Tag Archives: Flip book

Bringing Stories to Life – Digitally!

ds tools

Last week, I spent the majority of my #etmooc time trying new digital storytelling tools (GIFs, Flip Books, Visual Poetry5 Card Flickr) and posting about my explorations and learnings. This week, I wanted to hold off testing more tools (PopcornMaker, Inklewriter & Stop Motion are high on my list!) so I could take time to reflect on the concept of digital storytelling and consider the value of it in the classroom.

Over the past few years, as I’ve learned of new tools and experimented with ways to engage children and adult learners in digital storytelling, I have been impressed with the depth of expression I have seen. Digital storytelling seems to break down barriers (e.g., fears, time concerns, language) that often prevent people from engaging in tech use. Once people see how easy a tool like Voicethread or Storybird can be to use, they are excited to tell their own stories and to collaborate with others in creating.

I think our motivation for connectedness and the inherently personal nature of stories is why I find digital storytelling so powerful. Everyone has a story to tell and I love providing my students and teachers with tools to bring those stories to life.

Last week, when I was experimenting with different tools, I was caught up in the excitement and natural engagement that comes from active learning and discovery and the knowledge that I had the power to create and share something with the world. It’s empowering to have that “I can do this” moment and to be able to add a new tool to your toolbox, one that is fun to use and allows you to convey a story in just the right way (whether that’s through visuals, audio, text, or some combination).  I want all of my students to have those moments and realize that there is a large array of tools they can use to share their stories and they don’t all have to choose the same one.

As I thought about my explorations last week, I realized that another important factor motivating me to create and share was the knowledge that I was part of a community that was listening. I had an authentic audience that was waiting for stories just like mine and I was able to visit that community at any point to ask questions, find support, and learn from the stories everyone else was telling. I want to reflect more on the how valuable it is for our students to know they have an online community who is listening to them and willing to read their work and hear their stories. How can we cultivate that community for and with them? Certainly sites like Edmodo and hashtags like #Comments4Kids help but how can we ensure that our students aren’t sending meaningful projects and stories out into a silent and empty online space?

The benefits of incorporating digital storytelling in the classroom seem clear to me:

  • Learn how to communicate/tell stories through different media (e.g., video, dictation, writing, pictures)
  • Examine the value of different types of stories and storytelling methods (e.g., poetry, short stories, six word stories, picture stories)
  • Build an understanding of technology as a tool to create and tell stories
  • Provide opportunities for students to collaborate on stories
  • Explore the ability to tell the same story in a variety of ways
  • Identify ways that culture and context can affect a story and ways of telling a story
  • Practice creating stories to teach an idea or new concept to others
  • Gain comfort using, mixing, and re-mixing content and digital tools to create stories

I’m sure there are more but these seem like some of the core skills and understandings that can be acquired by incorporating digital storytelling in the classroom. They connect with the 21st Century Skills of communication and collaboration, creativity and innovation, and critical thinking. These are also skills that will be valuable as students grow older and need to tell stories on college applications or to their employers. When you pitch a new product or propose a new scientific investigation, aren’t you telling a story? The more I think about it, the more invaluable (digital) storytelling seems to become given how much of our lives we spend telling stories, in one form or another.

With that in mind, I want to re-examine my own curriculum and consider how digital stories are already being incorporated and if there are more/better ways to integrate them into our classrooms. We have already created a number of digital stories this year but I want to keep pushing myself and my students’ to continue discovering, experimenting with, creating, and sharing digital stories. How are you using digital storytelling in education? 

Elmo Loves You - A Valentine Digital Story

A Digital Valentine Story

Image Credit: Sesame Street

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Frustrations with Flip Books

To close out the first week of my digital storytelling explorations for #etmooc, I decided to try two new tools. I’ll talk about one in this post and the second in another post because (while writing) I realized each one requires a fairly detailed explanation. The first is FlipToon, which is an iPhone app that allows you to create flip books. I downloaded it as a free app a few days ago (it’s now 99 cents) and when I started thinking of ways to create and share digital stories, I realized it could be a fun medium to try.

To begin, I looked over the basic how-to screen before starting in on a test story. It took me a little while to figure out how I could manipulate images within one page with the copy/crop feature and how I could start with the same image on the next page with the “previous page copy” button. Having all of these options always on the screen means that the icons are quite small and the workspace is also pretty tight. I struggled to get my drawings to look how I wanted and thought more about how valuable a stylus might be for this type of activity. Have other people found them to be helpful for writing or art projects?

fliptoon howto

After I finally felt comfortable with all of the tools and capabilities of the app, I thought about what I wanted to animate. I tried a few different sketches in color and black and white and finally settled on the idea of drawing a dancing ballerina. I realized that with my limited drawing skills, it would take far too long for me to add color to every page if I wanted to use different images so I stuck to black and white and began sketching.

After a few pages, I decided to make my closing image have a touch of color and I used the pink pencil to add some color to the ballerina’s tutu. Then I put on a cover page and added a title: A Ballare (which means to dance in Italian). The idea I had in my head of the dancer gracefully flowing and twirling reminded me of the flow and cadence of Italian, which I love.

Unfortunately, once my story was finished, I started running into problems. First, when I went to create a movie of my book, I realized that I had added an extra page at the end of the book. I went back to edit but couldn’t find a way to remove it. I worked for a while, adding one final, “final” page so the story wouldn’t end with a blank page and then returned to try to make my movie. Next, I tried to add some music for my ballerina to dance to but the player kept freezing and a few times after selecting a song, it was silent when I played my movie. Luckily, along the way, I saved one copy of my story to my photo album because then the most frustrating development occurred … the app froze to the point that I had to shut it down and close it and when I re-started it … my story was gone!

There’s no ability to save your story within the app as you’re working on it (aside from leaving it open in the app … assuming it doesn’t freeze). This means that you can’t return to edit a story you were working on earlier or re-open an earlier story and add more to it or re-import your story if the app freezes and you lose your work! After all of the time I spent working on my drawings, I couldn’t bring myself to start again so instead, I took the earlier copy I had saved to my photo album and sent it to my computer. Then I put it into iMovie and added my music there, with a little title slide and uploaded it to Vimeo so I could share it with all of you.

A Ballare from Maggie Powers on Vimeo.

While I love the idea of making flip books on mobile devices and being able to share stories this way, I’ve deleted FlipToon from my library for now. I’m guessing and hoping there are other apps out there with similar capabilities but I don’t want to run the chance of my own (or my students’) work being lost because of the app limitations.