Sunday, February 23, 2014

Analogies, Visual Representations and Metaphors for DOK

Our teams are focusing on creating rigorous learning activities by applying Webb's Depth of Knowledge (DOK) Level 3 and 4 tasks. "Webb developed four DOK levels that grow in cognitive complexity and provide educators a lens on creating more cognitively engaging and challenging tasks," (New York City's Department of Education). By focusing on DOK 3 and 4 levels, they are providing opportunities for students to engage in rigorous thinking as they connect with the content.

This post will focus on analogies, visual representations, and metaphors as avenues for creating engaging DOK tasks.


Analogy prompts are great ways to check for understanding (Wiggins & McTighe in UbD), and they are DOK 3 tasks.

This can be done with any content area. Here are a few examples: 
  • Finding the line of symmetry is like finding a matching shoe because both sides are now the same size and same shape.
  • Spelling correctly is like washing your hands after using the facilities because your mom always reminds you to go back and wash and the computer always puts that red squiggly line under those misspelled words. You'd be better off just doing it the first time.
The analogy connects learning to what students know, and it provides the teacher a picture of those connections, which can be used as checking for understanding and formative assessment. 
Visual Representations

Creating a visual representation shows the complexity of students' thinking (e.g., a flow chart, a concept map, or a visual metaphor) .

Have you ever thought about having students create a concept map from the Learning students wrote down on their KWL chart?  To do so, they need to synthesize ideas, look for themes and connections, then visually organize those ideas into categories.

The image below shows a concept map created from a KWL during 1:1 Professional Development. Each group created their own concept map, and the beauty of it was: 1) it made the groups think about the big ideas we've discussed during PD; and 2) it was a formative assessment for me to see where each group was, so I knew if they were ready for the next step.
Artifact from 1:1 training with AJHS, Feb of 2012.


Creating strong metaphors requires an understanding of the denotation and connotation of words, and how they conjure up emotions as they create visual connections (Common Core Craft and Structure Standard #4).

Have you ever thought about having students create metaphors with their vocabulary or spelling words? They'd have to clearly understand the meanings of the words, and how to craft them into connections to convey specific emotions or ideas.

Or, have you thought about having students create a video of metaphors (Common Core Speaking and Listening Standard #2)? Here's a lesson for that. Below is a product that my 2009 5th grade students created based on that idea. Confession: I wasn't aware of Creative Commons at the time.

Visual Metaphors

Visual metaphors is that very process of taking complicated ideas and finding ways to visually represent those ideas (Common Core Speaking and Listening Standard #2).

Here are some technology tools for creating visual metaphors:

Final thoughts

While some of these tasks take some time investment (e.g., creating visual metaphors), it doesn't have to. Simply asking student to draw a picture or a visual representation of their learning challenges them to synthesize ideas. Ask them to make an analogy, which is also a low prep task with high cognitive results. Then share their thoughts with a partner or a small group.
  • What are some other low prep, high results (DOK 3) tasks students can engage in?
  • How do you/would you use analogies, visual representations and metaphors in your classroom or professional development?
  • How else does this post connect with you?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Digital Storytelling and Stories with the iPad

Digital storytelling is an art form conveying a message. It uses images and voice narration to convey emotion with the message, and to ignite empathy from the audience. It incorporates storyboarding and writing a script. It is created with digital tools and published on the Internet.

I often think of digital storytelling as something done in first person because it creates that personal connection. Whereas, I think of a digital story as an anecdote or story typed or narrated in third person.

Image attribution: Lyn Hilt's Slideshare, used with permission.
Original work: "Writing- Pen & Paper" CC-by Laurie Richie

Here are some of the many benefits of digital storytelling and digital stories:

    Get Adobe Flash player

  • The 21st century skills and ISTE's Standards applied are critical and creative thinking; written, oral, and digital communication; collaboration; authentic learning; digital fluency; informational fluency; and project management.
  • It is great differentiation for all students including ELs, gifted, and special needs.
  • It increases student engagement in a meaningful and relevant task.

Common Core Standards

Many specific content standards can be addressed through digital stories. Here are some of the Common Core Standards that digital storytelling and digital stories address:
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences. 
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. 
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
Here are some of the ELD Standards: ELD.P1.9-12

Types of digital stories and some prompts

Digital storytelling and stories can take shape as a:
  • Short Story: This narrative shares an insight, a perspective, or an entertaining story.
  • Myth, Legend, Tall Tale, Folk Tale, or Fable: While each of these are a little different from one another, they tend to describe origins, values, beliefs, accomplishments, or special events. 
  • DocuDrama or Historical Storytelling: This digital story is told from the point of view of a person (or object) in a different era. It requires researching a time period, then using creativity to have those facts come to life.
  • Describe and Conclude or Reflective Storytelling: Tell about something you're learning and the impact it has on you.
  • Public Service Announcement, Advertisement, or Persuasive Story: This digital story has the purpose of calling others to action for or against something else.
These prompts were inspired by Bernajean Porter's Digital Storytelling Across the Curriculum

The art of digital storytelling

Last year, I participated in an outstanding webinar by ISTE's Special Interest Group for Digital Storytelling, where Bernajean Porter shared about the "Art and Soul of Digital Storytelling." After being inspired by the webinar, I created the following page summarizing some of my key take-aways:
Click here to download PDF

Below is an example of digital storytelling by Siobahn Quigg.

