Old Dog Still Good for a Few Tricks

In 2006 Microsoft released the latest version of PhotoStory3 (version 3.1). If you’re looking for a simple tool for creating digital stories with images and voice, and you’re a Windows user, this still remains an excellent choice.


It’s 2014. Why am I writing about Windows software that hasn’t been updated in 8 years? Because it still works.  And by “works” I mean it still works for student projects better than most, if not all, other storytelling telling tools out there.  Believe me, I’ve looked at dozens of other web 2.0 tools and apps and still have not found one that has convinced me to switch away from PhotoStory because I’ve not yet found one that meets all these requirements:

  1. No student login required
  2. Gives student a place to write narration notes right in the app
  3. Record student voice right in the app
  4. Give student control over image pan & zoom
  5. Create or Add background music
  6. Export as a video file

As my school transitions away from Windows machines toward Chromebooks, iPads, and BYOD I miss the straightforward, step-by-step approach PhotoStory uses for building a story.  iMovie for iPad is an excellent tool and is almost as easy for students to use as PhotoStory, but unless you’re buying a new iPad, it’s not free.  30 Hands has greater simplicity and ease of use, but falls short if I want to control image pan and zoom.

In the Chromebook world, I’ve searched the Chrome Web Store for a PhotoStory replacement, but everything I’ve looked at seems to come up short.  So far, Narrable and Movenote are the ones that come the closest, but I still long for a tool that gives me pan and zoom control for my images and can export as a video file.  Oh sure, there are some amazingly powerful video editing tools like WeVideo, that allow a myriad of transitions, effects, and audio/video channels, but I’m not sure I want my second & third graders logging in with a Google ID and working with all the embedded distractions provided by something this sophisticated.

For now I’ll keep bringing my students to the computer lab to work on PhotoStory 3 projects and continue recommending it to elementary teachers until something better comes along.

4 thoughts on “Old Dog Still Good for a Few Tricks”

  1. I completely agree with you Dennis! PhotoStory is a go to for us as well. Another great feature is the ForwardBackward functionality that allows you to move forward in your work, and then go back to redo, edit, fix, etc… It’s just a great piece of software.

  2. The forward/back functionality is another plus. I’d even be willing to forego requirement number 1 if it allows students on chromebooks to “sign-in with Google” since they’d already be signed in with their Google ID. The pan & zoom is a big deal for me because of the “life” it gives to static images. The only web based tool I’ve seen that does pan & zoom is YouTube Photo Slide shows, and even that is just a default zoom and does not allow the user to control it.

  3. This week I started looking at “Little BIrd Tales” as a PhotoStory3 substitute that works on Chromebooks. While it doesn’t offer image pan and zoom or background music, it does allow students to compose their writing before recording AND lets them create their own drawings.
    The intuitive interface seems to be easy to use for lower elementary students. Free Teacher accounts let you create a class of up to 20 students. https://littlebirdtales.com
    However, since I work with more than 20 students, I’m looking at the Teacher Premium account. It’s $24.99 for a teacher +20 students, then $1.25 for each additional student above that.

  4. I do agree that some of the older programs can be very helpful for students to use with teaching and presenting. In addition, I agree that the older programs can be a little more simpler then programs nowadays because when more functions are added to a program that usually means more complex. When there is a lot for students to learn within a class it is nice to have a program that is simple for the students to use. Thank you for sharing with us about PhotoStory3.

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