Saturday, September 5, 2009

Storybird ... what's not to love?

I saw this little video recently, about a new bike that folds up and runs on a battery. There's this wonderful bit of promotional footage where our hero, with freedom in his heart, races through the city. Frustrated guy stuck in traffic, and tired girl at the bus stop watch in surprise as he scoots past them, to arrive unruffled at his destination.

'Gosh, how is he going to link this to writing a story?' I hear you ask.
Well I AM going to link this little metaphor to story writing, so just sit back and listen ok?

Anyway ... there's the guy, speeding through the city with freedom in his heart (I like that bit) and the wind in his hair ... and he passes all these people by (So here it is, the jump from metaphor to my thoughts on writing... ready?).

I often feel like bike guy when working with story writing and technology. That girl at the bus stop? One of those people yet to discover how wonderful teaching with technology can be. In my experience, those yet to grasp the nettle and try using tech in their classrooms are concerned about how to implement it. Technology may scare them, their students mastery of it certainly might, and they hesitate, and perhaps they avoid it altogether.

The wonderful thing about using technology in the classroom is that it doesn't have to be challenging, or complicated ... and an easy way to put a toe in the water (another metaphor, I know, I'll have to stop) ... is to use an application like Pim Pam Pum, a wonderful site for building stories online.

When you find a new tool to explore narrative with students it's like finding gold! A new way for them to discover story, structure, build character, it's wonderful. Enter Storybird, a newly released application (in beta as of today) for building stories online.

Sure it's been done before, sure there are comic book builders and a dozen other tools that can be engaging and fun to use ... but Storybird has an edge. Firstly it's so simple to use, so simple you'll be an expert in minutes ... which is wonderful because that means you can focus on building stories rather than figuring out how to find the menu.

While it lacks the benefits of teaching juxtaposition as easily as a tool like Pim Pam Pum, it has plenty to offer. For a start, the illustrations you can use are wonderful, and if you were teaching theme, or voice, it's a perfect vehicle for that discussion in the classroom.

Choose an illustrator, add pages the story, then fill in the story. It's that easy.

While I can easily imagine students using this at a primary level, don't dismiss it for secondary students, and yes I mean up to year 12 students. Why? Because teaching economy in language is a valuable thing for writers of any age, and the perfect vehicle for it is a picture book.

Just because it's a picture book doesn't mean you have to explore elementary themes either. Just take a wander through Fox, the CBC winner for 2001.

A page on TDN will be created in the next week or so dedicated to this wonderful site ... and I'd encourage you to take a look over it with your students.

So what are you waiting for?! Visit Storybird and Find Your Story!

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