Home page

Sheffield Hallam University Creative Commons Licence

5.1.7 Case Study 7. Digital Reporters at ‘Camp Cardboard’

517 ChrisThe focus for this project was for a group of children, aged 8 – 10, to report on a whole-school event using Web 2.0 technologies. The event was ‘Camp Cardboard’ sponsored by Sheffield Children’s Festival and this Case Study was led by Chris Bailey.  The aims of the project were to:
- Provide children with an opportunity to share information about their experiences in and beyond the school community
- Equip children to use a range of media in communicating their experiences
- Explore issues related to e-safety and e-security

5.1.7 Case Study 7. Digital... Tags COMMENTS (public) ANNOTATIONS (private) Context

5171 Camp cardboardBradfield Dungworth Primary School is located in Dungworth on the outskirts of Sheffield, 6 miles from the city centre. Although there are only 114 children on roll, it has the largest primary school catchment area in the city, most of which is within the Peak District National Park. It serves a primarily white community [DfE School and Local statistics]. In the latest Ofsted report (2011) it was rated ‘good’ with outstanding features; it was seen as ‘outward looking’ and willing to engage in partnership to compensate for its isolated geographical position. This had positive benefits for staff and pupils.

When this event took place, Chris Bailey, was the Year 4/5 teacher and ICT co-ordinator. Chris is interested in finding new ways of using Web 2.0 technologies to support learning across the curriculum. Context Tags COMMENTS (public) ANNOTATIONS (private) Digital Literacy Practice

The project was devised around a whole-day event organised by Tim and Sam Cleasby from Responsible Fishing and arranged through the Sheffield Children’s Festival. During the day, classes, from Reception to Year 6, took turns to transform the school hall by creating elaborate structures using cardboard boxes to make tunnels, bridges, mazes, haunted houses and cottages. In doing so, they learned about communication, teamwork and sustainability. The classes did not start from scratch: as each entered, they were invited to add to, improve upon and rework what had been built by previous classes. The following stop-frame animation summarises what happened during the day.

music and voices camp cardboard dungworth bradfield from deftoer3 on Vimeo.

Chris had kept blogs with his class for a couple of years, using a class blog 9 accessed via the school website to set homework tasks and to post anything the children produced such as animations and stories or reports of topic covered in class. At first, Chris posted most of the contributions himself, using the blog as a key way to communicate with parents and children out of school hours. Increasingly, however, he made time for children to post directly online, and he introduced a writers’ blog as a space for children to share their ideas and productions. Wanting to take this further, he encouraged the children to use social networking tools to log the Camp Cardboard event as it unfolded, allowing them to comment on the live event and for people outside the school to access what was happening in ‘real-time’. Chris describes the project here:

My case study involved the use of iPads and iPod touches with a mixed Year 4 and Year 5 class, with the children taking on the role of digital reporters. This project was linked to a whole-school event called Camp Cardboard run by artists from a group called Responsible Fishing. They brought a load of large recycled cardboard boxes to our school hall and worked throughout the day with each year group to build a cardboard camp, using the children’s ideas to construct rooms, tunnels and even a cardboard garden. The digital element of this project involved teams of children from our class, visiting the hall, acting as reporters to record the events unfolding. They used the Instagram app to take and manipulate photos and add filters, and the notes app to make notes on what they saw. On return to the classroom, the children used the same mobile device to add posts to a blog about their day. This initially involved discussions about e-safety and the audience of the blog. They produced a range of interesting and individual blog posts that incorporated their photos and texts, using the WordPress app to post their ideas. Parents and members of the project team were asked to post comments on the blog and to interact with the children while they were blogging. The blog can be found at cardboardbds.wordpress.com. We were impressed by the way the children took a creative and positive approach to using the technology, working successfully with the apps they had been introduced to, finding their own way around problems as they arose, and using their initiative to find alternative uses that supported their aims. 

5172 working with iPadsEquipped with iPads, the children in Chris’s class worked as reporters on the event and groups took turns to report throughout the day. They used the instagram app to take and manipulate photos and add filters. They also used the notes app to take notes on what they observed. In line with school policy, children did not take photos that included children’s faces. Of course, this influenced the kinds of photos they took and the record they made of the day. Interestingly, as these observers note, the children focused mainly on using photographs to make a visual record rather than on interviewing children as they built the camp:

Joe: Do you think it has been successful?

