Friday, February 20, 2015

HippoBytes HB240: Digital Tools for Storytelling

Some important Common Core/AERO standards for writing are developing the ability to tell narratives and informative/explanatory texts and using technology to produce and publish written work collaboratively. In this HippoBytes we learned how to use Storyjumper, MyStorymaker and Google Slides to meet these standards.

Example from Eric Curts and the Apps User Group
We used the following tools:
  • A computer with the internet
  • A tablet or smartphone to digitize student work (by taking pictures of it and putting it in a shared folder)
  • A class account already created in StoryJumper
  • Google Apps accounts for your students if you choose to use Google Slides
While all of these tools can be learned by elementary students, expect a learning curve when you do it for the first time. Digital Leaders can really help you in this aspect, and the IT Cordinator can be on hand to help and demonstrate.

The tools we learned were:


This tool is useful when you want to concentrate more on writing the story than on creating artwork, since Storyjumper allows you to select pre-made backgrounds and objects to add. The downside is that sometimes there isn’t built-in artwork for what you want. In these cases you can upload images, but the process won’t be intuitive for students the first time. StoryJumper has a central interface for the teacher to see and print student work.

Some tips for effective use:

  • Print all the class information on individual sheets for students (ask IT to help you get set up).
  • Remember that you’ll need to log in to Storyjumper yourself to “start” the class
  • Students can’t work at home unless they go through a convoluted signup process. If you do it at the beginning of the year it could be worth it, but it won’t happen quickly so don’t plan this on the spur of the moment.
  • Teachers log in at:
  • Students log in at:
  • The teacher will be able to see all of the work, and can print or pdf a low-res copy of it (cannot publish to web unless parents have completed authorization process)


This tool is simpler than Storyjumper and thus more appropriate for very young children. It walks them through choosing a main character, quest, and characters. Then, as you add objects to your story, MyStorymaker writes the story itself based on your actions - you don’t write the story yourself. In other words, MyStoryMaker is a useful scaffold for learning the elements of a story in a guided way, whereas Storyjumper is good for creating your own narrative.

Some tips for effective use:

  • The URL is a bit complicated. Use a URL shortener to make it easier for kids to copy, or have your assistant visit the lab beforehand to visit the site.
  • When you finish and save your project, MyStorymaker will create a unique code so you can find your story later (there’s no username/password system). Have students be ready to write down this code.

Google Slides Comics

The idea here is that you create a comic by uploading images to Google Drive and using them for background and characters. You can create speech bubbles from within Google Drive. Put one frame on each slide, and use transitions and animations to add motion.
  • If you want to upload paper work, take a picture with the iPad and put it into a Google Drive folder that you’ve shared with all of your students
  • Comics have:
  • Narrative
  • Visuals
  • Speech bubbles
  • Get visuals from ,, 
  • Speech bubbles: Insert > Shape > Callouts
  • Use transitions and animations to move between slides and show speech bubbles

Google Slides Interactive Stories

Since Google Slides allows you to add links to jump to a specific slide, you can use this to put clickable buttons/images/text on your slide and the reader can click on them to choose how the story advances - just like Choose Your Own Adventure stories!
  • Since interactive stories branch, have students draw out the steps and connect them with arrows to help them plan
  • The key here is putting links on slides that link to different slides. Insert > Link > Slides in this Presentation
  • Link all other objects on the slide to the same slide so the story won’t advance if the reader clicks accidentally.
  • Use Duplicate Slides to easily make several similar scenes

Useful Links

MyStorymaker from the Carnegie Library
Creating Comic Strips with Google Slides (materials from HB240 were found here)
Creating Interactive Google Presentations (materials from HB240 were found here)

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