Storybird Update

Earlier in the second quarter I decided to try using Storybird as a project for my students.  They had to make an element baby book using Storybird.  This was an attempt to find a replacement for earlier projects where I had students do research projects about an element that had outlived their usefulness (cd covers, Glogster).  As a result of this project I have requested a license for Storybird Pro+ ($99) next year through my district technology budget.

The biggest stumbling blocks for students were not knowing what a baby book is, not knowing enough about the element, and follow through with incomplete work (no surprise there).  I have plenty of examples after this year for next to solve the first problem, and I’ll bring in my daughter’s baby book.  That should be enough to get their creative minds working.  For the second road block I’m not quite sure what to do.  To choose a theme (the pictures) the students need to know something about the element.  I had a few great projects that took a different approach, but overall you need to have not only done the research but KNOW the element.  Basically, if you could meet the element as a person, what would it be like.  Front loading that part of the lesson may be a solution.

Student follow through with long term projects is a continual problem.  Online projects, I find, are more problematic because unlike an unfinished poster or diorama sitting in their room an online project is out-of-site, out-of-mind.  I may provide additional time in the computer lab to get students further.  I’d have to plan it out differently and two days seems long enough with one day for research and one day for Storybird.

The only issues I had were that early on using Storybird they updated the site which threw me off a bit and confused students initially.  We quickly got over it.  The improvements were worth the annoyance but the site has still has a few drawbacks including:  not being able to post grades for assignments, making the Publish button so unassuming, and not getting notification when students do publish.

Next quarter I’ll have them make a short story on simple machines.



I decided to go ahead with an element project using Storybird.  Everything is working out fine so far.  The one day in the computer lab was spent completing the research portion of the sheet.  The majority of students finished the research and all were supposed to log into Storybird to validate/set-up their account.  They have two weeks to finish 5 pages of their Element Baby Book.  The limiting factor to student success here is getting them to complete the rest of the work outside of class.

There is a digital divide in my classes.  I have students with computers, internet, and smartphones with data plans.  I also have students that only have access to computers at school.  Part of what I’m trying to teach is the ability to plan out computer time.  As mentioned in a previous post: not using a computer is no longer an option.  Computer use is the expectation.  Every student is capable of finding a computer with the internet for an hour in the next few weeks, especially with Thanksgiving break coming up.  There is a specific group of students that don’t do homework to begin with AND don’t have easy access to an internet ready computer.  These are the hardest to get working on this type of work.  These are the students that learning how to get to computers is the most important though.
I have realized that students do need a thorough understanding of their element to complete the baby book using Storybird.  You have to use a theme and students that didn’t pay attention to actually researching and learning about there element had trouble choosing.  For instance, one student had sulfur but didn’t know that it smelled.  That one piece of information could have steered the student in the direction of a “smelling” theme.  Another student was researching a more uncommon metal (I don’t recall which) and noted it was used in gears, crank shafts, and moving mechanical parts.  The student chose a robot theme.  That is the understanding I like to see.