Young Authors storytelling project goes digital

Ball State students taught Burris Elementary School students how to create interactive multimedia stories using an iPad this year.

Roughly 220 students in grades K-5 at Burris worked with Ball State students led by Professor Jennifer George-Palilonis to write original stories and then supplement those stories with video, audio, interactive graphics and photo galleries. Ball State students then used one of Apple’s newest development tools iBooks Author to create an interactive book for each student. The books can be viewed on iPads.

“[The Burris students] are so far ahead than we ever were at their age, and seeing them get excited about storytelling and learning because of the things we taught them about multimedia is really rewarding,” said Anna Kaiser, one of the Ball States students who participated in the project.

This new digital storytelling initiative is part of the Young Authors project, which has been in the curriculum at Burris and at other schools across the nation for decades. George-Palilonis, the George & Frances Ball Distinguished Professor of Multimedia Journalism, and Stefanie O’Nieal, a first-grade teacher at Burris, conceptualized the project after Burris received a grant that put iPads in the hands of every student in grades K-5.

BURRIS STUDENTS wrote short stories, brainstormed ideas for multimedia content and worked with Department of Journalism students to create books for the iPad, including this book about sharks.

BSU students first led several multimedia storytelling workshops with Burris students. Then, over a period of about six weeks, the BSU team visited each Burris classroom several times to work one-on-one with students to develop multimedia content. Finally, the BSU students spent the last segment of the semester developing iBooks, each with a unique design.

“The kids were very excited,” O’Nieal said. “We have been doing the Young Authors project for years, but some students did not enjoy it. Maybe with this project, the more reluctant writers will become more excited. The interactive multimedia aspect makes the project easier and more personal.”

Kaiser also said that she considers the project a success. “We were one of the first classes to do something like this, and I’m excited to see how we influence other classes and schools to do more multimedia based projects in the future,” she said.

Both Palilonis and O’Nieal agreed that they would like this interactive multimedia approach to continue with Young Authors. “We are exposing young students to a leading industry and emerging media,” Palilonis said.