Storehouse: Connecting Student Writing to the 21st Century
Type of technology: App (to create and view); Website (to view and share)
SAMR Model Rating: Augmentation
Grade level: Universal (Upper Elementary, Junior High, High School)
Subject area: Universal, Social Studies, English, Art, Foreign Languages, Math (for writing and explanation)
Getting our students to write. I mean, isn’t that the focus of so many of the Common Core initiatives and implementations these days? Writing essays, writing summaries, writing abstracts, writing in complete sentences, writing for the sake of writing…it seems that these days we are banging our collective heads against the wall trying desperately to get our students to CARE about the process and product of the written language.
But what do THEY care about?
Tapping, Viewing, “Liking”, Looping, Snapping, Vining, Seeing, Sharing, etc…
How about I share with you a free app which lets all of our visions on creating and expressing ourselves meld into one? Would that get you excited enough to “like” this idea? Would it perk your students up and get them engaged? Enough beating around the bush, head on over to the App Store and download the digitally enhanced blogging app Storehouse.
Before I proceed extolling the virtues of this easy blog-maker I feel the need to address the one and a half star elephant in the room. Those picky and savvy (read: finicky) tech users will note the low rating this app receives, but let me take a minute to explore/explain it. The first version of this app got a 4+ star rating. The problem lies with the fact they just released the second version of this app which eliminated many of the social media capabilities and that angered many of the original users–read Millennials (such as myself). There have only been 10 people who have rated this app at the time of my blog’s creation so the sample size is still really small as well. The functionality didn’t change (unless you call improving and streamlining some of the software a change) and if you read the rest of the blog you can see how the potential as an educational tool is extraordinary.
Okay, so I’ve talked about the ratings of the app but I haven’t really told you much about the app itself. It is essentially a quick and user friendly way to create a multimedia blog which requires no prior blogging experience. Seriously, you sign up, you sign in, and you begin. The cool thing about this blog in Storehouse (actually it is more the cool thing about all blogs really) is that it can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be.
I would say this is a great way to spice up a historical narrative, have students keep a blog about what they learned that week in your class (and as they build on it they can have a record of they have done over the year), to use as a starter for the day on how they are feeling, have them take a picture of something for a photography class and then insert and describe the image, or use it in math class to explain the steps of a proof.
Heck…use it as a visual aid to explain ANYTHING, and so many more ways.
I mean, have you seen how many types of blogs are out there on Pinterest? I’m a fledgling foodie myself…
Here are the steps to create your very own blog: (I also made a quick starter blog in less than 5 minutes which you can see HERE if you want)
- Click on the “New Story” tile
- It will then prompt you to access your photos on your iPhone. Click yes!
- Select a photo (or video if you want your phone to look Harry Potter-like with a muted version
running in the background) to be the main visual for your blog. Click Next in the upper right hand corner.
- You may then title your photo if you would like.
- Next, look on the bottom and select the Text box with the “T” symbol on it (lower right)
- It will ask you what type of text you want to insert…I’d recommend just “normal” at first until you get the hang of it.
- Once you finish typing, click done and then it will see if you want to make it fancy with changing the font, its alignment, etc.
- Then you can continue to add things to the blog.
- One thing that is fun is that you can have the students film themselves here so you might have it be a video blog of them talking about something they learned or thought was fun today! They just need to select the camera icon on the bottom middle of the screen.
- Press and hold onto a photo, textbox, or video until it is selected to move it around and change the order.
- When you are finished select the Save button on the top right!
- If you forget something or want to make changes…no problem! Just select the story/blog from the home screen and then the three dots on the upper right–>select the edit button–>edit away!
- When the assignment is done and the kids have turned their previously drab assignments into something which comes alive, have them press the share button on the bottom right and it will provide you with options.
- I think the easiest thing to do would be to have them copy the web link it provides and submit it to you either through an LMS like NEO/Google Classroom or you can even share a document with the class and have them paste that link in there next to their names and you can just continue to click the link as they add more to it.
- Maybe you say that you will check the links Thursday nights and they are responsible for three new posts to it that week??? Maybe you make them create a new blog each time…either way works so choose what is easiest for you!
- To view the links you can either share your account with your students through the app, or you can go to their website to check them out (or use something like NEO where they post it directly to your online classroom)!
I love a free app like this because the only limitations are ourselves as educators. If you can think of a fun prompt, the students will take the fun pictures and videos, which will in turn make both the creating and grading of the assignment better. Also, I like how you can tailor it to your age group and abilities of your students. Maybe you have them write a different quote each day which summarizes the lesson (for younger students), or you have them use video editing software to create their own videos that they then put onto their blog (for more advanced students).
This week I am having my class create a historical fiction blog as if they lived in the Soviet Union under the brutal totalitarian regime of Joseph Stalin. They are going to pretend as though they are giving a daily “diary” for a week in the life of their character. They are going to pretend as though they are part of the underground resistance and I’m hoping to get some Blair Witch-like footage of them hiding for their lives and recording their memoirs for future Soviet generations to come.
This app isn’t perfect though. Hey, it’s free so what do you expect?!? Here are some of the things I wish would be improved:
- Ability to create from the blog website
- Ability to add pictures and videos from the web instead of only from your phone (yes I know you can screenshot things from the internet but it feels like an unnecessary step)
- Opening back up of the social media capabilities so that the naysayers would boost the rating once more!
Thank you for reading this blog post! More importantly, thank you for taking the time to be courageous and to be willing to learn alongside your students. I hope you found this post useful, enjoy and Storehouse on!