Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Once Upon A Time

The 2011 Top 25 Best Websites for Teaching and Learning selected by the AASL, American Association of School Librarians under the heading,  Digital Storytelling,  Standards for the 21st Century Learner,  4.1.7 Use social networks and information tools to gather and share information., 4.1.8 Use creative and artistic formats to express personal learning, and 4.3.1 Participate in the social exchange of ideas, both electronically and in person lists Myths and Legends.

At the home page anyone who likes stories and storytelling is welcomed.  From that point you can go immediately to Story Creator 2, the What's New? section, or Featured Myths and Legends.  Across the top of the page are tabs for further exploration of the site:  About, Myths and Legends, Create your own and Teachers.  The designers of the site hope accessibility to all users is possible under the UK Government guidelines.

Within the About section are links to:  What are myths, legends and folktales?, How to use this site, Technical Requirements, Why were the stories told?, Contact us, Accessibility and RSS Feeds. 
What this site offers is an amazing amount of content in the realm of storytelling, not just the stories themselves but in-depth study about them and the ability to create your own.

The Myths and Legends section has a compilation of tales the site has gathered (Myths and Legends), stories that have been written or gathered by users (Your Stories) and Story Creator stories. Those tales that have been compiled by the site team can be seen on a Myth Map too; pins are placed around the world when moused over tell the name of the story and the country from which it comes. A single story is showcased in the Your Stories and Story Creator sections.  Those stories are chosen as examples of different types of myths or legends. 

When a story is selected it can be heard as animated pictures portray the tale; readers/listeners can determine if the story will advance automatically or manually.  Text only can be read or a copy can be printed out to read later or again.  Most stories have a gallery of pictures associated with that title, work that others have done, facts on how the story evolved and lesson possibilities for teachers.  Readers can make comments about the story and access a glossary of terms unknown to them.

By selecting the tab Create Your Own a whole new storytelling world awaits.  At the top of the screen options are:  entering Story Creator 2, View stories created with Story Creator 2, Add a story (completion of a form in which you submit a story), Read your stories, Sound or Video Story (opportunity to record a video for your myth or legend) and Play the Sound and Video Stories.  Beneath these buttons is a Tool Box filled with:  Christmas and Winter Story Competition, Register your school for Story Creator, How To, Image Gallery, Suggestions for the site, Sound Gallery and again the Glossary.

I decided to jump right in and click on the Story Creator 2 button.  A highly detailed workspace is available to the user.  I would suggest that it might be a good idea to storyboard a narrative prior to beginning; something easy like a beginning, a middle and an end. It is always best to begin with a bare bones approach when learning a story or creating one of your own; a variety of graphic organizers are available.  From there additional story elements could be added.

The first box at the top to the right of the screen is the background selection; buildings, inside, landscapes and water.  You can toggle through them one by one or click on the eye in the lower right hand corner to see them group by group.

By selecting the second box a list of the following characters types is shown:  children, creatures, men, mythical, warrior and women.  Effects (many animated), homes, magical, nature, object and weapons are options offered in the third box down.  A variety of speech or action bubbles, effect, narrative, talking or thinking, can be selected from the fourth box.  The last box is where your uploaded images are placed.  Whatever is placed in the story screen (frame) can be sized, rotated or flipped, brought to the front or moved to the back or deleted. 

Users are allowed ten chapters, each with nine frames.  When clicking the storyboard button in the lower left hand corner all the frames within each chapter can be viewed and selected for editing.  Users are allowed to record up to thirty seconds of themselves telling their story.  Sound effects from the library (on site) can be added to objects and characters on individual frames.  Characters and objects can also have a five second audio clip recorded by you added.

To upload images you need to join (for free) the site.  Create a username and password.  Use Other or click on your school if your teacher has registered with the site.  Once a story is saved it can be loaded for editing or completion, submitted to the site for public viewing, an adult or teacher can leave messages regarding the story, and it can be previewed.

At any time your created story can be printed or downloaded.  A downloaded file is done so as a zip file.  It can be extracted and played or embedded in a website.

Myths and Legends is another outstanding example of an online application for all levels of storytelling skills as well as a virtual storehouse for those already a part of our worldwide cultural heritage.

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