The Beep Moot is a digital story about a family and the apps they use (or more correctly, about the apps which use them). The family likes to get out and about: play sport, eat fish and chips, go to the supermarket, and out for bush walks. Butting into these family moments, however, are a bunch of intrusive interrupters – the beeping and buzzing sounds of Mum and Dad’s app notifications drawing attention away from “the stuff which makes life bright.”
The digital story contends with our switched on, 24/7 connected society – our need to get the latest news, update, or comment pushed to our phones the moment it occurs, and the effect this is having on special moments and interactions in real life. It’s about how our abundant access to information through technology offers the potential for distraction if not managed correctly (Felt & Robb, 2016).
At the international school I currently teach at students begin a 1:1 MacBook programme in Grade 5 and many students begin to get smartphones a lot earlier. It’s a time when students begin to build patterns of technology usage, for better or worse, and a time when many parents begin struggling with technology usage, norms, and rules with their children at home. The Beep Moot was written and designed with this need in mind. So while Grade four and five students are the primary intended audience, parents, and the wider school community are considered here too.
The Beep Moot has the intended purpose of encouraging students (and parents) to consider and reflect – that through reading about this particular family and their struggles with technology interruption they will be able to consider their own technology usage patterns, the effect this can have on people around them, and how to gain a healthy balance and equilibrium.
As an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme school, learning experiences revolve around enhancing conceptual understandings of big, thematic central ideas. One such central idea which Grade 4 and 5 students explore is “A Digital Citizen is aware of the rights, responsibilities, and opportunities of living and learning in an interconnected digital world.” Students explore the key concepts of Form – what is a digital citizen, and Responsibility – what responsibility do I have, to myself and others, to enact effective digital citizenship. The Beep Moot will integrate into this unit of inquiry as a reading resource for students and teachers to unpack and tease out the variables together (Guernsey, 2011), exploring the subject area of digital citizenship and the Learner Profile elements of Balanced and Reflective (International Baccalaureate Organisation, 2013).
The Beep Moot was written and designed not only with these curriculum needs in mind but also the particular learning needs of the students. Being an International School there is a diverse range of students from many different cultures and backgrounds with differing levels of English. In each class are native English speakers and “Phase 1” ESOL learners. For this reason, The Beep Moot contains a narration track as well as the written text which aids comprehension (Lamb, 2011). It contains bright images, recognisable social media icons, and speech placed at jaunty angles which builds non-textual understanding of the content. The story is not too long, contains situations and places which children will relate to, and humorous phrases and names of the apps.
The ability to tie the subject area, intended purpose, and audience needs together arose via the author, illustrator and designer being the same person. This is important to note, as many existing stories often get ported over to digital in ways, and with features, the original author might not have included; features which don’t have a goodness of fit, or can distract or impede the intended meaning of the story (Roskos et al. 2014).
The digital story has been published on YouTube. This allows a reader to mute the narration if they wish, pause on particular pages, and skip to certain pages. It also allows viewers to leave comments, extending the world of the story into a social network others can participate in and contribute to (Serafini, 2013) and share the story with other interested parties such as friends and family members. YouTube is a website and app available across all major device platforms and operating systems. The story is free to distribute, making it a valuable resource for children, parents, and community members.
The Beep Moot has been influenced by a number of interactive storytelling apps, namely those from developer Slap Happy Larry – The Artefacts, Hilda Bewildered, and Midnight Feast. These illustrated digital short stories can be enjoyed at a surface level, as a bit of entertaining fun, or examined in closer detail to reveal important ideas and messages. The same is true of The Beep Moot. Other influences are the Hairy MacLary series of digital storybook apps for their rhyming scheme, and the Dr Seuss series by Oceanhouse Media for their sense of whimsy and fun.
Check out The Beep Moot embedded below and please visit the YouTube page to add your thoughts and comments.
Felt, L. J. & Robb, M. B. (2016). Technology addiction: Concern, controversy, and finding balance. San Francisco, CA: Common Sense Media.
Guernsey, L. (2011). Are ebooks any good? Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2011/06/books-media/ebooks/are-ebooks-any-good/#_
International Baccalaureate Organisation. (2013). IB Learner Profile. Retrieved from http://www.ibo.org/contentassets/fd82f70643ef4086b7d3f292cc214962/learner-profile-en.pdf
Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning and Leading with Technology, 39(3), 12-17.
Roskos, K., Burstein, K., Yi Shang, Gray, E. (2014). Young children’s engagement with e-books at school: Does device matter? SAGE Open, 4(1).
Serafini, F. (2013). Reading Workshop 2.0. Reading Teacher, 66(5), 401-404.