My Bookshelf

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Writing Workshop goes Digital

Name: StoryKit by ICDL Foundation
Designed for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad
Cost: Free

Well, I knew right away I would love this app when both of my kids chose to spend their Saturday night writing instead of watching t.v.  And just to clarify, this app is not titled Writing Workshop goes Digital but that is truly what came to my mind when I first sat down and tinkered with it.  StoryKit is an app that was originally designed for the iPod Touch (obvious by the size of it on the iPad) wherein users can create an original story through writing, speech, or manipulation of four preloaded books.   Users can add illustrations through "painting" as well as sound effects.  Once the story is complete, users can share it by sending it to the ICDL server which in turn sends the user an email with a link to their story.  This can then by copied and shared to friends on Facebook, Twitter, or even email.  An FAQ of how StoryKit works can be found here: StoryKit FAQ

The Good:  Well, from a teacher's standpoint I love that this app is all about creative expression!  Writing Workshop teachers will delight in children's ability to create a personal narrative or realistic fiction story.  To test the waters, I tried this with my own two children (Thomas who is in second grade and Maeve who is a fourth grader).  Now, mind you, my mini-lesson at home was a demonstration story about our dog Ruby and her personal issue with chronic flatulence, so right away, I grabbed their attention (if only all teachers could hook kids in with tales of farting in their mini-lessons - I think we'd have 100% engagement!).  Immediately, both of my kids wanted to write a story.  My daughter, of course wrote about the number two fun topic for kids: barfing.  She decided on using the voice recorder to tell her story and created the illustrations along with.  Here is a link to her literary creation: Maeve's story  (I can tell that the Wimpy Kid books have rubbed off on her). It's important to note that students can also type text with their story using a popup digital keyboard. 

Alternatively, students can also edit four existing stories that come preloaded on the app. One text is titled, The Rocket Book, a classic children's story about a rocket that travels upwards through and apartment building (cute story).  The remaining three books are Fairy Tales: Humpty Dumpty, The Three Bears, and The Three Little Pigs. Many teachers of Writing Workshop who complete a Fairy Tale Unit of Study may find this app helpful in scaffolding student's writing of fairy tales.  I think it has the potential to help kids understand the genre.

The Bad:  This app does have some resolution issues. Originally designed for an iTouch, it is thus small on the iPad.  You can increase the size but then you lose resolution.  Also, the four preloaded books are a cute idea but really didn't grab my kid's attention.  Anecdotally, I find that not all kids enjoy rewriting endings or alternate plot lines (but it doesn't hurt to try, especially for our reluctant writers).  Likewise, as stated above, I do think the preloaded books could be tried in a Fairy Tale unit of study.   Also, I found the drawing tool a bit awkward (my kids were fine) but perhaps if the app is rewritten for a larger screen, the drawing will be more comfortable.

I give this app Thumbs Up

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