Blast from the Past: S'cool Tools for Storytelling

Blast from the Past: S'cool Tools for Storytelling


"TELL ME A STORY," says every child. Daniel Willingham, Professor of Psychology at University of Virginia, shares in his blog a new study suggesting that "putting to-be-learned material in a story format improves learning outcomes." So we thought it'd be good to dig through our s'cool tools for those that help kids tell their own stories.

Free! ANIMATESTAR: A simple animation tool offered by, which makes educational games and apps for students in grades K-5. Students can make up to 40 separate drawings, each representing a single frame. Young animators have 33 colors and 6 pen tools, with the option to carry drawings over from frame to frame. Completed animations can be saved as a .gif file for sharing or embedding on blogs and websites. This site is a solo effort by a former teacher, who calls it a "perpetual beta"

Beta! INKLEWRITER: The storytelling tool provides a straightforward interface to create multiple scenarios for any narrative a la Choose-Your-Own-Adventure. From the creator's website: "With a few clicks and a bit of imagination, anyone can start to tell a branching story--and with a bit more thought, they can harness the power of conditional logic to make their stories more intricate and rewarding." Inklewriter also seems like a great tool for teachers who want to created differentiated reading experiences. For example, instead of creating story branches for plot direction, teachers might create statements that gauge reading comprehension. They can then deliver the remaining parts of the text in smaller or larger chunks as students display understanding. The folks at inklewriter have done as much with their adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. And oh yea, Inklewriter is free for teachers. You can have creations converted to Kindle format for ~$10.

Free! KERPOOF: Aside from the uber-cool name, Kerpoof offers a suite of digital media and literacy tools to tell stories, make movies and pictures, or describe images. The award-winning website also provides lesson plans appropriate for grades K-8. Administrators may especially appreciate the mappings for state and national standards.

Beta! MEOGRAPH is an interactive storytelling tool that allows creation along four dimensions: maps, timelines, web links, and multimedia. Simply start a new Meograph and begin adding 'Moments'. Each moment can be updated with time and place, and tagged with audio narration, YouTube videos, links, and images. Optionally update the vanilla introduction/conclusion titles that bookend the moments and voilà your Meograph is ready to share. Playback of the meograph created in this four-minute How-To video reminds us of Prezi meets Google Maps. What do you think?!

Free! PROFESSOR GARFIELD COMICS LAB provides a snazzy, Flash-based online editor for students to make their own comic books from Garfield characters including Odie, Jon Arbuckle, and the onerous kitty himself. The comics lab along with other tools on the site--Reading Ring, Art-Bot, and Toon Books to name a few -- are the brainchild of the Professor Garfield Foundation, a collaboration between Paws Inc. and Ball State University.

Freemium STORYBIRD complements the writing process by providing themed artwork which helps develop ideas into story lines. The collections of artwork are similar to those you would find in a children's book or Hallmark card, and are searchable under different tags (i.e. bandana, pumpkin, circus, baby). To start a Storybird, you only need to select a specific artwork collection and drag-and-drop different images onto PowerPoint-like templates that also leaves space for adding text. In fact, the entire Storybird creation process is a bit like creating a PowerPoint presentation. Only every slide requires an image and text, and all the images are connected through a common theme. Oh, and there's also the super-simple signup for teachers and students.

Freemium TOONTASTIC: This iPad app from Launchpad Toys makes creating comics as easy as drag and drop. Choose from a toolbox of settings and characters, or your own photos, or better yet, draw your own! Then add music and simple animations to make the story come to life. Toontastic introduces kids to the different elements of a story arc--setup, conflict, challenge, climax, and resolution. (Ours involved dinosaurs on a pirate ship quelling a zombie mutiny.) $14.99 gets you “All Access” with over 150 characters and 40 backgrounds.

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