Visual Narratives in the iPad Classroom

Today I presented at the AATE/ALEA National Literacy Conference. My twenty-five minute session focused on Visual Narratives in the iPad Classroom. I got to work with an amazing group of educators.


I spoke about the power of iPad to support the literacy classroom in responding to and creating multimodal texts. An iPad is many tools:

  • a word processor that allows us to create text
  • A microphone that enables us to create audio recordings
  • A camera that allows us to catch still images
  • A video recorder that allows us to create moving images 
  • A surface the allows us to draw with many types of art materials.

As with all tools, the value of iPad in the literacy classroom comes down to how you use it. I often get asked ‘what are some good free literacy games for the iPad?’ and have to gently challenge this use of iPad in the classroom. I believe iPad is primarily a tool for creating and for students to tell their own stories of learning, rather than a passive consumption device. I also believe learning is a social endeavour and so I champion the iPad being used as part of collaborative tasks with peers rather than in isolation with a set of headphones over ears. I also challenge people to think with a ‘yes, and’ mindset, as iPad is not there to replace traditional literacy practices but rather to enhance the good work that is already taking place.

I encourage teachers to use the apps and features that come with their device and to only add a small group of quality third party apps. Details of the apps I used in the workshop along with some suggested activities can be found here.

Wordless picture books are visual narratives where the story is told through illustrations. I love using these as part of a literacy program as they invite the reader to take an active part in contributing to the meaning. Wordless picture books enable us to take a break from decoding and focus on other literacy skills.

In the short session today I demonstrated:

  • How you can use iBooks as a ‘really big book’. A list of wordless picture books I have found on iBooks is here.
  • Creating a sensory map in Popplet using a page from Sector 7 by David Weisner.
  • Creating a soundscape in GarageBand to show understanding of a sequence in Mr Wuffles! By David Weisner.
  • Creating a sketch in Sketches School to innovate of Pat Hutchin’s Changes, Changes.

We then all explored Monique Felix’s The Wind and used a mouse prop and Draw and Tell to share what the mouse might have done if he found outer space, the ocean, or a cave instead of the sky when he nibbled through the page.

As the session was only 25 minutes in length I was only able to do a single hands on activity. My sense is that this workshop would make a great half day event to really look at all the possibilities,  or a full day event with teacher planning time with their own text in the afternoon.