Many teachers want to show students how to run blogs or create published web content as part of their curriculum (especially in middle and high school). I have already discussed the rather convoluted method of maintaining a class blog using WordPress, but there are simpler and more creative solutions available, as well. Storehouse, for example, is a free app that allows students to publish and share semi-private photoblog posts. They are really easy to make and they look great.
Creating a post is easy. Upon first downloading and running the app, you need to sign up. This requires entering your name and an email address. As a teacher, you can either have students use personal email addresses (which older students will have) or create a class login using a single email address that all the students will share. If sharing an account, make sure you put something good as the name, as the name is published at the top of every post.
Once your account is created, the app lets you see some example entries. When you are ready to create your own, hit the plus sign in the top right corner.
Now you need to insert your media. You can add photos or videos at this point (and text can be added later):
The app can pull media from your camera roll, Dropbox account, Flickr account, or Instagram account. I assume they might add other cloud storage options in the future. Browsing through your folders is easy, you can check all the items you want at once, and then import them into the post:
The app will automatically create a post using your photos and videos. It will pick one of your photos to be the top banner image, but you can change the choice.
Once everything is inserted, it is time to start organizing. You can make all the images bigger, wider, or smaller, and then reorganize them into columns, pairs, rows, or whatever else looks good. Once published, the videos will only play when they are on-screen, so you need not worry about all the audio getting tangled together:
After finishing your design, you can start adding text. You can use the text as simple photo captions, headlines, or paragraph-length essays, narratives, or blog posts. The text can be slightly stylized (but you can't go crazy with colors or different fonts) and it can be aligned left, right, or center.
All done? Now just hit publish in the top right. It is now shared within the app and on the internet, but people won't stumble upon it without following you or knowing the exact link. You can easily have students in a class follow each other or share the links with parents. (After first publishing, the app will load your post, but you can click the Storehouse logo in the top right corner to copy the web URL for sharing.)
Click HERE to see the super simple example I made while typing up this post and taking the above screenshots. Pretty cool, huh?
So how to use this in a classroom? Some ideas:
- Have students create tours of famous cities, landmarks, or tourist destinations. They could find photos on the internet to use and type up a running narrative or the script a tour guide could use.
- You could do a million Social Studies / Humanities projects: country or state presentations, a look at different cultures, a walkthrough of famous historical events, profiles of famous people, and more!
- For a fun back-to-school activity in August, students could create a post about what they did over the summer using any personal photos they took. Also good for sharing any interesting vacations or field trips they go on. (Just remind them to keep the photos appropriate and don't give out any names, addresses, or other identifying information.)
- English Language Arts classes could focus more on the writing and less on the photos. Students could turn essays, papers, or writing prompt responses into creative “picture books” with visuals to go along with their writing.
- For Science class, students could tour ecosystems or explain life cycles of animals using the pictures and the text.
I am sure many of you have dozens of other ideas. Many of your older assessment ideas could easily be adapted to this format. This app and this system just gives students a new way to be creative and share their creations with your teachers, classmates, and families. Have fun with it!