Sunday, March 11, 2012


     We are about to embark on what I hope will be a wonderful excursion into the world of artistic pictorial writing prompts. As always, my students and I are going to experiment with a new (for us) Web 2.0 tool. This one has been around for a little bit. Storybird is an excellent site that provides amazing artwork with the intention to inspire creative writing. As writing teachers, we've been using writing prompts for ages, but usually it's just a simple sentence or maybe a single picture. Last year I provided my students with comic strips that had blank speech bubbles. Storybird takes this type of prompt to a whole new level with an extensive collection of artwork by many different artists. They've done a great job of catering to teachers by providing them with the ability to create classes, assignments, embed in websites and blogs, and the ability to collaborate and critique the stories of students in the class.

My Plan

    We start tomorrow with an introduction to the site. I always find it best to let the kids "play" a bit with sites like this. So, at first I will let them choose some artwork and create a story of their own. It will be interesting to see what they do with this freedom. I predict that they will spend most of their time combing through the immense catalog of artwork on Storybird.
      Once they select an artist, they will choose just five pictures to create a story with. Then, they will complete a five panel storyboard. After that, it's time to write the story.

I have a great deal of trepidation about this project. My eventual goal is to create books with our Kindergarten Reading Buddies. My greatest fear at the moment has to do with the artwork. Once you choose a particular artist, you are given a blank canvas to work with. The only problem is that there are about 50 different illustrations to choose from. This seems like it might be a little overwhelming for my students. I worry that 75% of the time will be spent sifting through pictures. We shall see.

     Anyone have any experience with Storybird? How do you use it? Any suggestions for how I should implement the site?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

App Shopper

     The Tech Gods have blessed me with a glorious new device. It's an Ipad. I know, some of you have had them for awhile now, I just got mine a couple weeks ago. It's amazing! I have just begun to scratch the surface of what it can do for my students. So, expect some app posts coming in the near future, but for now I'd like to introduce you to an app that is not necessarily educational.
     We can all agree that free is good, right? Well, with the app store, as with all stores, typically you get what you pay for. Yes, I know there are a million exceptions that are popping into your brain at the moment, but generally this addage is true. I have spent some of my own money on apps, and I don't regret it one bit. With that said, I also like a good bargain. That's where the AppShopper comes in.
     When I find an app that I really want, but the price is a little high, I open AppShopper, search for the app, and then add it to my wish list. If the price of that app ever drops, AppShopper sends me an email notification. If the price is right, I make it happen.

Screenshot of my current Wish List
     You'd be surprised at how much the price of different apps fluctuates over time. Sometimes they even become FREE. Just the other day I scored an app that turned free, but just for one day. I never would have picked it up without my AppShopper notification. Also, check out the App Shopper Website. They have some great RSS feeds that have very precise filters depending on what types of apps you are looking for.
     Do you have any sneaky tricks for getting the best prices for apps? Do you even pay for apps, or are you a "free app only" teacher?