Mrs Cooper: I think we will see more success when we see what they have got out of it, but I think we can see at the moment that some of the kids have even said that they have preferred doing the reporting to doing the building. I think they can see more going on.

Joe: Is it a different style of teaching that you have to adopt when you are using this?   

Mrs Cooper: It’s definitely different but I think the way our class works, I think we use technology quite a lot, sometimes we use it instead of printouts and things. We will use the iPads, but yes, it’s a different way, but I think it’s the future. It’s the way that teaching is probably going … using it every day as opposed to … we do specific IT lessons, but as well, so they are learning to use it as an everyday occurrence rather than something that is special and different.

Joe: Fantastic. Do you think that the children find it easier to interact with these devices, or do you think that it sort of takes that away from it a little bit?

Mrs Cooper: No I think that they will always respect what another child knows. Especially with something fairly new like the iPads, which is relatively new technology to most of them. They will ask each other, they do interact really well with each other … and ask each other, ‘What do you think about this’ and ‘How could we do something else?’ as opposed to asking us as teachers and staff.

Joe: And one of the things that we have noticed today is that the reporters have been quite focused on taking photographs, and using their iPads and iPods to take photographs and things, but they haven’t really chatted to each other about what they are doing or reporting in a conventional sense where they have interviewed each other. Do you think that is anything to do with how they have had to use these technologies?

Mrs Cooper: I think it is the newness, or the lack of knowledge of the reporting side of it, as opposed to using the technology.

Joe: And lack of time as well.

Mrs Cooper: Yes, they get a bit carried away with the technology sometimes. And it can overtake, as opposed to thinking, right, shall we ask questions? That’s probably a skill that we haven’t talked enough about with them.

You can view an Instagram gallery on the class blog here.

5172 Building camp cardboardThe children wrote blog posts based on their experiences, incorporating some of their photos, using the WordPress app to post their ideas, and again invited comments. Chris (and the DeFT team) had invited a range of people – educationalists, parents, university researchers – to post comments during the day, which were moderated by Chris before posting on the blog. They can all be viewed at cardboardbds.wordpress.com http://cardboardbds.wordpress.com/  Here are just a few:

Responses to Instagram Gallery

Sarah Brown
This looks brilliant – what a shame I was away and not able to explore Camp Cardboard too!

Stuart Maiklem
What an amazing project. It looks like it was great fun to build and explore Camp Cardboard.

Fay Hield (Polly’s mum)
I love the photos – who ever took them really had their eye focused on something.

Stephen Shore
It looks like you had a great time. The photographs capture the fun of the day and have some great use of depth of field.

Afterwards, Chris worked with the children to create a YouTube video using a combination of time-lapse photography and the photographs taken by the digital reporters. This offers a summary of the day.

5172 iPods During the event there had been some technical problems with the instagram app. and the children faced a series of upload errors; the children in the classroom could not see the photos taken by those in the hall and could not leave comments. However, the app saved the manipulated photos to the iPads photo album, which meant that Chris and the children could still use them to upload to the blog. The children were very determined that their photos would upload and they were visibly disappointed when they couldn’t share them as part of the photo stream. They did, however, have the opportunity later to share them with the wider community using the blog. With hindsight, Chris felt this could have been overcome by creating a different Instagram user account for each device, but with 30 hand-held devices this would be quite time consuming and perhaps not entirely necessary for the purpose.

It was commented on that the ‘digital reporters’ stood back did not directly interact with or interview the participants creating the cardboard camp. Chris explained that he had asked the reporters not influence what was happening in the hall. He wanted them simply to record their own version of events. Each child was only given a short space of time to be builders and he didn’t want this time to be taken up with interviews. There was time allowed later in the day when they returned to their classrooms for the children to share their ideas and interview each other. Chris felt that ‘digital observers’  rather than ‘reporters’ would have made his intentions clearer, however it was perhaps an opportunity missed for instant feedback from participants.

