October 19, 2015 at 4:46 pm #2624Paola BerettaParticipant
eBooks and Digital Story Time
As a child I was often read to and still have distinct memories of some of my favourite stories. Both my mother and grandmother are gifted storytellers with the ability to add personal touches and twists to traditional stories to make it their own. Today I enjoy reading stories over Skype to my nephew and niece who reside overseas and do my best to make it lively and interesting using the technology available to me. My preference is to use an actual book when it comes to reading or telling stories, especially the ones with colourful illustrations. So I was curious to explore and better understand eBooks and digital story time and whether they are a good option for children.
In 2006 Lauren Collen conducted a study to compare children’s responses to stories told either in traditional or digital format. In the digital format, a story is projected onto a surface directly from the computer, enlarging the words and illustrations. Collen observed that the digital format did not affect the activity negatively (e.g. children were distracted by the digital format). On the contrary, children were engaged by the story and the enlarged images provided added stimulation to the story discussion afterwards. Her conclusion was that digital storytelling can provide many benefits, including:
- introduction of technology into the early childhood learning environment, thus providing an opportunity to build digital literacy skills from an early age;
- vivid and accessible illustrations can enhance understanding of the story, particularly where they carry a significant portion of the meaning of the story;
- large screen format benefits children who have limited visual acuity, learning disabilities and special needs; and
- provide much expanded access to titles, including books in other languages and from other cultures, rare and out-of-print titles.
There are many vendors that offer children’s eBooks at a cost, but for this product review I explored the free International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL). The ICDL aims ‘to support the world’s children in becoming effective members of the global community’ by providing access to free digital high quality resources that highlight the diversity of stories around the world. To this end, the website itself is available in 5 languages and boasts a collection of books in more than 50 languages, with users from 228 countries at present.
Titles can be searched by simple or advanced search, but also by country, award-winning books or inclusion in the prestigious White Ravens list of ‘extraordinary and innovative books for children and adolescents’. In addition, the website offers ideas on how to use the stories available to conduct digital story time, a scavenger hunt or how to enhance language learning and creative writing activities. Titles can be read on a laptop or via free iPhone and iPad apps, but what I found most exciting was ICDL’s own StoryKit app (also free) for creating your own electronic storybook by adding text, sounds and images.
I selected a random story from the menu and read on. The interface is simple to use and arrows are clicked to advance the pages of the digitised books. I found it helpful to use the full screen option to better view text and images. There is no voice, animation or additional features as in the paid content, but I enjoyed 10 minutes out of my busy day just to read…a story!
November 1, 2015 at 7:50 pm #2913Robynne Kilborne BlakeParticipant
I always enjoy your posts Paola, you always take a thoughtful approach. In the great debate about whether ebooks and kindles etc are “better” than books I’ve never understood why it’s necessary to choose one when you can embrace both! I was interested to read about Lauren Collen’s study that concluded that the kids were just as engrossed by the story, whether told in digital or physical formats. With my own children, reading with them was such a joy, imaginations flying, sneaky tickling and giggling, and adding in personal twists and turns. The physical book seemed like such an important part of that experience but really there’s no reason why an ebook couldn’t do the same job, maybe with some added advantages as you point out. I wish Skype had been a possibility when my boys were small – it existed but internet speeds were so slow in the Pacific at that time, it wouldn’t have been feasible to have read a story. How lucky we are now! We can use the technology we have to enjoy something we’ve always enjoyed in new and different ways – the story!
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