Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Everyone Has A Story

Every life is a story, a story filled with many smaller stories, some lasting for only a moment, others for years.  People need and want to listen to stories and to share their stories or the stories of others.  Storytelling is about communication and community.  Storytelling is a bridge to learning and understanding.

Two information specialists, Larry Ferlazzo, educator and blogger at Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day... and  Heather Moorefield, Education Librarian at Virginia Tech and former chair of the American Library Association of Best Websites for Teaching and Learning recently spoke of an new (November 2012) web 2.0 application titled UtellStory.  This application is free to users of all ages with the stipulation for those under 18 needing parental or guardian guidance/permission to use the site.  Teacher accounts are available for the fee of $4.99 per month or $50.00 per year with a free 30-day trial. (A Plus account is also available for individual users.) In this manner students can register without having to provide an email address.

UtellStory is:

a multimedia storytelling and sharing community where you can easily create and share stories with  audio, image, video and words.  You don't have to use all of these media together in one story but you can if its necessary.  A story can be as simple as one photo or can be a combination of multiple images, video, audio recording and background music.  The idea is to empower you to tell your stories, engage your audience and make an impact.

Features of the free account are:

  • image, video and text slides
  • share or embed your stories or topics
  • 24 slides maximum
  • 1/2 minute maximum recording time of audio per slide
  • 2 MB maximum audio upload file size per slide
  • 2 minute maximum audio background recording time
  • 3 MB maximum for background audio upload file size
  • 12 background slide styles and
  • 1 transition style.
On the home page across the top you are able to conduct a keyword search, search under Topics (People, Stories, Topics), Most Recent (Editor's Pick, Most Liked, Most Recent, Most Viewed), or All Categories (Arts, Crafts, Business, Education, Entertainment, Events, News, History, Lifestyle, Literature, Nature, Animal, People, Family, Places, Travel, Products, Science, Tech, Sport, Other).  It is here you login or sign up.  To sign up you can use your Facebook account or enter in your first name, email address and a password.  The simple Terms and Privacy Policy need to be read and agreed to.  Make sure the free account is checked in blue before your register.  (The default setting for signing up is for a 30-day free trial Plus account.) A confirmation email is sent immediately with a link to activate your account.

When you log in the tool bar across the top has additions. You can now:  tell a story, follow other authors, add information to your profile/account page and see a total number of followers, likes and views.  A story is created by you and you alone.  A topic is a group effort using your material; an invitation for a shared experience.

When you select tell story a new window appears for the creation of your first slide.  Click on the pencil/paper icon to add Your Story's Title (An overlay window appears where you can enter in your title and subtitle.)  Next select the blue add slide(s) to open another window.

You can add an image, text or video slide.  Images can be uploaded from your computer, with a URL or from Flickr.  When adding a Text slide the font can be bold, in italics, or underlined, margins can be left, center, right or justified, links can be embedded, text can be bulleted, listed with numbers, or indented.  Seventeen different fonts are available ranging in size from 12-68 pt with a color choice and spell check.  Video slides can be made by entering in a URL from YouTube or Vimeo.  It is always an option to add audio, edit or delete a slide when it appears on the screen.

By using the buttons along the right-hand-side toolbar your story can be generated by adding slides, changing the slide order with drag and drop, background audio can be uploaded or recorded with the choice to loop as well as being deleted, a background can be chosen along with a slide transition (if you have a Plus or Educator account)  Be sure to pick a category and add some tags.  I saved my story prior to preview. 

When you are satisfied with your story click Publish. (You can also trash the whole thing if you like.) At this point a new window asks if you want to publish your creation as a story or a topic making it public or private.  Once your choices are made, you are taken back to your dashboard.  At this point you can select edit, share or delete.  Choosing share allows you to print, notify people via email or through hundreds of social networks. You are given a URL link, a thumbnail link and an embed code (with a variety of sizes).

I think UtellStory is a tool to definitely be placed in your virtual toolbox due to the ease of use, the image, video and audio options, the pleasing results and...the opportunity for all ages to use it.  This is one of those applications where you look at the clock and wonder what happened to hours of time, not because it's hard to use but because it's so much fun.  This would be great for individual or group projects.

Here is the link to my UtellStory as well as the embedded version below.  (The embedded version seems to be not working here nor does the tour version on site for the moment.  I have sent an email.) Beneath my UtellStory is a video explaining its use in addition to the steps I have given.

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