This case study enabled children to use a range of media to record their experience and it gave parents’ the opportunity to be more aware of how social networking can be used to involve the wider community in children’s learning during school hours. The blog provided an opportunity to share this event, and the children’s reporting of it, with a wider audience, including parents. The study also increased teachers’ understandings of how  iPads can be integrated into provision across the curriculum. Digital Literacy... Tags COMMENTS (public) ANNOTATIONS (private) Reflections on Teaching

Chris was motivated by the desire to be involved in the Camp Cardboard art project because of its possibility for whole-school participation and sustainability. He also valued the opportunity of using mobile technology:

Mobile technology appeals to me, not least because I use it regularly in my own life. I feel that the value of mobile technology is its portability – the fact that you are not restricted to staying at a desk, let alone a classroom.

He recognised the potential of mobile technology to record what would otherwise be a transitory, temporary piece of art and as a means of gathering a variety of perspectives.

5173 testing wifi

He did, however, experience some technical problems on the day; the Instagram app did not allow multiple uploads in quick succession as they were attached to the single account Chris had set up. Also, the wifi reception in the newly built school hall was rather patchy, which added to the uploading issues. However these difficulties were all overcome.

During the planning stage Chris mapped the aims of the project to KS1 & 2 of the National Curriculum and although the initial organisation of the project was informed by his knowledge of the curriculum, Chris felt that the final mapping was more of an academic exercise than a necessity:

Camp Cardboard felt justifiable as a stand-alone experience or an event, whether or not it met certain standards or curriculum requirements.

5173 iPadsE-safety was a particular concern for Chris during the project but he was surprised at how conscious some of the children were regarding e-safety; having covered some work around this already in school, they were very aware of and questioned some of the issues relating to posting personal information and photos online. Chris considered the implications of this:

Some of the responses made me wonder whether we had perhaps overstated the dangers of the internet – is it possible to scare children off the using the internet? There’s a fine line to tread between safety and paranoia. However, I also got the feeling that some of the children were telling us what they thought they wanted to hear!

From the children’s responses, Chris was mindful that the project might be giving mixed messages to the children: the school advises them not to share images of themselves and others online even though part of the activity was to keep a photographic record. He also questioned his own use of the photos:

As well as resolving the issues of sharing, I also had to question if it was ethically appropriate for me as a teacher to use that image for my own purpose – in this case to demonstrate their enjoyment of a project? Do the children benefit in any way from that use of their image? However, one might equally ask where is the harm in doing so if it represents a learning activity?

To resolve the issues, Chris adhered as far as possible to the school guidance around using images of children. The school does not have a blanket ‘no photo’ policy but parents’ permission is required to use a child’s photo. Chris felt that as this could be unmanageable given the nature of the activity, it was better to avoid taking photos where individuals were easily identifiable and he made use of the filtering functions on Instagram to blur out parts of photos before they were shared.

5173 using iPadsFeedback from parents was very positive. Some left comments on the blog, others fed back verbally in person but Chris felt there were not as many comments as he had hoped for despite his efforts to encourage blog posts. Statistics indicate that parents are looking at the blog but Chris question whether they still see the blogs and online work as a one-way process, i.e. supplying information.

Is online interaction intimidating for some people? Do they perceive that they may accidentally say the wrong thing? I can only speculate. Yet reflecting on my own online behaviour, I would also define myself as more of a consumer than a contributor, so perhaps it’s not something that should have surprised me. Reflections on... Tags COMMENTS (public) ANNOTATIONS (private) Reflections on Learning

5174 marble run at camp cardboardThe children were encourage to reflect on the event and record their thoughts in a variety of ways to add to the photographic record: recorded interviews, blogs and written work. Here are some examples of the children’s reactions that captured their perspective:

The children discuss their perceptions of the advantages and disadvantages of using digital technology in their project.

Interviewer: How did you manage to capture it as a reporter? Did you take lots of pictures?

Child: Yes, I was trying not to get in their way. I was trying to stand back. Because there was quite a lot of them coming round there.

Interviewer: Yes, that is key to a good reporter, isn’t it, making sure that you are not in the way of the activity? Did you take lots of good photos?

Child: Yes, I would say I did.

Interviewer: Well done. How did you find using the iPods? 

Child: I find them actually very, like it’s [more] interesting than like coming in with a piece of paper and … noting it down. It’s more fun to take photos and use an iPod because it’s more technical.

