Play Time at the Zoo

<---<<< TO THE ZOO by rbrwr, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  Photo by rbrwr 

Today with the magic of online tools I became a zoo keeper. The feisty crowd I was wrangling reside in ZooBurst. ZooBurst defines itself as an “augmented reality 3D pop-up book creator.” It was one of the many amazing tools suggested to us during our most recent EC&I 831 class. Alan Levine (probably better known online as Cog Dog) was our inspiring guest speaker. His topic was digital storytelling and he rocked it!

It certainly doesn’t hurt that Alan himself is a beautiful storyteller and he is passionate about the topic. He reminded us we all have stories to share and with the tools available today we can express our stories in creative, imaginative, unique and engaging ways. I believe strongly in the power of stories and the need for us to listen closely to authentic, first-hand stories from all around the world. I believe sharing stories builds connections, compassion, and respect. Stories pave the way to new perspectives, new ideas and new understandings.

This TEDify is an awesome mashup of over 25 TED talks that address storytelling.

Telling a story can take on many shapes and styles thanks to the unbelievable variety of digital tools. You are able to personalize the look, feel, and flow. Alan reminded us that the tool is not what matters, it is the story that is important. Regardless of the tool, I think the best element of digital storytelling is, as Alan expressed, the ability to transform a linear story into a dynamic one.

I appreciated the encouragement from both Alec and Alan to have fun and play. We tell our students this and the permission to play certainly helps the creative ideas run wild. I was also grateful for the reminders not to fuss about it being perfect or impeccable. Share the story, explore the opportunities within the tools, and express yourself.

So as challenging as this is for a perfectionist to do I am going to share my ZooBurst even though it is nowhere near polished. As with learning any new tool I did a lot trial by clicking and very little reading of the instructions. Many of the pages reflect the fun I was having as they look like a pop-up book on steroids. I certainly did not employ the best design strategies (sorry Rick!). ZooBurst is rich with potential and I think students would be captivated by it and love the results. A welcome feature is ZooBurst’s searchable collection of images, although I struggled to find what I was looking for more than once. There is an option to import your own images but I was unsure how to cite the source. The basic level of the tool is free, however with the upgrade there are many perks: sound effects, recording your own voice, and classroom management abilities. The interactive nature of the pages is quite engaging (you can spin and rotate the book to see the pages from many angles) and the eye catching 3D appearance really makes your characters and setting pop. I will certainly spend some more time exploring ZooBurst and I am sure my niece and nephew in Brazil would love to receive a pop-up story from their Auntie.

I’m wondering: Have you used Zoo Burst with your students? What were your successes? Challenges? How did your students respond to it? What other storytelling tools do you recommend?