Thursday, May 26, 2011

Storytelling apps compared - update

Here is the link to my updated spreadsheet comparing some storytelling apps. I've added 3 more apps since the last version (highlighted.) Apps included in the comparison are:
  • Our Story
  • Pictello
  • SodaSnap Postcards
  • SonicPics and SonicPics Lite
  • StoryKit
  • StoryPatch
  • StoryRobe
  • StoryMaker
  • StoryPages
All are obviously intended for the creation of stories, but the final products vary from a single page with images and text, to multipage stories with images and text and audio, to a video that is basically a narrated slideshow. 

Visit my Storytelling page for  a quick overview of all these apps as well as several animated storytelling apps.  My side-by-side comparison of the animated storytelling apps is on a separate spreadsheet

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Storytelling with Our Story

The free app Our Story was developed by child psychologists and education specialists at the Open University in the UK. The app is backed by solid research and the website is worth checking out as it offers suggestions for ways to use the app that are equally appropriate to other storytelling apps. 
"Reading, even in the digital age, is probably one of the most important skills that children acquire. It can be an important source of pleasure which also develops vital language and social skills. It is fundamental to most school activities, it can also open up new worlds and give access to the wealth of human knowledge. 
This app that has been developed by child psychologists and other specialists at The Open University enables young children to take part in fun games which can help develop interests and skills that will be relevant to them when they start to read." 

The app and its support pages are very clearly geared towards parents using the app with their children rather than teachers using it in the classroom. 

Some of the nice features - 
  • you can create a selection of images from your photo album that you want students to use directly in the app. You can also add more photos as needed from the photo album. 
  • You can add text to each image, and the text is saved so that you can reuse it if you use the same image in another story. 
  • You can add a recording to each image. 
  • The images are large because there is no screen real estate saved for the text - it goes over the image. 
  • You can easily see how many images you have in your story and what order they are in. 
  • You can use images one at a time, like flashcards, without adding them to your story. 
  • You can see the text as you are recording. (It is not hidden by a recording window as it is in StoryKit for example.) 
  • Text boxes are scrollable.
  • It's free and there is no advertising! 

Some drawbacks - 
  • You are limited to creating 10 stories. After that, if you want to create more you have to choose which of the stories you've already created you want to overwrite. 
  • The app has quit on me several times as I was trying to create a story. 
  • You cannot move the text boxes on the screen and they often end up obscuring part of the picture. You can double-tap on the page and the text and navigation tools will disappear. They reappear when you double-tap again. 
  • Navigation is not terribly intuitive - I'm not sure that young kids could figure how to navigate back to a saved story - certainly not as easily as they could in StoryKit for example. 
  • When you are 'using' a story, the icon to play audio shows up on every picture even when there is no associated audio. 
  • There is no way to share the stories beyond the iDevice they're on, with the exception perhaps of an iPad2 hooked up to a projector! 
This app has some nice features and, given that it's free, it's worth the download. The inability to share the final product is a dealbreaker for me right now though in terms of using it with my ESL students. I can see uses for Our Story for social stories though - especially given the ease of adding images using the camera in a 4th generation iPod or iPad2 - and also for other adult-created stories or activities. If using the story right on the iDevice where it was created suits you, then this provides a nice alternative to other apps and can provide some variety in the look of the apps you are using. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Storytelling with Pictello

Pictello is yet another storytelling app. It is designed for both  iPhone and iPad, but will not work on older iPod touches (2G)  or iPhones (3G). It comes from AssistiveWare, the company that created the assistive communication app Proloquo2Go. Pictello creates a book-like end product - a story of one or more pages that can have pictures and text. You can record sounds for each page, which could be a reading aloud of the text. A unique feature of Pictello however, is that it comes with built-in text-to speech voices and you can have it read aloud the text that you add to each page. You can even read some pages aloud yourself and use text-to-speech on others! The latest version highlights individual words as it does text-to-speech, which is a helpful feature for literacy goals. The current version of Pictello is localized in English, Spanish, French, German, Turkish and Dutch. North American English male and female voices are included, with children's voices and voices for 25 other languages and dialects such as Japanese available as free downloads! Pictello does not require an active Internet connection for story creation or playback.

Pictello was originally designed to create social stories, but it looks like it's a great tool for encouraging storytelling and literacy skills for all kids. However, it is significantly more expensive than the other storytelling apps I've reviewed so far. (It was $14.99 when I first wrote this and is now $18.99 as of 4 April, 2013, admittedly with some new features.) The stories you create can be viewed on the device where they are created, within Pictello, or they can be shared via the Pictello server - but only with other Pictello users. The latest version will let you save your stories to Dropbox as Pictello stories or PDFs. If I were working with students who were able to write their own stories but unable to read them aloud, I would be more interested in this app specifically because of the text-to-speech feature which I've not seen in the other storytelling apps. For my regular ed. students, the free app StoryKit is very similar, is free, and StoryKit stories can easily be shared via the app's website.

Assistiveware provides detailed descriptions on their website to help you get started using Pictello.  a4cwsn has several videos that give detailed information on using Pictello. (Here is the first of their videos.)

(Updated 5 April 2013)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Storytelling apps compared

As a follow-up to my comparison of animated storytelling apps, here is a spreadsheet comparing some other storytelling apps. Apps included in the comparison are:
  • SodaSnap Postcards
  • SonicPics and SonicPics Lite
  • StoryKit
  • StoryPatch
  • StoryRobe
  • StoryMaker
All are obviously intended for the creation of stories, but the final products vary from a single page with images and text, to multipage stories with images, text and audio, to  a video that is basically a narrated slideshow.