Interviewer: Did anything go wrong with the technology? Were there points where you were frustrated with it?

Child: No, but there was some in the school, because we were meant to have something that … the thing that we were using to take photos, that was meant to upload the photos to a blog, but it didn’t really work so we had to send it to a different place. Our teacher managed.

Interviewer: That was all resolved?

Child: Yes.

Interviewer: Brilliant, thank you for that.

5174 reporter interview

Interviewer: What about your activity when you were collecting information from them, how did it go?

Child: Well, we had some problems … the signal … but we did get a lot of the pictures and they came out really clear, so that was ok, and they were safe guarding with the photos.

Interviewer: Good, and did you manage to note the answers down?

Child: Yes, we used ‘notes’ on the iPad.

Interviewer: Did you find that easy?

Child: Yes, it’s easier than writing because it takes a lot longer to write it down, so you don’t get much done when you are writing, but when you are on the iPads it goes a bit quicker.


Children’s Blog posts: Cool Camp Cardboard by cardboardbd

Everyone in the school got to have round about 40 minutes. To build some of a sculpture our school sculpture was to make a building it was a massive building.

Only Year 4 got to report what happened on this amazing day.

We were put into teams to work in and we all worked very well together it were rely fun all the classes got a chance to have a go at building things like a hose a cottage a maze.

Many people think camp cardboard is fun and we all want to do it again our camp was colossal and we did a lot.

In camp card it was dark in some bits and light and it were great fun. My partner and I rely enjoy camp cardboard. So give camp card a try it’s amazing everybody enjoyed it and we all had fun its brilliant

Report: Camping in Cardboardby cardboardbds

5174 camp cardboard growsSome of the children wrote about the event The Camp cardboard is basically an event that involves building a structure, for example, a haunted house, a haunted maze or just a normal, non-haunted holiday cottage. The people involved are lots of different schoolchildren who like building things like this structure here that we built. Our group did a roof on the maze to make it a haunted maze which the class after us enjoyed playing in, as all the other classes will hopefully enjoy it too! We didn’t do an unmissable amount, but with the amount of time we had, which was about 10 minutes, we did quite a lot, as the maze was almost 1/3 of the hall, and about 1/2 of the camp! When we arrived to start building, we saw a massive cardboard mania waiting to take us on, like a mouse against an elephant! It was massive compared to us!

One aim of the project was to provide the children with an opportunity to share information about their experiences in and beyond the school community and so the team from Responsible Fishing, project partners and parents were asked to post their comments about the activity on the Camp Cardboard blog. Here are two responses to “Camping in Cardboard”

What great descriptions!! “A mouse against an elephant” – fantastic!! (Camp Cardboard Team)


Would have loved to have tried out the haunted maze! (Sarah Brown)

Here are some more comments: Fun with cardboard

Can’t wait to see the photos. What was it like building them? How long will they last? (Richard)

Eh ours is really good and it looks like you had really good fun!!! What was it like building them?(Jood)

What a great report! Glad you had fun..we had a fantastic day with you all. (Camp Cardboard Team)

I love the marble run, it’s my favourite part! What a fantastic day you all had & great reports & photos by you all. Well done everyone. (Kathryn, Adam’s Mum) Reflections on... Tags COMMENTS (public) ANNOTATIONS (private) Reflections on Digital Literacy

5175 camp cardboard reporterThrough this project, children engaged in a range of digital skills: taking photographs, editing video, creating blog posts and commenting on each other’s posts. The project highlighted how digital texts can be fluid and often remixed as different people interact with and around them. There is an interesting parallel here with the making of Camp Cardboard. The children made and remade the camp during the day; it wasn’t simply a cumulative exercise but evolved as children from different classes built on and sometimes remade what others had done. Similarly, the digital texts here were not fixed but were remade and remixed as the children and others commented on each other’s posts and images. This fluidity, which we can see generated through participatory cultures, raises a number of questions:

  • How might we use these wider communities to support the sharing of knowledge, skills and experience and enable children to share their experiences with wider communities and access networks of expertise within them?
  • How do we support children in developing the communicative, social and cultural competencies needed to do this?
  • How do we accommodate texts that are provisional and invite comment in a curriculum which values individual attainment and fixed outcomes?
  • How do we ensure that children have the confidence and skills necessary to navigate such networks critically and safely?

