Husband and wife Glen and Monique Storey are teachers at Te Akau ki Papamoa School. In their spare time they’ve been working on iOS apps for kids they work with and have just released their first one, StoryBot.
The idea for StoryBot came from working with one of my students who has Down’s Syndrome. I needed a way that he could engage with sentence structure, essential words and reading.
The aim of the app is to help learners build sentences and ‘experience’ shared stories by interacting with them. It’s a way for them to engage in text and co-construct written experiences. We’ve seen it work really powerfully with Year 0-4 students and learners who have special needs. However, as it turns out, StoryBot’s proving to be a really powerful tool for any kids who are learning to put sentences together and in the formative stages of reading and word identification.
How does it work?
StoryBot allows you to use your own photos to create a story. This story is then transformed into an interactive game where learners practise their site words and reconstruct the sentences in the story relying on visual, audio and meaning-making skills. These personalised stories can be played as a game, with the learner reconstructing the story in the right order.
For example, Monique recently used StoryBot as a summative assessment tool where learners co-created stories about the water-cycle using pictures they had drawn. Other teachers at Te Akau ki have used it to teach sight words and identify letters.
It’s a really fun way to make shared stories to share with your child, or for your child to create shared stories to share with you. It can also be used as an effective formative or summative assessment for older learners as they create stories that reflect their learning.
Overcoming the challenges
Making an app is a lot of work! We never realised how much time it would take to build and ship it. Although StoryBot is a fairly simple program there are hundreds of pages of code, and Monique spent hours and hours drawing and redrawing the artwork and aesthetics.
All in all it took about two years to learn how to write programs for Apple’s platform and actually build StoryBot. (Although, we did have a wedding in the middle of the process, which was a delightful distraction and may have delayed the process a little!)
Now that we’ve actually released StoryBot the challenge is helping people find out about it. There are more than 700,000 apps on the iOS App Store, and it’s really hard to get noticed when your marketing budget is way smaller than our coffee budget.
Combining technology and pedagogy
Good design is all about intersections. Steve Jobs said once that he wanted Apple to be at the intersection between technology and the liberal arts. There’s also a real place for an intersection between technology and pedagogy. Monique and I are both really passionate about teaching and using technology to become more powerful teachers. We want to use the intersection of our gifts in teaching, art and technology to create tools that help kids.
Creating more great apps! It’s pretty cool to be able to turn an idea into reality and, as teachers, we’re constantly having those ‘wouldn’t it be great if…’ moments. Although we do have a few updates in the pipeline to improve StoryBot, we also have a secret app project that we’re very excited about. Stay tuned!
GLEN STOREY AND MONIQUE STOREY ARE TEACHERS AT TE AKAU KI PAPAMOA SCHOOL IN TAURANGA.
StoryBot is available on the App Store (topstoreyapps.com). Glen and Monique can be contacted on StoryBot’s Facebook page facebook.com/storybotapp or tweet them @storybotapp.
© INTERFACE Magazine, November 2012