New York Inclusion Classroom Gives Students Ownership of Writing with Shutterfly Photo Story for Classrooms iPad App

Second grade classroom overcomes obstacles to provide digital assets for all learning levels
Case Study | Turnpike Elementary School

shutterfly ipad appAfter beginning her career teaching third and fourth grades in New Hampshire, Theresa Eckler moved on to a new position in Troy, New York. She soon realized that her classroom in Troy was going to be a much different experience. In New Hampshire, there was a 1:1 program initiative and digital tools were provided. In New York, this was not the case. However, with a master’s degree in Educational Computer Technology, it was in Eckler’s bones to use digital devices in her classroom.

Seizing the initiative, Eckler set out to raise funds to buy technology for her students. She reached out to donors across the world through selected fundraising websites and sold student classroom projects. The students were involved as much as possible in raising the money to give them a sense of ownership, and an appreciation of how much iPads and other digital tools cost. Eckler was able to raise enough to buy eight iPads for classroom use and has a goal of creating a 1:1 ratio.

The Writing Process
Beginning the digital process from scratch, Eckler chose one writing unit to develop digitally. Using Shutterfly Photo Story for Classrooms iPad app, Eckler introduced the informational unit by assigning a nonfiction self-published book to her students on a topic of their choosing.

“We were amazed that the students were having conversations at recess and lunch time about topics for their books,” said Eckler. “Giving the students time to develop the topic in their head got them excited to start the project.”

After being introduced to the project, her students began the researching and writing stages. When the class was in the library, they read nonfiction books to become familiar with the structured of writing, and why the author chose a particular style. The students began reading as writers. As they drafted their books on the Shutterfly iPad app, Eckler introduced a feature of the app daily, and let the students explore, while reminding them that they are the authors.

“Letting the students explore is key,” said Eckler. “We spent a lot of time teaching the kids about the layouts that relate to the genre of the book. If they are creating a book about sand dunes, we guide them to pick a sand-colored background for the book without hindering their creativity and collaboration.”

The Right Fit
Eckler has an inclusion classroom, a mixture of general education as well as students with special needs who receive specialized instruction within the general class activities. Eckler implemented a co-teaching model with special education teacher, Samantha Brown, to share the responsibility of meeting all her students’ needs, and provide them with equal opportunities to succeed.

Shutterfly Photo Story for Classrooms fit right in. With features that include speak-to-text, variable font sizes, and drawing their own pictures into the book, every student was included in the process of making the story their own. Just being able to type out their story instead of struggling to write and read their handwriting was a huge advantage.

“The app allows for all students to feel success no matter what their learning level is,” said Eckler. “The finished products are so similar you can’t tell they come from a variety of learning levels. There are so many different things students can achieve with this app that they can’t when they are using pencil and paper.”

Eckler pointed out another advantage of the Photo Story for Classrooms app was how it promoted student independence and ownership. Students could continue their work from home and parents are able to order multiple copies of their child’s book.

“We were blown away when parents told us that the kids were working on their books for up to an hour at home,” said Eckler. “They were so invested and excited about their books that they wanted to continue working on them outside the classroom.”

Rolling Out the Red Paper
At the end of the school year, Eckler put on an event called ‘Meet the Authors’ to present the printed books to the students. It was time to celebrate! An overwhelming number of parents, friends, administrators and staff showed up to be a part of the celebration and read the books. There was a raffle for a Shutterfly coupon, decorations around the classroom and a red carpet Eckler made out of paper that the students walked down to receive their books.

“The students were so proud to receive their books,” said Eckler. “For most, it was their favorite day of the year.”

Welcome to Mrs. Eckler’s Classroom
For next year, Eckler wants to expand her use of the Shutterfly Photo Story for Classrooms by having students create a classroom book—a guide to rules, what they learned in the first couple months of school and a page introducing each student in the class.

“Having so many options and features like adding multiple pictures on a page, font choices and captions, gave students the freedom and capabilities to create one-of-a-kind books,” said Eckler. “I saw many students who were reluctant to write and edit really enjoy the Photo Story for Classrooms process and become proud of their work.”

theresa eckler

This article was written by Theresa Eckler. Theresa Eckler is a second grade teacher in Troy, NY. This is her seventh year teaching with experience teaching grades first through fourth. Theresa holds a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and a Master’s in Educational Technology. Her passion is integrating technology into the classroom and providing professional development for her district. Theresa was the recipient of a Title 2D ARRA grant and has been a guest speaker at various conferences including the Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference.