Wednesday, August 15, 2012

App Review: Little Bird Tales

Good news/bad news about the app/webpage, Little Bird Tales: The good news is, it's super fun. TJ and I approve. Bad news: I didn't discover it before the end of summer.

Little Bird Tales is a slick update of ye olde "write a picture book and record yourself reading it" project. I still have my first self-published storybook somewhere, with the tape that I recorded on the classroom Sony portable.  The best-seller featured a unicorn/pegasus (pegacorn? unisaurus?) who rescued a princess, and the turn-the-page sounds were made by my friend Andy clanking the teacher's keys on a coffee can: very high tech.

In the 21st Century (dun dun dun!) version of this project, Little Bird Tales provides a one-stop shop for combining the pictures (hand-drawn or photos) with narration. Kids can publish to the web and share with family members or even the Little Bird Tales community.  Like, check out this adorable how-to I found. How cute is her voice?

For the classroom, one of the things that stand out to me is the photo option--lots of teachers were imaginative little kids, but our students today are often more comfortable with nonfiction. Reluctant readers, kids on the autism spectrum, ESL kids, even just regular red-blooded American boys may be reluctant or unable to produce stories that are made up. 

If the goal of the activity is to practice, say, the parts of a story or descriptive writing, nonfiction can be more solid ground for these kids. I can imagine an English Language Learner writing about a day in the life of someone who still lives in her home country, or a third grade boy writing about his uncle's motorcycle. In both cases, photos and found illustrations would make the project look great and still meet the goals of the lesson.

At home, I think this is a great way to handle thank you's and momentos. Having the kids send "What We Did on Vacation" stories to grandparents would've been fun ways to keep the girls writing this summer, but I'll just have to remember this around the holidays. We'll write thank-you notes using pictures from Christmas morning and some drawings from the kids. With a few clicks, I can package the story and send it off to the grandparents via a simple link.Who says you can't torture children with manners and writing lessons at the same time?

TJ and I say:
  • Does it do what it says it'll do? It says it encourages creativity and expression. It does; simple and straightforward, the app doesn't push kids into a box and allows for a lot of experimentation.
  • Does it solve a current problem in the classroom?  Kinda. Kids need to hear themselves read and this is one way to help them do it. It's also another of many publishing options for projects, and it accomplishes work that I'd normally combine other apps to do.
  • Does it create a new opportunity in the classroom?  Yes. Great end product for group projects, and there are many ways to use it...and you don't need an iPad for every kid to make it work.
  • Would Thomas Jefferson think it was cool? Yes. He liked writing, pictures, and listening to himself talk, from what I can tell. I think he'd like seeing kids tell stories, true or made up.
Little Bird Tales gets a thumbs-up.

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