Kindergarten Students in Indonesia and Japan Leverage Technology to Collaboratively Write Story

This past fall my class and I participated in a Progressive Story. The basic idea behind project was that 4 classes would collaborate virtually to create a story. The project creators chose a wiki for the shared writing space. Classes were grouped and assigned to a specific wiki page. Our class began the writing process and posted the first two paragraphs.

Starting our progressive story.

As each subsequent class added their section the story grew and took many interesting twists and turns. When the last class added their section they were also tasked with creating a title for the story. We teachers decided that it would be cool to create a VoiceThread of the story using illustrations that the students created. Each class then uploaded pictures to a shared VoiceThread. The illustrations were then matched with the corresponding audio section. The kids were very stoked at the finished product and were delighted to share the VoiceThread on our class blog.

Both my students and I enjoyed this project but it left me wanting more. I liked the project but felt I could use classroom technology to increase and sustain student engagement throughout the project. I was also looking for a way to make the entire project more student driven. To create a process that allowed students to collaboratively traverse the entire writing process the first thing we needed to do was to find a class willing to participate.

I knew I needed a teacher who was willing to try something completely new and who wasn’t afraid to use technology in a way that was new and exciting. I knew I needed someone who was not only a very competent teacher but also someone who was a bit of a risk taker. The first person that came to my mind was Zoe Page. I had met Zoe a couple different times at various professional conferences and we had kept in touch mostly via Twitter. I shot her a slightly schizophrenic email and asked how she thought about collaborating on a writing project that incorporated different types of technologies. Lucky for me she was game. We started sharing ideas, some good (mostly hers), some not so good (mostly mine) and before you knew something started to take shape.

Since our classes were already Twitter friends we decided to capitalize on this and let the kids start conversing about the project using this medium. We also created a shared Google Document that we used as a shared writing space.

Skyping with our friends in Japan.

Our classes decided that we should meet “face to face” via Skype before we began. We had a very cool Skype session where the students shared ideas and feelings about the project as well as random but nonetheless valuable kindergarten musings.

To begin our class sat down at the Smartboard and used the G-doc as a space to brain storm ideas. Each class started jotting down ideas for character, setting, plot etc. Our classes also outlined purpose, audience, and potential challenges. Some of the challenges our students came up with were:

How will we share the story?
What language should we write it in?
Too much audience? Maybe children for the audience.
We might have trouble spelling all the words correctly.
We might have to make a compromise.

As you can see the students were already thinking in quite a holistic way. Since these ideas were coming from other kinder kids they held tremendous relevance with the students. The students developed a sense of ownership right from the beginning.

Tweeting with our friends in Japan.

After a couple brain storming session which we documented using the G-doc and some back and forth via twitter our students had decided that the story would begin in a cemetery. Each of our classes decided to visit a cemetery as a way to build context. We decided that each class should document their field-trip and shared it via their respective class blog. Lucky for us we have a cemetery within walking distance of our classroom. We set up a field-trip, gathered some parent volunteers and set out one afternoon.

Gearing up for our field-trip!

The students were armed with iPods to help document our field-trip. They used the camera function to capture pictures and video of our trip. We then took this and created a post for our class blog which allowed our partner class to go with us, albeit virtually, on our field-trip. Our partner class in Japan did the exact same thing for us. The students had a great time sitting on the carpet and comparing and contrasting each others field-trips as we read them on our Smartboard during our morning meeting.

With our field-trips fresh in our mind we started to write. The field-trip was a great kick-starter. Each class created quite an impressive list of descriptive words we could use in our story.

Using iPods to document our field trip!

As the writing progressed each class decided that they wanted the story to be a chapter story. As we advanced each class would write a chapter and then hand it back to the other class. Every morning the first thing my students would ask is to check the story to see what developments had been made. We would use Twitter to offer feed back or ask for clarification on certain aspects of the story.

Our classes Skyped again and one of the first things the students said to each other was how much they enjoyed each others writing. One question that had arisen was how we were going to share our story. During our Skype call our friends in Japan shared a Kamishibai which we learned is a form of Japanese story telling. Although my students weren’t interested in using this format to publish the story they thought that a Kamishibai was very cool nonetheless. After the call my class discussed possible ways we could publish and share our story. Earlier in the year I had made an ebook using iAuthor about our 100’s day activities. My students really liked the book for two reasons. First, they loved the fact that the pictures in book were of them with their hundreds projects. Second, they loved the fact that they could read it on our iPads. They suggested they could make illustrations for our story and we could use these illustrations to create an ebook version of our story. In the end we used Book Creator for Ipad.

Good to see you again friend!

As the story began to wrap up our partner class asked if they could finish the story. Most of the students in my class wanted to finish it as well so they asked our partner class if they would be willing to compromise. Both classes were willing to compromise and finish the last chapter together. Our classes set up a time to Skype and finish the story together in “real time” via our shared G-doc. This worked out surprisingly well. The students were very jazzed about watching each other type via Skype and having the words pop up on the Google document in real time.

Working on illustrations for our story.

I truly felt this project was well worth the extra effort and planning. I felt my students benefited greatly from the project as did I. They are very proud of not only the finished product but the work they put forth creating the story.

I feel it must be said that without many other people this project would not have been possible. The parents of my students have been supportive on many fronts this year. When I announced our plan to visit a cemetery I have to say that I got some raised eyebrows. That said, the parents of my students were very forward and upfront with their concerns and questions. After I explained the project they were not only supportive, but offered to chaperone the field-trip.

None of this would not have been possible without the support and flexibility of my school head. His trust and support allowed me to try something new and unproven. Zoe Page was kind enough to agree to participate in something without knowing if it would work or not. She elevated the project with her expertise and professionalism. Last but not least this would not have been possible without the hard work and imagination of the students in both classes who put forth the effort required to create the story.

And finally, if you are interested in checking out the UBD for this project just click here.


If you’d like to download and read the finished story click here.

About Benjamin J Sheridan

Instructional designer at the University of Kentucky.
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21 Responses to Kindergarten Students in Indonesia and Japan Leverage Technology to Collaboratively Write Story

  1. Lots of good stuff Ben! I am really impressed that you boldly took this on with Kindergartners and were, what sounds to be, very successful! It was nice to see that you had previously done a lesson incorporating collaborative writing, but were really looking to take it to another, more substantial level not just in terms of technology, but also in collaboration and in student involvement. Hats off to ya’ sir!

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  3. Vivian says:

    Wow, collaboration too! I’m so impressed… Your kids are so fortunate to have this experience. Thank you for sharing so we can experience it with you. I’m bookmarking this for future-reference.

    Vivian’s Blog

  4. Brian Tupper says:

    Excellent Ideas… Thanks for sharing the UBD. Gonna try and apply this to 5th Grade.

  5. Lynn Bilbrey says:

    Hey Ben! Really cool seeing the link to this project and revisiting it in the GAFE class unit on Google docs today…I remember when this was in its earlier stages and it is a prime example of the kinds of meaningful learning through collaboration that can happen using these tools. Keep up the great work, buddy! 🙂

    • Howdy Lynn, always good to hear from a friend on my blog! Glad to hear you’re taking the GAFE course, I found it very beneficial. Talk soon!

  6. Mary Fish says:

    This is great Ben! You inspire me to be more adventurous with my class activities. 🙂

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