Connected Learning Professional Learning

Composing 5-Image Stories: Reflections and Connections from #clmooc


These reflections and connections come from a Make Cycle focused on creation of 5-Image Stories by Jack Zangerle, Bonnie Kaplan, Marc Schroeder & Andrea Tejedor of the Hudson Valley Writing Project for the 2014 Connected Learning Massive Open Online Collaboration (CLMOOC). Originally published on July 29, 2014

On behalf of the Hudson Valley Writing Project, we want to thank you all for inviting us to share in this wonderful experience of making 5-Image Stories. We were blown away by how everyone took our simple idea and truly made it their own in such creative and touching ways. Our goal was to plant a seed in everyone’s mind about a way to inspire students while fostering creativity through looking at composing in a fresh way. By looking at the various ways that stories were told, we think you got the idea.

Though we did not really know what we were getting ourselves into, it was definitely an enjoyable and enlightening experience. The power of a connected community of learners is always something that continues to be impressive. The posts to Google+, additions to the Make Bank and the conversations in the Hangout and in the Twitter Chat pushed our thinking not only around the idea of the 5-Image Story and what it means to compose and communicate with images, but also what it might mean for teachers in real classrooms around the world.

We started this week with an idea that was not original. The work of the 5-Image Story stands on the shoulders of many people that have experimented with the concept both in and out of the classroom. From past experiences with both teachers and students, we at the HVWP felt that it would be an interesting approach to bring to the CLMOOC and we were anxious to see how the community would push the idea and shape it into new directions. Of course, the conversations and participation this week were beyond our wildest dreams.

Early on in the week Kevin Hodgson, suggested the 5-Emoji Story which, in his words, was “Harder than you would think.” This type of composing, seemingly simple but in fact complex, no doubt left many a CLMOOCer puzzling over the funky smileys built into the alternative keyboards of their various devices. Definitely check out #clmooc on Twitter and the G+ community for some of the work Kevin inspired.

Along with the thriving posts on G+, the Make Bank, and thoughtful reflections in the Blog Hub, we were thrilled to be able to share some of the work with 5-Image Stories that we have been doing here at HVWP during the Tuesday night Make with Me. It was encouraging to see how open teachers were to bring this not just to an ELA classroom, but across many different content areas.

Monica Tienda joined us fresh from a math conference and discussed how she saw 5-Image Stories integrating with the “deep math” work she had been doing over the past three weeks. The content area connections were fast and furious as Andrea Tejedor and Bonnie Kaplan shared with us how a variety of content teachers in her school had used 5-Image Stories in both Science in Social Studies. The Make with Me really got us thinking about the 5-Image Story as being capable of so much more than just a pre-writing tool. In another great conversation, participants discussed how technology would not be a breaking point and how this work could easily represent itself in analog form (and, in some cases, maybe it should).

As with any group of smart, motivated people, the CLMOOC continued to push our thinking during the Twitter Chat on Thursday as participants debated whether it was better to introduce the 5-Image Story by giving students images or to have them create their own. We also explored the various timings of how to include this work in the curriculum. For some people it was clear that this strategy would work well early in a unit or content area of study to give students an easy entry point into new content. For others, it made sense to apply the 5-Image Story as a processing tool later on in the area of study.  We think the group as a whole would agree that as with any powerful strategy, the implementation is up to the teacher to find where and how it would work best for a given curriculum with a particular set of students.

The week was a barrage of images, apps, websites, tools, ideas, mixing, making and remaking that offers not a final idea but a place to start to explore a practice that could take many different directions and look very different in various contexts.

This week’s theme got us to explore what it means to compose visually within constraints that help us examine our work critically, as well as what it means to be creative through necessity. It caused us to plan, compose, rethink, and use ingenuity. It opened us up to a variety of tools like Tapestry (though sadly we will have to find a replacement), Steller, Storehouse, Storybird, and Google Slides and in a pinch, good ole Microsoft Word.

It was exciting to have the educators in our current summer institute benefit from this work as they got messy with the same 5-Image Stories in a workshop, working first collaboratively and then on their own digital pieces. Probably the greatest challenge for the group was finding the right tool to use, given the fact that “free” apps often have strings attached. But that messiness of this work is an essential part of the process. Ultimately everyone created something and thought deeply about how this strategy might be used in their classrooms.

Many of the collaborators in the CLMOOC community played around with how to tell their story from Mary Ellen B’s beautiful collage to Larry Hewett’s powerful personal narrative told through slides. Kevin Hodgson and Michelle Stein showed us how we might have a collaborative effort in making a storybook by each contributing a connected five images.

However, the idea of using images and thinking about their relationship to composition and communication is a lens that feels like it will be useful in many different ways as we prepare to return to our classrooms and other teaching/learning contexts in the coming weeks. Our hope is that we will all feel a bit more confident when working with images, composition and writing with their students having walked the walk ourselves.

For reflecting further on Make Cycle #6 we invite you to elaborate on your experiences with the 5-Image Story in longer form. Consider a blog post to explore the idea about the power of images and how that can inspire writing.  We would love to hear about your experiences this week with the 5-Image Story and how you do or might use this great strategy in your classrooms, your Connected Learning context, and/or in your role as an instructional leader.

What’s Ahead

Keep making and sharing your stories and elaborations! The final cycle—the Connected Learning Reflections and Connections week—will kick off on Monday. We will reflect upon and celebrate all the connections, community and meaning we’ve been making together here at CLMOOC while asking ourselves how we will take the summer goodness forward into our other learning contexts. So stay tuned!

Thank you for having us this week and with that we leave you with 5 Images of Thanks from the HVWP!

Jack, Bonnie, Marc & Andrea

This post is part of the Connections and Reflections from CLMOOC 2014 collection.