Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Accountable Talk/Peer Feedback

The following is from a weekly column I write in the OCDSB Business & Learning Technologies e-Newsletter called Curriculum Connections.

Using Bitstrips as a tool for a discussion of Character Ed traits, it was quickly noticed that the students were demonstrating acceptance, appreciation and respect in their cooperative approach to learning and their positive comments to peers on their finished stories. Great!

Looking more deeply, and reflectively, at the comments, we were soon discussing what constituted accountable talk and effective peer feedback. Using the following graphic as a starting point, students could be asked questions such as “How could your comment help the author develop his or her meaning?” or “What could you ask that would help the author understand how this connects to a safe and caring learning environment?”.

As further peer comments were analyzed it was noted that chronology played a part in the content, as is often the case when a blog is posted and the “long tail” of comments occurs. Often people comment, not on the original post, but on other peoples’ comments.

Many teachers have asked for a recommendation for a safe blogging site for their classes. Bitstrips has potential for a rich, interactive environment. Teachers can post a discussion question or graphic, using the Visual Language of the medium, which engages multiple learning styles, and students could comment using directed Accountable Talk. The teacher can easily jump in for “just in time” responses that ask for deeper connections, respectful disagreement with mindful rationale, or extensions of opinion. This activity could be done in a lab (partnering would elicit collaborative thought), or in a small group around a classroom computer.

Any comments?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bubbles and Gutters

The following is from a weekly column I write in the OCDSB Business & Learning Technologies e-Newsletter called Curriculum Connections.

This week I address:
Media Literacy 3.3 Conventions and Techniques; Reading 2. Understanding Form and Style

The comic and graphic novel genres have specific codes and conventions, just as text-based language does. Exclamation, question, and declaration (spoken, whispered) are clearly identified through the use of speech bubbles and formats that are as widely known as quotation, exclamation and question marks, and periods. Bitstrips defines these bubbles clearly for the student. A number of shared activities could be designed, such as create a comic with different speech bubbles and have an elbow partner fill in the text, or match different texts with the appropriate bubble.

Another important feature of panel writing is the space between the panels, called the gutter. The gutter can indicate the passage of time and indeed graphic novelists such as Scott McCloud will be very deliberate when deciding how large the space will be.

BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE! Reading 1.5 Making Inferences/Interpreting Texts
Another use of the gutters is for making inferences or predicting. Students can infer what has taken place to move the story from panel to panel, predict what will happen in the next panel or fill in missing panels. Working in small groups, students could storyboard a strip and then leave out a panel for other students to fill in.

Comic Life allows the ultimate manipulation of gutters.

For a detailed description of the codes and conventions of the comic genre, plus over 40 activities, check out “In Graphic Detail” by David Booth and Kathleen Lundy.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


The following is from a weekly column I write in the OCDSB Business & Learning Technologies e-Newsletter called Curriculum Connections

Voice 2.2 (Gr.3) - establish a personal voice in their writing, with a focus on using concrete words and images to convey their attitude or feeling towards the subject.

There is a lot of software readily available to help students establish their personal voice and activities can be developed according to which software is used. For example, using Bitstrips, students can communicate their feelings and emotions by manipulating the body language of the avatars and using speech bubbles. Indeed the comic genre lends itself to concise and well-chosen words. Comic Life and Photo Story3 require the importing of images to start the digital story. (Bitstrips now has this functionality.)

But how to acquire appropriate images for students to use? Teachers, and students, should be aware that there are some copyright restrictions to using images from the internet. The term Copyleft refers to those licenses that have been created to enable people to openly share their work, in various ways.

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization committed to collaborative sharing of online creative work. People can select how they want to share and post their work with this license clearly labeled. You will find a detailed description of the various licenses at Basically a contributor can decide to share with a combination of attribution (by), share-alike (same license), non-commercial use and/or no derivations (no changes, remix).
The license is identified by a graphic similar to this. Creative Commons License

Two places to find these Creative Commons-licensed images are and Google images. Both sites require an advanced search. If you know of any other great places for appropriate images, please share!