Monday, November 9, 2009

Using in the classroom

Do you remember that scene in Forest Gump where Lieutenant Dan appears on the dock as Gump sails his shrimping boat through the bay? Forest is so overcome by the excitement of seeing his old war buddy that he jumps overboard to swim to shore, leaving his boat to become a temporary analog of the famous Flying Dutchman ghost ship.

That’s usually how I react to new bits of technology. I don’t look back or anticipate potential problems – I blindly jump in. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

I haven’t decided if using Storybird with my students is going to be a success, or one of my ideas that are prone to devastating failure. Storybird is a free service where users can create (collaboratively, if desired) their own stories using a collection of illustrations provided by the site.

Here’s my idea: We are finishing up a reading of Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon. The big question that keeps resurfacing throughout the unit is Is is better not to know? The kids seem to understand its meaning in the context of Charlie Gordon, but they’re having a hard time connecting it to their own lives.

I got to thinking – wouldn’t it be cool if they had to write a story that focused on that same essential question? Beginning next week students will begin working on writing a brief tale – a children’s story, perhaps – that centers around a character discovering something he/she perhaps would have been better off not knowing.

The project will get a bit trickier when they realize that Storybird does not allow a user to upload their own images. Students will have to choose a set of illustrations and fashion their story around the images available.

Having two variables – a required theme and a specific set of illustrations – may be too much for them. But I’ve already jumped off the dock with this one, so all there’s left to do is see who sinks and who swims.

Below is a sample story Songbird created to explain their vision as well as the handout I’m planning on using with students to explain how to use the site.

About us: a peek inside Storybird on Storybird

How to Use
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1 Responses:

Elizabeth said...

I really love this concept, John! I've actually never heard of this book, but I'm intrigued by your post. Putting things into real life perception is always makes it easier to understand. I wish you and your students luck with this project! Would love to hear updates when you all wrap it up!