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Storytelling Apps and Online Tools: An Evolution of the Written Word

Posted on Nov 30, 2012

Digital storytelling is making its mark in education. Teachers are finding that it is a useful way to inspire kids to put pen to paper, or, stylus to screen. Challenging a student to voice their ideas and express their imagination is a great way to help them develop literacy skills, discover an outlet for creativity and emotion, and learn how to become an effective communicator. The reason storytelling is able to accomplish these things so easily is because it’s fun.

I’ve witnessed this offline, back in my hometown whenever my nieces would go to their “Storycraft” classes. It’s what the name suggests – taking the art of storytelling and combining it with the art of craft. The teacher would prompt the kids to come up with some sort of narrative, and once this was done, they would literally craft their story – books forged from colored paper, glitter, and glue, drawings of their characters, 3D models of the setting or climax, anything to help show what they were trying to say. The children can even “publish” their story – the whole family can order a copy of their book or view it online.

Now, with the advent of online learning and the impressive tool collection it’s been building, this concept is becoming more readily available. There are visual storybook prompts just waiting to be explained with a storyline; avatars ready to be dragged-and-dropped onto the pages of a blank comic book; pre-made videos in need of narration. Students can take the traditional route too – they can upload drawings and hand written stories into slideshow narratives that can easily be forwarded along to relatives and friends anywhere in the world – for free.

All of this is just another progression of storytelling, one not all that different from the oral histories, legends, and myths that once found permanency in the comfort of cave walls, scrolls of papyrus, lengths of vellum – all the things our ancestors once used to record their stories leading up to the pages of a Penguin Classic (most of which are now available as an eBook).

For a teacher or parent, finding a way to make reading and writing fun for kids is rewarding in its own right. Online learning tools are simply taking that to a new level, as they often do. You could ask your student or child to write a comic book about photosynthesis, a fictional narrative explaining why they should wear a seat belt, or a one-act play, “What Really Happened on Roanoke Island.”

The point of these kinds of tools is to engage the student in an enjoyable way, and help them learn something. For the parents and teachers, they can be proud of what their child or student has learned. For the student, the reward is what every writer dreams of – having an audience and a finished piece of work.

The Journal article, 9 Creative Storytelling Tools That Will make You Wish You Were A Student Again provides us with these websites and apps: Storybird, Popplet, My StoryMaker, StoryLines for Schools, ZooBurst, Sock Puppets, Meograph, XtraNormal, MentorMob.

And here are a few more that I’ve stumbled across: StoryJumper, Link Edu Tech17 Free Digital Storytelling iPad Appsand The Literacy Shed.

Kyle Vineyard is a senior majoring in English at the University of Kansas. He has a passion for the written word and a soft spot for rural America.

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