Showing posts with label Digital Storytelling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Digital Storytelling. Show all posts

Friday, February 3, 2017

Creating and Telling Stories With Maps

For as long as I can remember I have loved to look at maps. I distinctly remember looking at the maps in my third grade social studies book and wondering what people in the middle of the Soviet Union were like. And as I got older I would look at maps of northern Canada and dream about fishing on the massive lakes and rivers whose names I often had difficulty pronouncing. The point is that looking at the maps sparked my imagination. I crafted stories around what I saw on the maps and in my imagination.

Today, students have access to digital maps that will provide them with more information than I ever had in paper map. Similarly, students today have access to digital mapping tools on which they can tell their own stories. Here are some of the stories that students can tell with digital maps.

A map is a great backdrop for telling the life story of a famous person living or dead. Students can create map placemarks for the important events in a person's life. For example, they could map the life of Theodore Roosevelt and include in their placemarks the places he visited before, during, and after his presidency. Ask students to include explanations of why the events they mapped were important.

Changes in landscapes/ cityscapes
Google's My Maps and Google Earth allow users to create maps containing multiple layers. Have students create one layer using imagery of a place captured 30-100 years ago. Then ask them to create a layer using current imagery. This is a great way for students to see the effects of erosion on a landscape. It's also a great way to see how a cityscape has changed over time.

"I spy"
Google Maps allows you to quickly switch between road maps, satellite maps, and Street View. Have your students use all three of these views to record observations about places that are interesting to them or that you assign to them. Ask them to write a short story based on their observations. They could write their stories in a document or within placemarkers in Google's My Maps tool.

Join To Geography and Beyond With Google Maps to learn more about how to use Google Maps in your classroom. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Use Google Maps to Tell a Story Within a Story

Google's My Maps platform lets anyone who has a Google Account create their own multimedia maps. One of my favorite features within the My Maps platform is the option to create a slideshow of images and videos within a placemark. By using that feature you can tell a story within a story.

In My Maps you can create maps that contain placemarks to identify landmarks, to indicate the locations of a series of events, and to show the start and end points of journey. Within all of those placemarks you can include text descriptions, images, and videos. Students can include pictures they've taken and videos they have made. Students can also use the search tools integrated into My Maps to find images and videos to use within their placemarks.

Applications for Education
You can apply this concept of using My Maps to tell a story to a variety of subject areas. You might have students create placemarks about the locations mentioned in a favorite story. Students could map the locations and tell the story of events within a political revolution. Or you might have students map the locations of interesting geological formations then explain within those placemarks how those formations were made.

I'll be covering this idea and many others in more detail during To Geography and Beyond With Google Maps

Friday, January 13, 2017

Toontastic 3D - Create 3D Cartoon Videos on iOS, Chrome, and Android

On Thursday Google released a new version of the popular animation creation app, Toontastic. The new version is called Toontastic 3D and it is available to download on the Android, iOS, and Chrome platforms. I installed on an Android phone and found it to be easy to use to create animated videos.

To make a video on Toontastic 3D students first select the type of story that they want to create. Their options are "short story" (a three part story), "classic" (a five part story), or "science report." Once they have selected a story type they will be prompted to craft each part of their stories in order. A short description of what each part of the story should do is included before students start each section.

Students can pick from a variety of story setting templates or they can create their own within Toontastic 3D. Once they have established a background setting students then select cartoon characters to use in their stories. Students can choose from a wide array of customizable cartoon characters or they can create their own from scratch. Once characters are placed into the story scenes students can begin recording themselves talking while moving the characters around in each scene. Students can swap characters between scenes, change the appearance of characters between scenes, and move characters from one scene to the next.

To use Toontastic 3D students do not need to have accounts or log into any service. Their completed videos can be saved directly onto the devices that they use to create their videos.

Applications for Education
Toontastic 3D could provide elementary school students with a great way to create videos for a variety of purposes including mini-biographies, retelling of historical events, or to bring the scenes of a favorite book to life in video form.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Telegraph - Super Simple Blogging

Alan Levine's Cog Dog Blog is one of my absolute favorite blogs. I skip over many others in my Feedly list to read his posts first. I almost always learn something new when I read his blog. Yesterday, I learned about super simple publishing tool called gives you a simple place to publish your writing and pictures without the need to create an account on the site. To publish you simply go to and start writing. You can include pictures in your writing, but you cannot include videos. Your writing will be given its own URL that you can share with those you want to read your work. The whole process of publishing on Telegraph is quick and easy. Here's my first Telegraph entry.

Here are the shortcomings of Once you close your browser, you cannot go back and edit your writing. The other limitation is that every new piece that you write will be given a different URL which means that people can't simply follow you like as they might if you had a full fledged blog.

