HyperStudio: An Affordable Software Alternative

by Carol Bell, Letha Clark, and Joyce Johanson

For the past three years, the early childhood technology staff at Macomb Projects have investigated HyperStudio as a literacy tool for the early childhood classroom and have found it to be helpful for developing emergent literacy skills such as language, emergent reading, and early writing development. Stacks were created by our staff and classroom teachers, with input from children and families in the form of ideas, photos, drawings, and sounds. HyperStudio was used to relive family and classroom experiences, to retell familiar stories, to author new stories, and to reinforce and facilitate learning activities and experiences at home and in the classroom.

Reliving experiences, such as a classroom field trip to the fire house, involved incorporating recorded images, such as children's original works of art, photographs (scanned photographs or digital images), video, and images created with children's software programs or the paint tools found in HyperStudio. Children were involved in selecting the images and relating descriptions of the event which an adult typed using the text tool found in the HyperStudio toolbox. The addition of auditory stimuli, in the form of speech, music, and sound brought the event to life once again. Children's knowledge about their environment and community was expanded as they had the opportunity to reconstruct events and then reexperience those events each time they used their HyperStudio stack.

HyperStudio also provided a framework for children to retell favorite stories. After reading and hearing stories, children retold the stories in individual or cooperative stacks. They developed their own version of the story, complete with original images and storyline. Activities such as this supported cognitive development as children discussed ideas, made decisions, and combined illustrations and text.

Independence is fostered when children use a HyperStudio stack designed to facilitate activities. Adults can create a stack that makes use of photographs, text, and speech to guide children. Activities that are generally adult directed can be transformed into projects children can accomplish independently. Cooking activities are frequently adult directed. By using HyperStudio and incorporating photographs of utensils and ingredients, a written and verbal recipe, photographs and video of stages in the process, and clues, tips, and suggestions adults can produce a child- friendly stack.Transferring responsibility from the adult to the child promotes cooperation, discussions, and socialization.

HyperStudio is a product oriented program, but children are heavily invested in the process involved in creating HyperStudio stacks. Children can be involved in initial planning, gathering materials, discussing content, making decisions, implementing ideas, and producing a stack with very little assistance from adults. Our experiences demonstrate that even very young children can be actively involved in each stage.

Initial planning may involve a brainstorming session with children in a search for possible topics, ideas, and design. Gathering materials may include taking photographs, producing images, dictating or composing text, and videotaping. Discussing content involves all the children as they make decisions about the gathered materials, how the materials fit into the design, and possible changes and revisions.

As children implement ideas, they assemble the pieces (e.g., sounds, images, video, links, animation, buttons, and transition effects) to make a whole. When they produce a HyperStudio stack, children are involved in creating and planning content,organizing cards, evaluating the aesthetic qualities of the stack, and suggesting necessary revisions.

HyperStudio is available from Roger Wagner Publishing, Inc., 1050 Pioneer Way-Suite P, El Cajon, CA 92020. 800-HYPERSTUDIO; 619-442-0522 or (FAX) 619-442-0525.

Evaluating A HyperStudio Stack During Development

When a HyperStudio stack is being developed, adults should
(a) consider the original objective of the stack: Does it serve the purpose for which it was intended at the outset? Is it appropriate for the audience? Is it visually and auditorially attractive?

(b) review the opportunities for potential learning: Does it provide opportunities for interaction? Does it inspire children to explore? Does it encourage children to solve problems?

(c) evaluate the graphics: Was the integrity of child produced images maintained? Were they drawn by children or by adults? Are images from classroom experiences and field trips incorporated? Are children fairly represented?

(d) assess the sounds contained in the stack: Are children's voices incorporated? Did teachers, families, support staff, therapists contribute to the audio recordings? Have techniques been used to preserve sound quality?

(e) consider the design of the stack: Are there buttons on every card? Do the buttons cause an action? Who contributed to the process of developing the stack? Is the stack usable without additional instructions?

Although all of these questions are not applicable to every stack created, all are important considerations for evaluating the product as it progresses through various stages toward completion.

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