Digital Storytelling Tools

As I’ve been learning about digital storytelling tools, I’ve been trying a couple out to see what will work best in my future classroom. I’ve tried Little Bird Tales, Storybird, and MyStoryBook. I spent a couple minutes playing with the text and picture tools to evaluate which platform is the best, especially for young children! MyStoryBook is the most user friendly, with big buttons and text and very clear directions. Elementary students could easily create and publish stories using MyStoryBook.

I decided to use MyStoryBook while I was babysitting and four year old girl. We spent some time planning our story before creating it online. Penny decided she wanted to write about Trick-or-Treating. She had a lot of fun going through all the characters and pictures available. This might be distracting in a classroom, but it worked well at home. Because she is only four, I did the typing but she chose everything else.

Once you finish the book, you have the option to publish and share it on social media or using email. The overall process was very easy and exciting for a four year old girl. This could be used in so many engaging ways in the classroom. In the future, I’d like to look into comic strip storytelling tools, as they might be more fun for older children.

Link to MyStoryBook Story: https://www.mystorybook.com/books/34685/

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An Interview with Matthew Arend for @txeduchat

TXEDUCHAT’s spotlight on educators continues with connected educator Matthew Arend. As the Principal of Sigler Elementary School in Plano, Texas, Matthew is passionate about ensuring all students are meeting their potential and are prepared to be leaders in the 21st century.

Matthew graduated from Peru State College in Peru, Nebraska with a Bachelors degree in Elementary Education and a coaching endorsement. Immediately after graduation, Matthew accepted his first teaching job in Plano Independent School District (PISD) as a fifth grade teacher. After teaching fifth grade for two years at Centennial Elementary, he decided to return to school at the University of North Texas to pursue a Masters degree in Educational Administration. While completing his graduate work, Matthew transitioned to be a third grade teacher and team leader, to further his leadership experience. Before completing his Masters, Matthew accepted an offer to be an Assistant Principal in PISD. He served two schools during this time, Hunt Elementary and Hickey Elementary. Matthew served as an Assistant Principal in PISD for four years before becoming the Principal at Sigler Elementary in 2010. Now, four years later, Matthew says he is proud to be working with “the best teachers, staff and students.”

The Sigler Elementary mission statement, “Prepare students to excel in a diverse and changing world”, reflects the goals Matthew has set for himself and Sigler staff and students. Matthew says that they often discuss the importance of “being a part of something larger than ourselves” and of helping students achieve social, emotional, and academic success, within and beyond the walls of Sigler Elementary. Matthew also strives to create an environment where teachers and students feel empowered to take risks. This environment comes, in part, from the relationships Matthew has built with teachers, students, staff, and families over the past four years. He told me that “the successes we want for our families are unattainable without these relationships.”

Because Matthew and Sigler Elementary find relationships with students and families so important, they make them a priority at the beginning of the year and maintain them throughout the year. Matthew says that emails and phone calls can only go so far, but being present in a student’s life outside of school can leave a lasting impression. Support one of your students at a baseball game or attend their club’s fundraiser. Make it a point to build trust and have mutual respect for every student and family. Matthew believes this is key is creating a successful learning environment.

Along with supporting students outside of school, Matthew believes social media goes a long way in building and maintaining meaningful relationships. Sigler Elementary  uses Facebook, Twitter, a “Parent Center” website, and Matthew has an educational blog. Matthew thinks this makes it more convenient for parents to stay connected to the school and avoids information getting lost in backpacks or inboxes. Matthew suggested some of Sigler’s favorite tools for communication. These included Facebook and Twitter, to share pictures or celebrate students when parents cannot be present. Remind is a tool they utilize to send brief updates and school information, like events or closings. Lastly, Sigler uses Smore for weekly highlights and announcements. All of these tools make it possible for parents to be involved in their student’s school community and allow Matthew and Sigler Elementary to maintain these extremely important relationships.

Matthew also emphasized the importance of educators being connected, calling Twitter the largest professional learning network in the world. He said, “The biggest benefit of being a connected educator is the access you have to some of the greatest minds in education.” Matthew thinks that educators no longer have to stay in their classroom “bubble”, but rather can grow and learn daily with other educators all over the world. Twitter has revolutionized the teaching profession.

If you are already on Twitter, you might have seen Matthew tweeting and blogging using #NoOfficeDay. This is when administrators spend an entire day in a classroom, rather than their office. Matthew dedicates a #NoOfficeDay once a month. He rotates between each grade level, as well as special education and self contained classrooms, so he is able to connect with all students. Matthew blogs about each #NoOfficeDay (read about his most recent day with first graders here). He shared that this is the most beneficial thing he can do as a leader, as it helps him connect with students and teachers on their turf.
At the end of our interview, I asked Matthew how he has seen education change throughout his career and how he would like to see it change in the future. As educators, we are often overwhelmed with everything going on. However, Matthew says that the good outweighs the bad. He is confident that Sigler Elementary students are prepared to be citizens in a global world and that their teachers are educating the whole child. Matthew also recognizes that technology in the classroom has changed the way students learn. Matthew’s favorite part of being Sigler Elementary’s Principal is that he gets the opportunity to serve and impact the lives of children in Plano everyday. Matthew and Sigler Elementary School are changing lives!