Applications for Education could be a good tool for those teachers who are looking for a way for their students to share their writing online without the hassle of having them register for a blog or use the ugly interface of a publicly published Google Doc.

HSTRY is Now Sutori

Over the last couple of years HSTRY has become a popular multimedia timeline creation tool. One of its best features is the option to include quiz questions in the timelines that you share with your students.

Over the weekend HSTRY rebranded itself as Sutori. Other than the name, nothing else has changed on the platform. If you currently have projects in HSTRY, they are safe in Sutori. You can log into Sutori using your HSTRY credentials. Likewise, if you have created an online classroom in HSTRY all student account credentials are the same in Sutori. All timelines that you have embedded into blog posts will remain unchanged.

Learn more about how to use Sutori, formerly HSTRY, by watching the video embedded below.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Use Storyboards to Create Halloween Lessons & Cards

Now that we're into October you might be thinking about Halloween-themed lessons for your students. Storyboard That offers a series of activities about Halloween. In the series you will find guides to using storyboards to teach Halloween safety and ideas for using storyboards as Halloween story starters.

If the Halloween story starters or safety guides aren't for you, you might want to take a look at the option to use Storyboard That to create Halloween cards. Storyboard That offers a variety of templates for creating cards for a variety of occasions. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use Storyboard That to create a greeting card.

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Telling Stories and Solving Problems With Storyboards

Last night I hosted a free webinar about using storyboards to tell stories, illustrate problems and solutions, and to summarize favorite books. The webinar was hosted by Storyboard That. The recording of the webinar is embedded below.

Storyboard That also owns the popular Photos for Class and Quick Rubric websites. At the end of the webinar we took a quick look at those tools too.

The slides used in last night's webinar are embedded below.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Pixton Offers a Great Way to Create Engaging Writing Lessons

For years I’ve advocated for using comics as a way to get students engaged in the writing process. To many students, creating a comic seems a lot less intimidating and a lot more fun than simply writing a story on a blank sheet of paper. One of my favorite ways to have students use comics is to create and share stories about themselves. Students can create cartoon characters to represent themselves in a story. They can create the characters in their likeness or make the characters appear completely different from themselves, thereby telling a story in an anonymous fashion.

Pixton is one of the great tools that students can use to create comics. Pixton provides excellent, free lesson plans to help you get your students engaged in writing through comic creation.

Pixton is a drag-and-drop cartoon creation tool which allows anyone to create great comics regardless of their drawing skills. In Pixton you can tell stories through comics by using pre-made scenes and characters, or by developing your own custom characters and scenes. My preference is to use a mix of pre-made background settings and customized cartoon characters. You can choose how many characters you want to appear in each frame of your comic. A nice touch in Pixton is that you can quickly change the poses of your characters in each scene of your comic. Just click or tap the actions button to select from large variety of character poses.

Unlike some other comic creation tools, Pixton lets you choose from a variety of layout formats including graphic novel styles, storyboard formats, mind maps, and traditional comic strips. Another nice feature of Pixton’s formatting options is the ability to change background scenes from one frame to the next.

Applications for Education
As mentioned above, one of my favorite ways to have students use comics is create and share stories about themselves. At the beginning of the school year when we’re trying to get to know our students and they’re trying to get to know each other, telling a fun personal story can be a good way for students to show a bit of their personalities. You could do this in Pixton by having students first choose or create cartoon characters to represent themselves in the story. Then have them choose and/or modify background scenes for each frame of their stories. Finally, let them write character dialogues or monologues.

Often the writing of the story comes fairly easily once students have chosen their characters and background scenes. This is because, throughout the process of choosing characters and scenes, they’re thinking about the highlights of their stories.

Visit Pixton’s free lesson plans depot to find many more great ideas for teaching with comics. You’ll find lesson plans there for all subject areas and grade level

Disclosure: Pixton is currently an advertiser on

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Free Webinar - Digital Storytelling With Storyboards

Next Tuesday evening (September 13th) at 7pm Eastern Time I will be hosting a free webinar sponsored by Storyboard That. The webinar will focus on designing and delivering stories through the use of storyboards. In particular, we'll be spending time looking at using storyboards to have students to tell stories about themselves, their interests in school, and favorite moments. We'll also look at how students can use storyboards to design presentations for your class.

Storyboard That rolled-out a bunch of new features at the end of 2015-2016 school year and throughout the summer. So if it has been a while since you tried Storyboard That, join us on Tuesday evening at 7pm to see the new features in action.

New! People who attend the live webinar will receive a certificate of attendance. Depending on your local licensing policies, you may be able to use that toward license/ certification renewal.

I can't attend, can I get the recording? - Yes
The recording will be available to those who cannot attend the live webinar. Complete the form below to receive the recording of the webinar. You do not need to email me for the recording.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Storyboard That Offers Four School Year Starter Projects

On Wednesday I published a post about using pictures to get students to tell stories about themselves to help you and their classmates get to know each other. Shortly after I published that post I received an email from Storyboard That about their back-to-school story ideas.

