Creating posters with scissors and glue is "so last year." Instead, try creating multimedia Glogster posters (called Glogs). Students can choose from a wide variety of backgrounds and add interest by uploading photographs, embedding videos, adding music, and incorporating visually-appealing text and animations. Glogs are saved on the web, so students can work on the same glog at home and at school, without the hassle of transporting materials. Teachers can set up accounts for their students, and students can view the glogs of their classmates. For an end of the semester novel project, when given the option of creating a traditional poster or a glog, approximately half of my freshmen chose Glogster.
Audacity is a free download that allows you to record and edit audio. I've used this in the past to record oral interpretation pieces, with great success. The Audacity in the Classroom website is a great place to start.
Photo Story 3 is a free download from Windows. It allows the user to import pictures and audio, along with narration, to create amazing digital movies. In my opinion, this is one of the best options out there for digital storytelling. It ranks up there with Movie Maker, but gets bonus points for being free, which means that students can download it at home and use it at no cost. (Did I mention that it's free?) I have used Photo Story by importing pictures that I have scanned from books; it's a little more exciting than holding up the book and walking up and down the rows, and more attention-grabbing than Power Point. I've also had students create audio files of themselves reading their personal narrative essays and then combining that audio with Creative Commons photos to create original digital stories (with amazing results).
My first Photo Story project involved scanned photos from a comic book version of Beowulf. It was a great way to visually represent a scene from the story, and it really benefited my struggling learners.
Crazy Talk is a software program that must be downloaded to your computer in order to use it. It is not free (I purchased the "bare bones" basic package at the educator rate of $39.95, and it has been more than enough to dazzle my students. Essentially, Crazy Talk allows you to use any picture and, after lining up a few dots and dropping in an audio file, animate it! For my first project, I used a picture of Langston Hughes and an audio files of him reading "The Negro Speaks of Rivers." I loved the reaction from my students! Now, this can become a time-consuming project, if you are a perfectionist who insists on everything looking completely perfect, but I have to admit that it is a lot of fun. Also, the company offers a free trial version (the final product will appear with a watermark) so you can try before you buy. If this seems too complex and it's just not for you, I recommend trying Blabberize for a similar effect. The drawback to Blabberize is that the end product is not nearly as professional-looking; however, the time and money saved might be enough to keep you happy.
Dr. Jessica Pilgreen, Ed.D.