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Storybird – thoughts on a storytelling tool

August 9, 2010

I recently worked on a project for my technology course (IST611), working with a partner to create a wiki page on Storybird.  Our goal in this project was basically to become the class experts in Storybird, and then create a page with information to familiarize our classmates with this technology.  I got the opportunity to work on Storybird somewhat randomly – at the very beginning of this assignment, we had to select three technologies from a list of Web 2.0 technologies.  I would like to say I put alot of thought and research into my selections, but basically I went through the list and selected three that I was completely unfamiliar with, a strategy that I came to have second thoughts on.  It ended up working well for me though, because Storybird is a very cool technology that was fun to learn, and made this whole assignment seem less like “work”.

As mentioned in my title, Storybird is a storytelling tool that provides a platform for writers to feature their works.  Users can create books using Storybird’s art gallery, which is pretty extensive.  Not only can the stories be shared with others, but authors can also invite others to collaborate with them.  I had alot of fun browsing through the artwork, and reading Storybirds that others had written.  Learning this technology (and using it!) is fun.

The first part of the assignment required us to answer a few essential questions on our assigned technology:  what is it?  what are its strengths and weaknesses?  how does it compare to similar technologies?  Most of what I learned on this technology came from actually playing with it, but that did not completely answer these questions.  Because Storybird is still very new (only a little over a year old), there is not much scholarly literature on it.  I was able to find good information from blogs (mostly education and/or technology related), as well as some good news articles.  Also, the Storybird Help section is pretty comprehensive, and utilizes other Web 2.0 technologies (such as the Storybird Blog) to help answer questions or to provide information.  Google helped in finding similar Web 2.0 technologies – when doing a search for Storybird, I used the “Pages similar to…” results to find comparable technologies.

The second part of the assignment was to link Storybird to two different learning standards and describe a Storybird activity that teachers could use to address the standards within a curriculum area.  My partner and I each worked on an activity – I created an ABC book for kindergarten students, and my partner created an activity for middle school foreign language students.  As a prospective school librarian, I found it very useful to link Storybird to the different standards (NY State Learning Standards, AASL Learning Standards, and ISTE Learning Standards). 

The third part of the assignment required us to create a tutorial for Storybird on Jing.  Although only one user could create the final project, my partner and I were still able to collaborate on this part of the project.  She is pretty familiar with Jing, so she created some wonderful screen shots of Storybird, complete with narration.  I used her screen shots and added narration to the project.  In the end, I think it came out very well.  More importantly, it helped me become familiar with Jing (a very cool tool in and of itself), and it also helped put me in a mindframe of having to explain a technology to others.  It’s one thing to become familiar with a technology yourself, but quite another to teach others to use it. 

One of the things that stands out to me most about Storybird is how easy it would be to incorporate Storybird into the classroom.  Although there are no age “limits”, Storybird is geared for students aged 3-13 and would be appropriate for students from pre-k through 8th grade.  It could be used in just about any subject area, not just the obvious reading or ELA areas.  It can be used to facilitate collaboration among students – it could allow students from different classes or schools to work on the same project.  Storybird could also be used to strengthen the home-school connection – because Storybird is web-based, parents can view student creations, and even collaborate on them.  Storybird also allows teachers to create class accounts, so students don’t have to sign up for personal accounts.  This feature allows teachers to manage multiple classes, help students with passwords, create discussions, and much more.  This would definitely work for school librarians, who often help many different classes on a variety of projects throughout the school year.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed working on Storybird for this assignment.  My partner was a joy to work with.  My assigned technology was fun to explore, and one that I hope to use in my student teaching this fall.

Bibliography:

Classroom 2.0 – This blog entry contains helpful feedback from educators who have tried Storybird.  Also, Storybird co-found Mark Ury responds to several respondents who had questions on Storybird’s content and security. 

MangoMon blog – Basic information on Storybird, as well as a brief tutorial, this blog post answers the basic questions on Storybird.

Storybird Help – The Storybird Help section contains FAQ’s, offers a tour of Storybird, and contains community guidelines.  This section was particularly helpful for the first part of this assignment.

Storybird Blog – the Storybird blog started prior to the rollout of Storybird, and is a good resource for educators who are committed to using Storybird. 

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