Storyboard That published a blog post featuring four ways to use their storyboarding tools to start the year. My favorite of the four suggestions is to use Storyboard That to have students create short summaries of the things that they love. Students can make their stories as simple or as detailed as they like. In the sample provided by Storyboard That the students simply inserted images and wrote one or two words about the image. You could also have students create a comic containing entire dialogue about a favorite hobby. 

The other back-to-school activities suggested in the Storyboard That blog post are summer reading summaries, stories about goals for the new school year, and stories summarizing summer vacation highlights. 

Learn about some of the great features of Storyboard That in my playlist of video tutorials. The playlist includes six short tutorials as well as one complete webinar recording featuring Storyboard That.

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Summer Stories - Back-to-School Activities

The new school year is here for many and will be here soon for the rest of us. The first days of school are always exciting as we meet new students, they meet their new classmates, and we all start to get to know each other. As we all know, some students will start chatting with us and each other as soon as the classroom door opens while others may take a while to warm up.

One way that you can get almost any student to share a story about his or her summer break is to ask them to share some of their favorite pictures of the summer. I don't have hard numbers on this, but it sure feels like middle school and high school students take ten pictures for every one that an adult takes. The point being, is students scroll through their phones they will find plenty of story prompts. You could leave it right there and ask students to just tell stories about favorite pictures on their phones. That might be enough to get students talking to you and each other on the first day of school. Or you might take it a step further by having students create short image-based stories that they can share.

A couple of my favorite tools for creating image-based stories are Adobe Spark Page (formerly called Adobe Slate) and Pic Collage for Kids. Adobe Spark Page is available to use in your web browser and is also available as an iPad app. Pic Collage for Kids is available on as an iPad app, but there is a Pic Collage app for Android that doesn't have the "kids" label.

Adobe Spark Page lets students create simple webpages to showcase pictures accompanied by text captions. Students can import pictures of their own and or search for Creative Commons-licensed pictures within the app. Completed pages can be published publicly or shared privately. Learn more about how to use Adobe Spark Page by watching the video in this post.

Pic Collage is a simpler app than Adobe Spark Page. All images that students import appear on one page. Students can add text and emoticon stickers to the images on their collages. Students can also edit their collages' backgrounds. A video demonstration of Pic Collage is included in this post.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

My SimpleShow Offers a Good Way to Create Explanatory Videos

My Simpleshow is a free tool for creating Common Craft style explanatory videos. The best aspect of My Simpleshow is the emphasis that the developers have placed on storyline planing and development.

My Simpleshow requires you to write a script for your video before you can start adding illustrations and sounds to it. In My Simpleshow you will find a wide variety of script templates that will help you plan your video. The script is written in chapters that become the outline for your video. After you have written your script My Simpleshow will take your chapters and give you suggested images and animations to use. The suggestions are based on the keywords in your script. You also have the option to upload your own visuals to use in your video.

Adding narration to your video is the last step in the My Simpleshow editor. There is an automated text-to-speech narration that you can use or you can record yourself reading your script. If you choose the automated text-to-speech narration there are two voice options that you can use. Completed videos can be downloaded and or directly uploaded to YouTube from My Simpleshow.

Applications for Education
There is not a shortage of online tools and mobile apps for creating explanatory videos. My Simpleshow stands out from the crowd because of the emphasis that is placed on storyline development. Making students write a script before they begin video production allows them and you to make sure that they have articulated their points well before they get caught up in trying to make the video look good.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Digital Storytelling With the Latest Version of Buncee Edu Mobile

Buncee is a nice tool that makes it easy for young students to craft digital stories. Recently, Buncee updated their iOS app to optimize for iPad and iPhone displays. The latest version of Buncee's iOS app brings the best content creation tools of the Buncee Edu web app to the iOS environment.

Buncee Edu provides students with a wide variety of multimedia elements to their presentations. To add multimedia content to their Buncee slides students simply tap the "add" button then they can choose from videos (available from Vimeo and YouTube), animated characters, animated text, animated stickers, static stickers, audio from SoundCloud, images from Pixabay (filtered public domain images), and upload their own content from their iPad camera rolls. Students also have the option to draw directly on their slides.

Applications for Education
Buncee's free iPad app provides students with a great way to tell fiction and non-fiction stories. Students can create visual and audio stories about field trips, summer adventures, or a favorite personal story. Buncee's iPad app could also be used by students to create an alternative to the traditional written book report. They could use images and sounds to summarize the highlights of a favorite book.

