iPad is nice. I find a quiet space and read my book and feel brave and happy.

Lewis: Pete the cat animation - the animation was so hard at first. I had so many tries to get it right. When it was finished, I was so proud and my family loved it. There was so much hard work in my movie.

Nate: Pete the cat - the animation tools are tricky at first and then I got it!

Ezra: Stop Gap Motion - I had no idea what this was or how to work it, once I did it, I was so proud.

Cullen: Stop Gap Motion - my first time doing it, it was so wobbly and now I have the hang of it.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 11:17 AM, 3 November 2021

Get new listings like these in your email
Set up email alerts