This is a guest blog by Amanda Harris from KEAP (Kernow Education Arts Partnership), who received funding for The Story Republic project from RSA Catalyst earlier this year.
It is very exciting to trial something new with the maker and designer, in this case using contemporary technology to find solutions to perennial issues. This is how our work with the Digital Story Box has gone. The Box helps support literacy, in particular writing, in primary schools through allowing the children to record their work onto RFID (radio frequency identification) tagged physical objects and personalised cards and then have it played back through the beautiful Story Box.
The creator Dr Justin Marshall from Falmouth University and myself have been into the schools to talk to the children and their teachers after they have had a couple of weeks to trial the box. Subsequently, the Box has been resident in the Story Republican installations at Penryn and Newquay and has been used by hundreds of children.
The children were completely engaged, reading, listening to each other, co-operating and sharing.
Trials of the Box took place at two schools in Cornwall; Trevisker School, St Eval and Kennall Vale School, Ponsanooth
Trevisker School in St Eval with reception children. Initially the children had studied the poem Nicholas Naylor by Charles Causley and they created their own lines and phrases which they recorded on to the Box. We arrived to meet the children who clustered enthusiastically on the mat surrounding the Story Box to record and playback their words. The children were completely engaged, reading, listening to each other, co-operating and sharing. The boys in particular were fascinated by the Box, were very able to use it with little adult intervention and visibly delighted to meet the inventor.
Later the children used it to describe a visit to the beach to collect items to make into a story box. They photographed their boxes and then tagged them so that the listener could see what they were talking about.
Kennall Vale School in Ponsanooth with years 5 and 6. The children in class 4 were very engaged with actively using the Story Box; they have all written and recorded new poetry. They too have been studying Causley’s poetry in particular Tell me, Tell me, Sarah Jane. The children were able to tell what they enjoyed about using the Story Box and also to make suggestions about how it could be improved. They found it extremely motivational and particularly enjoyed using it for editing their work. Lines that looked good on the page, may not have worked when read aloud. This encouraged the pupils to go back and re-write. They had a lot of ideas about how it could be used in the longer term: tagging objects for historical research, for setting maths problems, teachers leaving corrections and messages for children, keeping a pupil’s card from reception to year 6 to show progression.
As part of Keap’s Story Republic project there has been transformational installation in Penryn College and Treviglas in Newquay of all the work created by the cluster of primary and secondary schools. The Story Box has featured as part of this and has attracted enormous interest from both children and adults.
What Next? - So far it is clear that the Digital Story Box is a wonderful motivational tool for learning which embraces new technology but does not require a screen and encourages independent use. We have only scraped the surface of its possibilities but we know that teachers and schools are very excited by its potential.
If you are interested in the work of Story Republic, please visit their website