Storybird as an inspiration for writing

Storybird is an easy collaborative story-creating tool that allows students to invent and publish short stories. The only requirement to access is to create an account, which promotes a very easy access. This tool puts the emphasis on collaboration and on the process of inspirational writing through artful storytelling. Teachers can design accounts for their pupils in order to share their work among the members of their class or with the whole world if the purpose is so.

 

One of the great features of Storybird is that art in this tool is absolutely beautiful, and this surely inspires students to enter in their creative writing process. For instance, ‘‘The gorgeous illustrations inspire students to write. The more they write, the more they read. It’s an addictive, virtuous cycle’’ (https://storybird.com/teachers/). In this sense, Storybird’s visual art is outstanding compared to any other story-creating tools, which are usually a blank page that students must fill in, without receiving direct inspiration from the tool itself. Visual learners also benefit from the quality of the images provided in Storybird. Instead of suffering the blank page syndrome, they save time because their thinking process is embedded into their exploring process of the tool through inspirational images. Thus, the simplicity of the tool to insert beautiful images puts the emphasis on writing skills, because students do not have to struggle when trying to insert pictures on a blank page that is not very inspiring. With Storybird, art does not become a long and complicated task in addition of writing, it complements it instead.

 

Moreover, Storybird does not only limit to individual work. ‘‘It is possible for students to write part of a story in Storybird, and share it with someone else, who can then continue writing the story. This feature is well suited within the polyphonic use of teaching’’ (http://www.edidaktik.dk/en/storybird-i-undervisningen.html). This function promotes students’ sense of adaptation, as they have to take into consideration what their classmate has written, and to start from this idea in order to build the complete scenario of the story. It also fosters tolerance within the classroom, as some students will have to continue writing the story of someone with whom they do not usually work with. In fact, open-mindedness becomes in union with creativity, which is something worth trying with students. Polyphony is therefore fostered, as students’ different parts are combined and come to create harmony and form a new and unexpected final product. The quality of this whole story depends on students’ capacity to integrate successfully their ideas into the ones that were previously mentioned by their peers. Therefore, individual performance is put away for the benefit of collaborative performance.

 

Linda Page, the lead teacher at Kennet School, first used Storybird with her students to have them produce French and Spanish e-book, and then to share it with younger students, who would use these stories as real resources for learning. As she explained, ‘‘We wanted to use new technology to do this, which we hoped would be exciting and motivating for both pupils and teachers. We also hoped to further motivate pupils by getting them to produce work for a given audience (i.e. the year 7-8 pupils producing stories for year 5-6 pupils and vice versa) (http://www.linksintolanguages.ac.uk/resources/2577). What is very interesting about this approach is that students get to produce a task for real educational purposes. Usually, students do not produce work for the educational benefits of others; they produce work for the academic context itself. In this perceptive, Storybird promotes students’ self-confidence, as they feel that they are concretely helping younger students. These younger students also benefit from these personal and interesting e-books produced by older students, as they improve their literacy skills in a more motivating way. Thus, Storybird helps to establish a positive interdependent learning relationship between younger and older students, which aim to achieve the greater good in education. The idea of adapting a project to an audience teaches students that they always need to adapt their speech or their writing to whom they are aiming to speak or write. This capacity to foster the learning of a given audience by creating content of their level is a very remarkable skill that they develop with Storybird.

 

Another teacher grade 3, 4 and 5 ESL teacher, Amanda Castaneda, used Storybird to integrate grammatical content. More precisely, she intended students to use adjectives while creating their stories. In her project, the instructions were as followed: ‘‘Students will be learning how to create stories using complete simple sentences, while focusing on the use of vivid adjectives. Students will work collaboratively to create a story describing one another. Student will create their story of friendship using the Web 2.0 tool Storybird’’ (http://educatorstudio.com/lessons/using-storybird-teach-adjectives-and-complete-simple-sentences). In her case, Storybird is used to teach adjectives in a creative and interesting fashion. Students were in pairs and had to describe the relationship that they had with their friend, using as much adjectives as they could. This represents in fact a very subtle manner to have students review grammatical content while they think they are only carrying out a pleasant activity with their friend. For elementary ESL students, this is always something to think about. Children usually do not like grammar as an end in itself. Storybird represents an efficient manner to introduce grammatical content through collaborative and creative story settings.

 

Finally, Mercy Pilkington, a senior editor for Good e-reader, emphasizes in her article the importance of publishing school work and how the standards of the education have changed. For instance, ‘‘Under the new guidelines for teaching writing, “publishing” is an actual standard now; it’s no longer enough to write and illustrate a darling story with a pencil and paper and allow the teacher to hang it on the bulletin board. The Common Core encourages things like teacher websites and blogging instruction for elementary school students.’’ (http://goodereader.com/blog/electronic-readers/why-just-read-when-you-can-write-with-storybird). Her thought is clearly relevant, because elementary students are given the opportunity to read the work done by their peers and to be read by them, which promotes a strong sense of community within the classroom. By creating a teacher website, teachers regroup efficiently all the projects related to the classroom and can keep track of everything in addition of grading their students’ work. Moreover, parents can be invited to this teacher page and explore the work that students accomplish in the classroom. Parents are often too focused on the performance of their children, as they seek their academic success. With the publishing aspect of Storybird, parents become more aware of the work done by other students as well, which can give them an overall idea of the group’s accomplishment.

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