Disclosure: Buncee is a client of MindRocket Media Group. I am a partner in MindRocket Media Group.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

How to Customize Background Scenes in Storyboard That Frames

Earlier this week Storyboard That introduced customizable background scenes for all users. I've had a few emails this week about how to change the colors and other elements in Storyboard That scenes so this morning I created the following short demonstration video.

Applications for Education
Watch this recent webinar recording to learn more about the many ways that Storyboard That can be used in your classroom.

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on this blog. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Storyboard That Now Offers Customizable Scenes

Storyboard That has become a popular digital storytelling tool over the last few years. That popularity is due in large part to their response to feature requests from teachers. One of the newest features added to Storyboard That is the option to customize the background scenes in each frame of a storyboard.

Now when you drag a background scene into a frame on Storyboard That you can edit the scene by adjusting the color scheme, by changing the lighting (time of day), and by adding or removing elements from the scene.
Applications for Education
Watch this recent webinar recording to learn more about the many ways that Storyboard That can be used in your classroom.

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on this blog. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Buncee v. Google Slides - Which Offers Better Multimedia Options?

Anyone who has read this blog for more than a month or two has probably figured out that I love Google Apps including Google Slides. Sharing, collaborating, and publishing Google Slides is convenient and easy. But sometimes it feels like the ease of using Google Slides comes at the expense of not having as many multimedia options as other slide creation tools.

Buncee is a slide creation tool that makes it incredibly easy for young students to add a wide variety of multimedia elements to their presentations. To add multimedia content to their Buncee slides students simply click the "add" button then they can choose from videos (available from Vimeo and YouTube), animated characters, animated text, animated stickers, static stickers, audio from SoundCloud, images from Pixabay (filtered public domain images), and upload their own content from their desktops. Students also have the option to draw freehand directly on their slides.

Compared to Google Slides Buncee has more video and audio options. While you can draw on Google Slides that requires the use of Google Drawings whereas on Buncee slides students just choose the pencil icon and start drawing.

Applications for Education
If you have been looking for a Google Slides alternative for elementary school students, Buncee is a good option.

Right now Buncee has a bunch of Mother's Day templates that your elementary school students can use to create digital Mother's Day cards. Those cards can also be printed.

Disclosure: Buncee is a client of MindRocket Media Group. I am a partner in MindRocket Media Group. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Telling Stories With Storyboards - Webinar Recording

Last night I hosted a webinar about using storyboards in the classroom. The webinar was sponsored by Storyboard That. Thanks to everyone who joined us live. If you couldn't attend the live webinar, you can now watch the recording on my YouTube channel or as embedded below. The links shared in the webinar are included in this slidedeck.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Free Webinar - Summarizing the School Year Through Storyboards

This coming Monday evening (April 25) I will be hosting a free webinar sponsored by Storyboard That. The webinar will focus on using storyboards to tell stories. In particular, we'll be spending time looking at using storyboards to have students show what they have learned in your classroom during the school year. These stories could be academic lessons that your students learned or they could be life lessons that your students learned during the course of the school year.

Storyboard That has rolled-out a bunch of new features during the 2015-2016 school year. So if it has been a while since you tried Storyboard That, join us on Monday evening at 7pm to see the new features in action.

The webinar will be recorded. If you cannot attend the live webinar, you can still get the recording by completing this short form

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Ten Great Tools for Telling Stories With Pictures - A PDF Handout

As I do every year, I am taking this week to relax, recharge, and ski with friends. While I'm away I will be re-running the most popular posts of the year. This was one of the most popular posts in May, 2015.

Composing a story from scratch comes naturally to some people. For the rest of us creating a story from scratch can be a struggle. Over the years I’ve found that using pictures helps a lot of students get started on crafting stories. In some cases I’ve had students create collages to represent elements of a story. In other cases I’ve had them choose five pictures and write two hundred words about each. Being asked to write two hundred words about five pictures feels a lot less daunting than being asked to write one thousand words in one shot.

The PDF embedded below (click here if you can't see the embedded document) outlines how to use ten of my favorite free tools to create image-based stories.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

ToonSpaghetti Teaches Kids to Make Movies on iPads

ToonSpaghetti is a free iPad app designed to teach elementary school students how to develop movies. The app kind of takes a Mad Libs approach to movie making. In ToonSpaghetti students are shown a the beginning of a narrated story. Students have to add music and sound effects to the narrative to create their movies. Three music tracks and four sound effects are available to students at the beginning of the story. Each story is divided into three sections. In each section a new set of music tracks and sound effects are available to use.

Applications for Education
ToonSpaghetti teaches students about the roles that music and sound effects play in shaping a movie. As they add music and sound effects to their movies, ToonSpaghetti gives them feedback on whether or not their chosen music fits with the rising or falling action of the story.

ToonSpaghetti does not require students to register in order to use it. Movies that students create on the iPad app can only be shared by teachers and or parents.

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