“Our Small Byte series continues with a gorgeous online tool for creating and sharing captivating digital stories. Get ready to experience the magic of Storybird.”
The art of storytelling is one of humanity’s greatest gifts, and one of its most celebrated means of self-expression. Historically, every culture has used it to entertain, to share knowledge, and to instill moral values within its people. Storytelling brings us a means to share our deepest feelings and our most defining human experiences using high forms of creativity and, quite often, spontaneity. The stories we have told have shaped our world and our lives in so many ways, and brought us so much closer to one another over time.
In our modern information age, the art of digital storytelling now takes center stage, and with the range of powerful tools available to us today, stories can be created and shared with more ease than ever. Our digital students love to be creative in illustrating their own unique tales, and one of the most enjoyable tools I’ve come across to help them do this is the remarkable experience of Storybird.
What is Storybird?
This is a digital storytelling platform that offers artistic avenues for students, teachers, artists, writers, and anyone simply wanting to explore how to develop digital stories with a beautifully formatted online tool. To say the least, Storybird is a very engrossing digital storytelling tool. It’s so much fun to use and explore, and any student is sure to have a wonderful creative experience with it.
Just to get you interested, here is one of my favourites. It’s a story called “The Worry Brain” by artist and writer Zuzol, and it was crafted for elementary-age kids who struggle with anxiety. It’s a fine example of the kinds of things you can create with Storybird.
Storybird offers a free basic account you can sign up for, as well as 1 month ($9), 6 month ($39), and 12 month ($59) paid memberships. This upgrade allows you to create custom covers, personalize your profile’s theme, and take advantage of some enhanced publishing services.
Once you sign up, you can either explore what’s been done by other users and find people to follow, or you can get started straight away with your own creations. Just click on “Create” and you’re ready to begin telling your digital tale. You are presented with tags for artwork and genres, as well as a host of image collections from contributing artists to select from. This artwork is where the story is born and develops from, encouraging inspiration on a high level. From the website:
“Storybird reverses visual storytelling by starting with the image and “unlocking” the story inside. Explore artists, get inspired, and write.”
Clicking on an image gives you a profile of the artist and other selections of their work. Once you’ve found a piece of art that you’d like to use, simply click on “Use this Art” at the top of the image. Storybird then offers you the choice of using it either for a story or a poem. Each choice provides you with a different layout, the examples of which are shown below.
In poem mode, you drag words onto the image from the choices provided. You can give the highlighted words different background colors by clicking on the colored circles. If you want new words to choose from, click on “Refresh” and a whole new range of word choices appears. You can also refresh the artwork and a new image will appear from the artist you’ve chosen.
Story mode offers much more creative control. Your story develops by entering the text into the text box, and by shifting the image around on the page. You can also drag any image from the various artwork thumbnails to replace the existing image.
You can easily add pages by clicking the plus sign in the bottom right-hand corner of the story screen. The page thumbnails appear below your work and you can go to each one individually to revise and edit it as you wish.
Once you’ve created your story, you have a few different options:
Invite collaborator: Lets you choose from your network of storytellers and artists to invite a creative partner to work on your story.
Publish: Lets you share and publish your story on Storybird by choosing categories and tags, and by providing a summary of what the story is all about.
Save and Close: Saves your work and takes you back to your “Stuff” dashboard, so you can access other works or delete existing ones.
How Can You Use Storybird in the Classroom?
Teachers and students are very welcome on Storybird, and there are specific tools designed for teachers to employ in bringing digital storytelling into their lessons. Create and grade storytelling assignments, provide feedback and suggestions, embed Storybirds and create fundraising programs with a single click, plus much more.
Students will love getting creative with Storybird by exploring all the different artwork available to launch their creations with. They can become inspired to craft beautiful stories and collaborate on them with classmates. Stories can be published right on Storybird or embedded into class blogs, shared on social networks, or on a class wiki.
For ambitious and entrepreneurial students, they can even profile their visual work in their own Storybird shop. Eventually they can even earn royalties when their work is used or bought by other artists and writers. There is more information on this here.
How Does Storybird Develop the 21st Century Fluencies?
- Solution Fluency—Many English language arts lessons call for creative writing and storytelling as part of the means by which students express themselves in their projects. A carefully-chosen tool for developing these stories is essential. Storybird is a great choice for applying a creative and effective solution to any story writing challenge.
- Information Fluency—Artists, writers, filmmakers, and many more creative vocations all have a home on Storybird. Their community offers some of the best information and resources for anyone looking for new talent and shareable material for visually detailed projects.
- Creativity Fluency—Artists from all over the world have generated stunning artwork and engrossing stories for sharing and promoting in Storybird. Students will have no shortage of inspiration and resources to call on for creating their own beautiful storytelling projects. Stories and poems will come alive with colourful imagery and imaginative writing using Storybird’s platform.
- Media Fluency—Digital stories need to be impactful, both visually and and textually. Storybird is an excellent digital storytelling platform for this reason. It has a rich library of visual content that students can weave stories around. In addition, the messages they share in their writing are not soon to be forgotten using such a unique and powerful tool for sharing their dreams, interests, and ideas. A prime example is the story “The Worry Brain” shown at the beginning of the article.
- Collaboration Fluency—In any digital story made with Storybird, collaborators can be invited to share in the development of the work in progress. Students can choose to invite contributors from their own network of fellow artists, as long as they all have their own Storybird profiles for creating and collaborating on stories and poems. Storybird projects are also shareable on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.
- Global Digital Citizen—As with all sharing and online publishing tools, practicing respectful behaviour online is an essential consideration for students. The staff of Storybird itself monitors all content and comments for disagreeable or deconstructive submissions or comments, and as such they maintain a friendly and supportive platform for their unique artist community. This provides a great example for students to aspire to in regards to how they present themselves in creative online content-sharing domains.