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Showcasing Hamilton to the world

When Hamilton City Council wanted to showcase their city to the world, they found Peachgrove Intermediate School had the perfect tool in the digital storytelling software MARVIN, as Sharee Richardson and David Woodcock explain.

It’s not always easy for teachers to step out of their comfort zone and use new software, but in the case of MARVIN we found it quite exciting.

We were introduced to the software early this year through the Microsoft Partners in Learning programme.
From our first impressions, we felt it had similarities to PowerPoint and Hyperstudio, which helped us to use it.

A creative medium
MARVIN is a presentation, storytelling tool. From a teacher’s perspective, the students found the software instantly engaging. We were able to use it as a creative medium for presenting the findings of our studies and as an innovative classroom managementtool. We found MARVIN has also provided a stage to develop all five key competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum into our teaching practice:

• Thinking;
• Using languages, symbols and texts;
• Relating to others;
• Managing self; and
• Participating and contributing.

Helping promote Hamilton
When Hamilton City Council looked for organisations promoting the city to the world, they learned our students were already recording their experiences of Hamilton. One thing led to another and the inaugural MARVINATOR Awards came about, where students from here and Melville Intermediate were asked to develop animated digital stories about the city using MARVIN under the themes ‘Promoting our City’ or ‘Enhancing Hamilton’.

Three classes in our school worked on the Hamilton inquiry unit. We felt MARVIN was an ideal medium for the students to share their personal digital stories on the two themes we had proposed.

The first, ‘Enhancing Hamilton’, provided lots of opportunities for students to exercise the ‘Participating and contributing’ key competency, which can be difficult to engender. This is because developing this is also dependent on contributing to the real world. Our students were certainly doing this.

Letter from the Mayor
Council officials enthusiastically engaged with our school, featuring students in the city expo and asking them to submit ideas for developing the city’s ‘Creativity and Identity Strategy’. They also provided plenty of feedback including a thank you letter from the Mayor to the students.

Waikato Museum director Kate Vusoniwailala is also keen to include future student digital stories as part of an inaugural digital collection in the museum!

Personalised digital stories
For the two projects, students had to present the material with consideration to the audience needs – thus developing the ‘Relating to others’ key competency.

The students quickly learned how to make their own presentations and produced a wide variety of personalised digital stories. They were able to use a digital voice which repeated their texts, or they could record their own voices, which the characters ‘magically’ moved their lips to. This was very exciting for the students and allowed reluctant public speakers to present verbally without the fear normally associated with making a speech in front of their class. It also allowed them to reflect upon and perfect their work before presenting it (‘Managing self’).

There are a number of different animated characters or avatars that the students can choose to tell a story in MARVIN. We had preselected a range of characters we felt were suitable for use in our school. To our students’ delight, the software developers had created two Peachgrove characters, a boy and a girl. This, of course, added extra excitement to the project. A challenge for students was to balance the use of amusing special actions with effectively timed presentations that focused on their message rather than gimmicks (‘Thinking’ and ‘Using languages, symbols and texts’).

More exploring still to do
In terms of using MARVIN as a management tool, one class used it to set routines, begin lessons, take maths maintenance and introduce team assemblies. Our bilingual unit experimented with using the software in class and found it an engaging way to get students’ attention and introduce tasks. As we all know, an animated presentation completely engages students and can get a message across effectively.

We did have some technical difficulties to overcome with software/ hardware issues, and our students still need more time to investigate and develop ways of using MARVIN. No doubt, however, the sky is the limit for this tool and imagination the most important factor. We have a lot more exploring still to do!

SHAREE RICHARDSON IS ICT FACILITATOR AND DAVID WOODCOCK YEAR 7 GATE TEACHER AT PEACHGROVE INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL FROM ANNICK JANSON, MICROSOFT NZ, PARTNERS IN LEARNING, RESEARCH DIRECTOR CENTRE FOR APPLIED CROSS-CULTURAL PSYCHOLOGY (CACR), VICTORIA UNIVERSITY OF WELLINGTON.

© INTERFACE Magazine, October 2008

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Categories: Article, Issue 1