IN THE SPECIAL
In their case study, "Digital Storytelling in the Middle Childhood Special Education Classroom: A Teacher’s Story of Adaptations," Paige Michalski, Dodi Hodges, and Savilla Banister recount Michalski's mission to use Digital Storytelling as a means to help her Special Education students improve their writing. With adequate planning, appropriate scaffolding and a heaping dose of energy, Michalski's efforts came to fruition. Her students created personal stories that far outstripped their previous writings.
As detailed in the study, Michalski's students have IQs ranging from 55 to 70. Writing is a daily struggle for them. Their grammar is poor, vocabulary limited, and sentence structure unvaried. Compounding matters, many of Michalski's students come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Some even suffer physical and sexual abuse. As a result, these students are understandably discouraged; they give up easily and do not glean much joy from the act of writing. A veteran Special Education teacher of fifteen years, Michalski decided to try something different.
With the aid of some members of the Center for Digital Storytelling (headquartered in Berkeley, California), Michalski's students used PowerPoint and digital video editing software to create stories about their homes, pets, neighborhoods, and favorite rooms. Though the road was sometimes rocky, the students were able to craft final products that showcased improved writing skills across the board. Michalski even commented that she was convinced that one of her poorest writers could not have possibly produced the work that she did (she, of course, did).
Since the students were going to share their works amongst themselves, thus going "public," they took extra care when revising and editing their writing. They even approached the formerly tortuous act of writing with something akin to joy. They were eager to share and help each other. They were proud of their finished products.
Michalski was elated.
As a Special Education teacher myself, this study rings true. I, too, teach a Special Education Language Arts class. Most of my students do not like to write. Many of them come from impoverished backgrounds. I have met most of their parents and they are all wonderful people. However, most of them possess, at most, a high school diploma. Some of them do not. Thus, the only time many of my students write, or are exposed to writing, is when they are with me. Suffice to say, writing is not something that they always willingly engage in.
Much like Michalski, I am now looking to use Digital Storytelling to both improve my students' writing abilities and their attitude towards writing. Last week, my students began using WeVideo to create their own stories. They chose their own topics. My only requirements for their final product are that the contain the common story elements (plot, character, setting, theme, etc.).
They will present tomorrow.
I am a Special Education teacher currently pursuing his Master of Arts in Information & Learning Technologies (Option: K-12) at CU Denver. I work at Boulder High School in Boulder, CO. Here you will find my thoughts on education.