Tool Review: Storybird, a storyboard tool that gives wings to the creative mind.

Teaching, like many other skills, is a something that requires constant improvement. A teacher, like many other professionals, needs to remain aware of the new techniques and the new tools provided by the evolution of technology to ensure such an improvement in his/her teaching methods. Finding new innovative and creative ways to have the students participate actively in their learning process is of the essence nowadays: One must find ways to create a dynamic learning environment while making sure that the theory is well understood by the students. Many students can get fed up of the same old routines, and who can blame them! When the time comes to write a text, a story or any creative writing, some students cringe to a point where they get writers lock. A good teacher should be ready for such occasions and since  »an ounce of prevention if better than a pound of cure », he/she should have a bag of dynamic tools ready to make writing activities more diverse and original. And in this bag there should be Storybird.

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This tool is cloud based, easy to use and free. Stodybird offers a great choice of artistic themes for creating original online story-books. So how does it actually work? Very simple. First, you go on the website and you sign up. Second, you select an artistic theme comprised of a number of preset images that you will be able to use in order to create your story. Third, when you’ve decided on a theme, you simply start with your cover page by dragging one of the available images onto the blank slot, add a title and voilà! Thereon, You keep on adding empty slots that you can fill with images and texts that will suit your imagination. By dragging the images on the blank slots, an interactive shadow shows you where the image will land. With the help of this shadow, you can choose whether the image will take half a page, a quarter of it or if it will be on the lower or upper half of the page.

Some critics say that the provided images limit creativity but I disagree. What’s truly interesting about Storybird is that it effectively reverses the usual creative process. Usually, you build a story in words and ideas and then add pictures to it. Here, the opposite is done, and it is very stimulating. Having the images already given to you in no order makes you wonder about which images to select and this sparks the imagination on a whole other level. It can help those students who often have no idea of where to start with their story and kind of gives them something already there to build on.

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Teachers who wish to use the Storybird can create a teacher account and then add their students to share and work on their stories together in class but also while at home, due to the could-based system. From there, the variety of activities one can build with this software goes beyond regular! As a language teacher, you can use it for simple grammar activities by using images to build humorous examples for the taught rules. Still as a teacher, you can use it as a derivative from power-point to create more original presentations. As for the students, you can have them create a side story from a piece of literature reviewed in class, make original book reports, have them come up with an act and use Storybird as a storyboard draft. Some teachers like Stephen Davis even allowed one of his students to use Storybird as draft brainstorming tool for an essay. So you see, there are many possible applications to Storybird for a language teacher to stimulate his/her students to engage in writing.

In sum Storybird is one of those tools that may come in handy for sparking up the imagination of less motivated students and get them working on their writing and idea-planning skills. Storybird can be used to introduce students to writing and can hide the laborious task behind an original and personalized creative process. It can also serve indirectly as a mean to have students reflect on the creative process itself and the amount of work needed to come up with a work of fiction for example. With Storybird, students can be taught to enjoy literature, writing and even dreadful grammar!

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Lastly, Storybird also provides the opportunity to get hard copied of picture story-books projects for under 30$. You can register your mail information online and have a number of copies of your choice sent to you in a matter of weeks. This would be a great motivation for younger students, to have them make a presentation or simulate a book publication activity.

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