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. 

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