Step 1: Writing the script and planning the project
Click to download
  • Prompt: I'd choose one prompt to introduce the process of digital storytelling to students. I might even do the first one as a whole group with parts and roles shared by the students. (Here's the first try from a second grade class and a Kindergarten student). As our class becomes confident with the process and media, I'd open it up to more choices and smaller groups/individual productions.
  • Teaching about the writing: Teach the importance of first person for adding spice to the story; share an interesting problem, perspective, or insight; and use strong word choice to convey the message.

Step 2: Production, apps, and digital tools
  • Choose the app: When I am introducing the digital storytelling process to classes, I choose the app for them to use. Once the process is established and they have a toolbox of apps (or sites) to use, I give them a choice in tools.
  • Images and Creative Commons: Have students create their own images, take their own photos, or find photos that have Creative Commons Licenses and have them properly cite the photo either on the same page as the picture or at the end.
  • Background music and Creative Commons: If there is not music to choose from on the app or site, then find music that is legal to use in your video. I select music from the list suggested by Creative Commons, Dano Songs, or Melody Loops. However, background music is not a necessity, especially if it's new to the class. 
  • Production: Before production, I treat this part of the process much like I would the rough draft of a writing assignment with editing and revising. Here's where the mini-lessons come in about voice, word choice, etc. I like to conference with my students to make sure they are ready for production, then I allow them to start once they've gathered all of the photos and music (optional).


I'm highlighting five apps appropriate for various ages and for beginners (with integrating the iPads and/or are new to digital storytelling). These apps are also currently free.
  • Fotobabble: The Fotobabble app makes narrating, editing, and sharing a single photo easy. While there are several sharing options, including email, I've found that saving in the Fotobabble app is easiest because it can be opened at the desktop site (once an account is created) and shared with others via the embed code on a website/blog or by the URL. The drawback of this app is it only allows one image. Therefore, if the student wants to show more images, a collage of images can be created.

  • Toontastic is a cartoon storyboard for recording digital stories. This is a great app to apply creativity, speaking and listening, with narrative elements. With this app, once you tap Done, it has the "Share this cartoon online on ToonTube" checked. To utilize this, create an account from the iPad. You'll get an email from Toontastic for everything created in Toontastic on your iPads (if you log into them on the iPads), and you'll give the final approval to publish their creations. On that page, there is also an embed code for your blog/website (and options to email, Tweet, or share it on FaceBook).
  • TeleStory allows you to star in your own TV show. You are given prompts and props to walk through a storyboard, creating a story. Click here to view this app in iTunes.
  • ShowMe is an interactive whiteboard that can be used for digital storytelling by adding pages to the presentation and inserting photos (or drawing your own). ShowMe is an iPad app that can also be accessed from your browser. Once saved as "Complete" on the iPad, it will save to the account created which gives options for sharing, including the URL and the embed code.

More resources

Step 3: Publishing and connecting with an authentic audience

Celebrate their creations by sharing with others.

Building an authentic audience to view the digital stories is powerful for students. They are no longer creating a project just for the teacher -- it's for their families, friends, and people around the globe.

Each of the apps listed above have a description for sharing on the Internet. Emails can be sent to parents with the URL for where the digital story is published (or through the RSS subscription for the class blog). When shared on a teacher's blog, a Tweet can also be sent through Twitter asking for comments on their work by adding the hashtag #comments4kids. If your school has a FaceBook account, share the link there.

Reflection, evaluation, and rubrics

Providing specific feedback along the way with daily goals is part of the process. Self-evaluations using the scoring guides or rubrics are strong formatives for the students to target their next steps.

Formal or informal student reflection is part of the process. It's important that a positive class atmosphere is established for this step.
  • Asking reflective questions: Have partners share their work with one another and ask them, "What parts or images captured your interest or attention?" 
  • Tracy's Rubric: This rubric was created as an introduction to storytelling, with the purpose of focusing on Common Core Reading Standard #6, "Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text," by applying it to digital storytelling.
  • Digital Storytelling Rubric: I discovered Jason Ohler's post about assessing digital stories from Lyn Hilt's wiki. This is an extensive list of ideas on assessing digital storytelling.
  • Create your own rubric: If you end up creating your own rubric, remember to focus on your content standards the most with only a little emphasis (if any) on the technology piece.

Final thoughts

Digital storytelling is fabulous for content learning, 21st century learning, and active engagement. If task predicts performance, then my money is on digital storytelling.
  • What apps or digital resources would you add to this list?
  • What tips or questions would you add to this conversation about digital storytelling?
  • How else does this post connect with you?

Portions of this post was originally published in 2013 and as part of AJUSD professional development with netbooks.