Sept. 10, 2009 What if new media focus shifted from horrific text-spelling and grammar errors to showcase the burgeoning bloggers, wordsmiths, artists, authors, and visual media creators’ new tools?
I realize ‘user-generated content’ is still created by the minority and viewed by the majority, but Storybird is a classic example of how new media can engage kids via participatory learning and put more wiggly toes in the water to get feet wet sans intimidation.
I’ve watched the new Storybird quick tour and screencasts multiple times already, exploring ways I can use it with kids for media literacy show-n-tell, because like my much beloved Animoto (where kids can create video film trailers with their own photos and text to convey a message) Storybird enables kids to jumpstart their creativity and crank out little books of their own, become little self-publishers in their single digit earliest years. Sweet!
For years I’ve used the old ‘spaghetti story starters’ of shredded paper in a bowl with prompts to ignite creative thinking and loop cohesive themes together from seemingly unrelated subjects…Now, Storybird uses this ‘take turns’ approach to add to the story with a publishable, tangible ‘lookee what I did!’ approach to pride-n-joy kid-grinning glee.
Kids can explore by themes of interest, choose artists that inspire, invite a collaborator (or not) and it’s all drag-n-drop with whimsy from there! LOVE this use of new media…
I realize some may say this is not quite ‘open-ended play’ or tactile glue-n-paste learning via artforms since there are some pre-existing tools and it feeds into the “immediate gratification” zeitgeist of children’s creative engagement…
But like every other new media technology, I see this as a ‘make it work for YOU’ matter of choices, options, and cool creative platforms that can really make learning come alive for 21st century cherubs, whether at home or at school…as a game, as digital play, or as language/visual arts fun.
Kids could opt for a wacky writing collaboration, in almost a ‘Mad Libs’ style format, or challenge each player to come up with a ‘rhyme’ threading the story together…They could create a meaningful cast of characters complete with diverse personalities and ‘voice’…Or take a once upon a time linear format…Or blend in backstory that draws in themes of all kinds.
I’d think kids could use Storybird to chirp back and forth with fresh ideas to stay in touch with friends and family afar, or to custom create a special gift book for grandparents or even an e-story to welcome a new sibling into the house and work through some of those feelings.
Digital media can be a collaborative bonding experience online when you CAN’T get face to face.. It’s an incredible conduit for intimacy-building in family fun mode…example?
I still am amazed I spent FOUR hours online/on the speaker phone being debriefed by my goddaughter in L.A. on how to do good things within the virtual tween world of Elf Island and where and how to maximize deeds on our GoodQuest together.
She was empowered being my personal guide to show me the ropes inside the world, introduce me to her ‘friends’ that were ‘nice’ and direct me in point-n-click tour guide style on our first trip there. Now it’s more like ‘meet me at the rainforest’ or ‘let’s go help the Hill Giant’ (to build a virtual camp that helps kids in Uganda with a REAL camp) etc.
Just think of what we could come up with swapping stories using Storybird…
I could even see Storybird partnering with new sites like Dream Village to collaborate on ways to use picture books and poignant stories to seed philanthropy…Or maybe align within Elf Island ‘GoodQuests’ to bridge the concept of ‘making a difference in the world’ via online to offline collaborative stories…There are LOTS of inspiring possibilities here.
Without over-thinking, I’ll just say, I’m diving in to Storybird and will send it out to a few folks to do some peer testing at different ages, because my hunch is that it’s ageless and timeless, and fun for all.
I can see some therapeutic benefits too, where teachers or counselors (or parents!) could use characters and storylines to lift the veil of bravado and explore hurts or angers that get swept under the classroom carpet, from bullying to loneliness or anti-social behavior…
It generated all kinds of ideas for me to use ‘characters’ to get kids to emote through self-expression in Storybird style…
My GenY nephew Ryan is visiting from London right now, and we speak in techie shorthand sometimes, so I was telling him about Storybird in sound bite style, “It’s kinda like Blurb for kids.” Blurb is a book publishing site where users can create their own hardbound, 4C keepsakes using easy templates that translate to elegantly designed ‘coffee table books’ for one offs and short runs.
I view Storybird as an even easier ‘kids e-version’ with collaborative community tossed in to turn it into more of a living book or peer to peer game.
Ryan ‘got it’ immediately, nodding, “Cool. But is it just for KIDS?”
Exactly my thought, as lately it feels like kids get all the cute prints on swimsuits and bright happywear, as adults get relegated to the stodgy and serious…
No way…I’m eager to jump into the Storybird nest and put thoughts to paper as I put it through the paces…woohoo, count me IN!
As for the ‘story behind storybird’ and who dreamed up this new media magic? Why, a parent, of course! From their ‘prologue page’ I found this:
“Years ago my son and I wrote, illustrated, and hand-bound a book for my wife about a character she had invented and used for telling stories to our son.
While the gift was special to her, what was special to us was making it: the collaboration, the tweaking, and the excitement of something so simple meaning so much.
That event was the inspiration for Storybird, a new service that a group of us are about to release as version 0.1.
We describe Storybird as “collaborative storytelling.” The premise is simple: you and I take turns playing with words and pictures and voila—we have a story that means something to both of us. It’s digital, so it’s easily shared; but it can also be printed and kept forever.
Storybirds are hybrids. You can read them like books, watch them like television, send them like greeting cards, or play with them like games.
Mostly, though, Storybirds are about connecting people through stories.
For families—and I could extrapolate this to society—stories are the bedrock of communication.
Kids use them to contextualize and understand the world. Parents depend on them to frame issues, pass on family values, and entertain. Stories are a currency, passing back and forth among us, trading in an idea for something tangible, permanent, and valuable…”
Since I’m new to Twitter, I guess this calls for a ‘Tweet’…
After all, it’s hard to explain in 140 characters “What’s a Storybird?” …and my description will be far different than another, I’m sure. (coming from an advertising/film background, ‘storybird and storyboard’ is a useful ‘aha’ moment of crossover for me)
I’ll just say I can’t think of a better way to encourage literary exploration, artsy fun and new media skill sets to inspire a whole new flock of creative storytellers.
I’m going to try it this weekend while Ryan’s here after we poop out from waterskiing/wakeboarding and need some down time. We’ve got a good age span here to test it out from various perspectives, so please let me know if YOU give it a whirl, as I’ll no doubt be doing a follow up story on this up and coming community and would love to put some ages and stages and samples into the mix.
p.s. I also notice there’s a spot for parents’ email approval prior to publishing or collaborating peer to peer if desired, so if any of you ‘e-moderation’ and kids online community queens could vett this for me from an internet safety/COPPA standpoint on the back channels, I’d appreciate it.
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