George Lucas Educational Foundation
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When students come to school each morning, they have tons of stories -- stories to share with their friends as they unpack or move through the hallways, stories to share with the class during morning meetings, or stories to share with a teacher about something that made them happy or sad. In the classroom, writing can happen in many different ways, whether it's free writing in a notebook to gather ideas or publishing stories to share with the whole school.

The Common Core State Standards expect that children across the grades can write for three specific purposes:

  1. Opinion pieces that persuade a reader and make an argument
  2. Informative writing that explains an idea and relays information
  3. Narrative stories of real or imagined events.

As students move from one grade level to another, the complexity of these tasks will change greatly. The persuasive writing that takes place in a second grade classroom will look very different than the work that a seventh grader produces. From kindergarten through 12th grade, students are expected to share their writing through technology.

Making Their Voices Heard

The College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing give educators a snapshot of what all students need to be able to do as they prepare for life beyond the K-12 classroom. Each of these anchor standards corresponds to particular grade level standards that show the expectations for a specific grade in more detail. The writing standard that we're going to look at in this post asks students to publish their writing using technology:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.6: Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

There are a handful of terrific mobile apps to help students publish their writing using technology. These digital storytelling apps let students tell their stories using a variety of media, while keeping the craft elements for different writing tasks intact. They'll be able to publish their work for a larger audience and take on roles as they collaborate with their peers to create a final product.

Adobe Voice is a fantastic app for iPads that empowers students to tell stories straight from their tablet. Users can create a narrated slideshow that uses images, icons, and text in addition to the audio recordings. Students can also choose the theme and music they would like to include in their piece. Adobe Voice is a dynamic tool that can be used by children of all ages. With an intuitive, kid-friendly interface, tasks can be scaled up or down depending on the grade level of the students that you're working with. When students open up Adobe Voice, they'll have to login using a class or teacher account, or create their own. You can take children through the app or show them the Getting Started tutorial, which highlights important features.

Storytelling Guidelines

Just like any other time that you use technology with your students, you won't be handing them the device and sending them off to create. When it comes to publishing with technology, students should be at the end of the writing process. They've already drafted, revised, and edited their personal narrative, or their group has already come together to plan a presentation of their argument for an opinion piece of writing. I would encourage you to use a graphic organizer like a storyboard to have students plan what they want to appear on each page of their Adobe Voice creation. If students are working in pairs or a small group sharing one device, you'll want to make sure they have a plan for who will record the narration for each page.

Students can share their digital storytelling creations by sharing a link to their finished product. Schools that have a Twitter account or website might want to send out the links so that a wider audience can hear student stories. In classrooms that use student blogs or parent communication tools, it's simple to also share the link to Adobe Voice creations with viewers outside of your four walls. Using technology to publish is so much more than typing up a research report. Turn your students into digital storytellers with creation tools on mobile devices!

Have you had your students publish their writing using technology?  What are your favorite digital storytelling apps?

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Common Core in Action

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MBiuwman's picture

The advent of the Common Core is allowing teachers the opportunity to explore new paths in sharing their students' ideas and voice. Monica Burns ' article on digital storytelling clearly outlines the benefits of engaging students in this new technology. The ability for students to share a link increases their ability and opportunity to share their unique world and voice. As a teacher, I'm excited with a means for children to understand and value individual perspectives. My only concern, as an educator who has worked with economically disadvantaged students , is the ability for all students to have access to digital storytelling tools. No matter the means, equity will continue to be an issue to providing a quality learning experience to all children.

KristinRHarris's picture

I have worked extensively with students using Demibooks Composer Pro for interactive book production. This very accessible tool allows students to import their own artwork, video, voice over and animation while they are also learning the principles of programming. The programming component (which does not require writing code) is very flexible. It has physics capabilities and a range of options that make game production also a possibility. I have written about my experiences teaching with Demibooks products on my blog about kids, art and technology, including this articles about student work done this summer.

ExpectMore2004's picture

Monica, great piece. As an ELA teacher you have given me a lot of excitement as I plan forward. One program I currently use is which could work really well for (2. Informative writing that explains an idea and relays information). Newsela is another great free site that incorporates current event based learning that could serve as prompt for the storytelling. Thanks!

MonicaI's picture

I am left in AWE! So many exciting ways to get students motivated to write. This type of technology is what kids want to get their little minds going. I am really looking forward to start using some of these. But while that takes place I will explore these programs with my 8 year old who loves to write and make up stories. She is going to love it!!!

MrSignal57's picture

The way that Common Core standards force students (and teachers) to stretch their thinking, It is only logical to stretch the tools that students can use to demonstrate their learning. Great ideas, advice, and tools for teachers and students!

Salome's picture

The use of assistive writing technology enables students to collaborate within groups or work independently completing the prompts. During small group, my students love to talk about events pertaining to writing. At times, brainstorming new ways to create a new sentence may slow down the writing process. The student will be able to hear how each writing prompt sounds and make the necessary correction during the editing/revising process. My students will love the way this application is user friendly and enjoy discussing different ways to begin the writing process by using more details and structure. The Adobe Voice is a great app to use and I am very excited to pass this information on to my fellow colleagues.

Susan Chen's picture

I have used Storybird with much success with my students. This digital storytelling application has helped my students to be more enthusiastic writers. In general, I do have my students go through the writing process before using Storybird to write their final draft. There are other times when I just give my students a theme and let the illustrations in Storybird fuel their imaginations. Sometimes they write individually, sometimes they work collaboratively on a story. I have yet to have a student at a lost for words when using this tool. This free resource can be found at Of course, there is available a paid upgrade.

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