Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Let's write a story: Storybird

Children all love a good story. They like to discover, to listen, to read. And in the course of their classroom lives, they might also be asked to produce stories of their own, either on an individual, group or classroom basis. Teachers use stories as lesson starters, to enhance listening and reading skills and to engage their students. And if the students get to use their imagination a bit and create stories of their own, so much the better.

Storybird is a service that uses collaborative storytelling to connect students and teachers around the world. Two (or more) people create a Storybird in a round robin fashion by writing their own text and inserting pictures. They then have the option of sharing their Storybird privately or publicly on the network. The final product can be printed, watched on screen, played with like a toy, or shared through a worldwide library.

First Steps

To start your first story, go to http://storybird.com, and click on Sing Up to create your accounts. Students can click on the Kids Click Here sticker, and they will be asked to register using their parent's email. After registering and subsequent log in, you will be taken to your Storybird Dashboard, where you will be able to take a look at both your published and unfinished stories, and also at your Reading List. This is because the application will let you browse through other people's stories and select any number to add them to your list.

You, Create, Read

Your Storybird dashboard is divided into three broad areas, accessible through the top left :
  1. You: This is where you can find your work: what you started, published or were invited to. Your reading list is also accessed from here;
  2. Create: This is where you let your creative streak loose, and get inspired by art and explore the available themes;
  3. Read: Finally, this is where you take a look at others' published Storybirds, and add them to your reading list.
Creating your Story

To start creating a new story, click on Create and you will have the option to start browsing through the Artists' Story Art, Take The Challenge or Explore Themes. You will be able to use the different artwork to create a Storybird of your own.

Artists' Story Art: Browse through the different pictures created by artists from all over the world. Your will be able to "like" - by clicking on the Heart icon, and share your favourite artists by email, Twitter or Facebook. Some artists may have created artwork about different themes, too. At the bottom of the screen, you will also be able to preview any Storybirds who have used the artwork you are viewing. When you an artwork that you can work with, click on Start a Storybird with this art at the top right hand side of the screen, and then on Jump In to start

Take The Challenge: Every month, Storybird launches a themed competition, which is usually sponsored by a third-party (for example, the December 2010 competition is sponsored by Cheerios, the popular children's breakfast cereal). Users have to create a Storybird according to a pre-set theme and thus enter a competion. Even if you are not interested in enrolling in these competitions, in this section you will be able to view other people's entries and perhaps get inspired about your own project.

Explore Themes: The artwork uploaded by others is naturally tagged for ease of reference. In this section you will be able to browse through all the tagged categories instead of by individual artists, and hence you will be more able to find what you are looking for if you have something specific in mind.

Working Together

After you have chosen your artwork, you will be able to start working on you own story by clicking on Start a Storybird with this art. You will be presented with a blank canvas, which you can fill up with the artwork scattered all around the page. To fill your page with an illustration, click on the picture you require and drag it onto the page. Note that the illustration will not fill up the whole of the page: a textbox will automatically be created so that you will be able to fill in some text too. Page navigation can be found at the bottom of the screen: click to Add or Delete a page, or Previous Page/Next Page to navigate from one page to the next.

You will be able save, share or publish your Storybird by clicking on the menu on the top right hand side of the screen. Click on Save to safeguard your work; on Menu>Invite Someone to invite collaborators; and on Menu>Publish This Storybird to make your creation available online to others. After you have published your story, you will also be able to share it online with others through blogs or websites by grabbing the Storybird's embed code and copy and paste it onto your platform. Currently, Storybird code is accepted by most popular platforms accepting standard HTML code, such as Blogger, Wordpress, Tumblr and Ning. Below is a Storybird created by my friend and collegue, Jeannette Cardona:

Whilst you can use Storybird with your own class, to create a classroom-based story, the straight of the application lies, of course, in the ability to share your creation with others and allow others to add to your own story, to create a collaborative project together. The only drawback I encountered in Storybird seems to be that you are unable to add your own drawings to a single story; however, if you are so inclined, you can apply to be a contributor here: http://storybird.com/artists/
Sites to Remember:

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