This case study raises questions about what happens as we over-layer a physical, school-based activity (the building of a cardboard environment) with opportunities for social networking. What new possibilities do these digital practices enable? How do children and those they communicate with use these possibilities?

5175 Chris being interviewedIn some ways, we could see this use of social networking tools as a bit like a digital ‘show-and-tell’. Its significance though seems to be in going beyond the classroom and enabling children to share what they did and thought with a wider audience – and to enable that audience to talk back to them. In his influential white paper, Jenkins explored the possibilities and challenges associated with using web-based applications to move towards more participatory culture: ‘Participatory culture shifts the focus of literacy from one of individual expression to community involvement. The new literacies almost all involve social skills developed through collaboration and networking’ (Jenkins, 2006)

Participatory culture for Jenkins has:

  1. Relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement
  2. Strong support for creating and sharing one’s creations with others
  3. Some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced is passed along to novices
  4. Members who believe that their contributions matter
  5. Members who feel some degree of social connection with one another (at least they care what other people think about what they have created).

(Jenkins, 2006: 7)

5175 camp cardboard discussions in classGiven this, it is interesting to look at what happens as children start to blog about their experiences and receive comments from others. Their experience goes outside school – they can share their creations – and others’ comments provide evidence that these creations are valued or ‘matter’. This not only enables children to participate in communities beyond the classroom but the wider community to feel part of what happened in school that day – to feel a ‘social connection’. Of course, there is ‘informal mentorship’ within the community that creates Camp Cardboard because Responsible Fishing supports the children to create their environment. However, there are also hints of how opportunities for social networking might support informal mentoring through the wider community. While some people’s comments focus on the experience that the photographs communicate – ‘What an amazing project. It looks like it was great fun to build and explore Camp Cardboard’ – others focus on the composition of the photographs: ‘The photographs capture the fun of the day and have some great use of depth of field.’ We can see the potential here for children to draw on expertise from beyond the classroom: what kinds of developments might a conversation with this commentator about ‘depth of field’ generate? As children invite comments and feedback from those outside the classroom, the classroom community merges with other communities of experts and appreciative watchers. This creates the conditions for children to gather expertise from the wider community and participate in more distributed networks.

Like other case studies in the DefT project, this project provided opportunities to use new technologies which were interwoven with physical, hands-on activities. Experiences with the low-tech cardboard boxes are mediated digitally. The children here are not replacing physical activity with digital; the digital just adds another layer or connection to everything else that is happening. Reflections on... Tags COMMENTS (public) ANNOTATIONS (private) References/Links to Further Information


Jenkins H (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture. Chicago: MacArthur Foundation. Available at: http://digitallearning.macfound.org/atf/cf/%7B7E45C7E0-A3E0-4B89-AC9C-E807E1B0AE4E%7D/JENKINS_WHITE_PAPER.PDF.

Camp Cardboard blog (2012) Retrieved 1/11/12cardboardbds.wordpress.com

Sheffield Children’s Festival (2012): Run by Sheffield City Council’s Arts Service, Sheffield Children’s Festival is a not-for-profit event. Any surplus it does make goes straight back into the festival and the education of children in the arts.

Responsible Fishing UK. (2012)  A collection of artists and creative thinkers who practice and share the art of stone balancing, natural sculpture, environmental and eco friendly installation.  Responsible Fishing work in schools, at community events and festival.

Links to Further Resources

Changing Horizons (2010) Martin Waller: Blogging and Badges, [Blog] Retrieved 2/11/12 www.changinghorizons.net/

Instagram (2012) : Instagram is a free photo-sharing program and social network that was launched in October 2010. The service enables users to take a photo, apply a digital filter to it, and then share it with other Instagram users they are connected to on the social network as well as on a variety of social networking services

Instagram (2012) : Guide to using Instagram, Retrieved 2/11/12

Instagram (2012) : 10 ideas for using Instagram in the classroom, Retrieved 2/11/12

iPads for learning (2012) Retrieved 2/11/12

Space to Create (2012) A private social networking site serving to connect youth from around the world, Retrieved 2/11/12 References/Links to... Tags COMMENTS (public) ANNOTATIONS (private)