Tag Archives: Photostory

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.

A Simple Solution?

Back in November 2007 I posted a “Not So Simple Solution” demonstrating a fairly complicated way to take projects created in Microsoft PhotoStory3 and make them viewable on Macs.

While brainstorming a way to share our 3rd grade Animal Riddles online (thanks Jennifer Gingerich for the project idea) I tried uploading the wmv files created by PhotoStory directly into VoicethreadAND IT WORKED!

Now we can not only share our students’ PhotoStory projects, but putting them on Voicethread allows us the option to let others comment back. Nice!

Below is an example. (Until I get an OK from the teacher I’ve turned off commenting.)

Tide Pool Adventure

Every May our 5th graders take a field trip to the tide pools at Corona Del Mar to learn about marine life. Part of the follow up for that trip includes some sort of assignment about various tide pool animals that reside in our local marine habitat.

This year as part of my effort to promote creativity and digital storytelling, we decided to shake things up a bit. Each child was to select a creature from the tidepools and make a story about that creature. They would give it a name, talk about it’s life in the tidepool, or tell a story about their creature’s little adventure. Stories must be factually accurate and cannot include any plot elements that go beyond the creature’s natural abilities, real life predators, or physical environment. (i.e. No “Sea Slugs in Space” stories.)

The project began with students sketching out their stories in class on a storyboard template. (Storyboard.pdf courtesy of Hall Davidson) Storyboards included the story’s “script” – what the student would say for each image. Next, they began to work on their pictures in the computer lab. Pictures could be drawn in KidPix, created in PowerPoint and exported as a jpeg file, imported from the Internet (properly cited, of course), or any combination of the three.

Finished pictures were imported to PhotoStory3. Students recorded their narration and added music and titles. When the stories were finished, they were exported to a Windows Media file and submitted electronically to their teacher for grading using our school LMS.

Were we crazy to start a project like this with only 8 1/2 days left in the school year? Maybe, but nearly all the kids were able to complete and submit their projects by this morning’s deadline. (School ends this Friday!) They will be sharing them in class this afternoon.

Here is one about Brittle Stars.

This is a story about two crabs that sneak out to do some “TP-ing” with seaweed.

NOTE: Because of the limited time available to complete the assignment, students were limited to three pictures for their stories. But even with that restriction, they were still able to come up with some pretty good projects. Hopefully next year we’ll be able to give them a little more time.

PHOTO CREDIT: Judykay (flickr.com/photos/judykay/290095974)

iMovie 08: PhotoStory for Mac?

For a PDF (printable) version of this blog click here.

Microsoft PhotoStory 3 is a great, simple way for students and teachers to create their own digital stories. I’ve demonstrated PhotoStory at several workshops and conferences and every time I do someone always asks, “Isn’t this available for Mac?” I understand the shock that Mac users experience when I tell them, “No, it’s only for Windows.” We Mac users are used to having the best, and easiest to use software. We feel slighted when something comes along that’s simple, easy, free, and we can’t have it. This is especially painful when that product comes from Microsoft.

“No. No. That’s not true! That’s impossible!”
Luke Skywalker, reacting to Darth Vader’s revelation that he is Luke’s father

For those of you who have been wanting a Mac solution to the PhotoStory dilemma, here’s something that might just work. It’s iMovie ‘08. This latest version of iMovie has drawn numerous bad reviews, mostly due to the fact that it is radically different from it’s previous version. While I’m not going to argue which is better, please allow me to present iMovie 08 as an alternative to PhotoStory. Here is an example of how to create a simple digital riddle using iMovie 08. I’ve written the steps in much the same way that similar project would be created using Photostory.

Since today is Presidents’ Day, I’m choosing to create a digital riddle about one of our Presidents, Millard Fillmore. Before starting this project I collected two pictures and placed them in a folder. One is a blank slide that I will use a background for my titles. The other is a photo of Millard Fillmore that I plan to use several times. The idea is to zoom in on certain parts of the picture and only reveal the entire photograph at the end.

Start a New Story
Go to FILE and select NEW PROJECT.
If you want your project to be a standard video format, I suggest you select a Standard (4:3) aspect ratio.

STEP 1: Import Pictures
You can bring your pictures into iMovie two ways. If they’re already in your iPhoto library, click the camera button (at the right of the screen below the preview window). Locate your pictures and drag them to the project window.
For my project, I’m saving two pictures – a blank background created in keynote and the picture of Millard Fillmore – in a folder. I can drag the pictures from the folder into the project window.
Since I want to use each picture more than once, I can drag the same picture multiple times to create copies.

STEP 2: Add Titles
Click the title button (located next to the camera button).
Select the style of title you want and drag it on top of a picture. For my President riddle I’m selecting a centered title for my questions and a lower third for my answer.

Type your titles in the preview window. You will notice that each picture with titles has a blue bar over it.

STEP 3: Add Narration
Unlike PhotoStory, there is no window to type your notes for narrating. You and your students will have to write them ahead of time and print them out or open them in a small window on your screen.

To record narration, click on the microphone button. Use your mouse to position the “red line” where you want to begin recording. When you click, you will get a 3 second countdown to begin recording. To stop recording, click the mouse button.

NOTE: In PhotoStory you only record one slide at a time. In iMovie if you don’t stop after each slide, your recording can flow into other slides. If this happens, you can adjust the length of each slide to fit the recording. In the picture below, notice that the voiceover (purple bar) for my third Millard Fillmore picture is 6.4 seconds long and the picture is only 4 seconds long.

Crop Images, Adjust Motion
Once you have adjusted the duration of your slides to match the voiceover, you can crop your images or adjust the pan and zoom. Click the crop button to make these adjustments.

You have three options.

  1. FIT – Make the entire picture fit in the window. You may see black bars on the sides or top & bottom.
  2. CROP – Crop the image so part of it fills the entire window.
  3. KEN BURNS – Make your image pan or zoom by setting a starting and ending point.

STEP 4: Add Music
Unlike PhotoStory, iMovie does not have a music creator. To add music you must select it from your iTunes library or from the pre-made jingles found in the iLife sound effects folder.

For my President Riddle, I selected “Medal Ceremony”, because it just sounds Presidential. The song will appear as a green field behind your pictures. If the song you choose is longer than your video, it will fade out at the end.

STEP 5: Save Your Video
This creates an Quicktime or m4v version of your video which will play in Quicktime Player or iTunes. Go to SHARE and select EXPORT MOVIE.

You can select different qualities and sizes. Because I want a smaller file size, I’ll pick “mobile” for my project.

Once the file has been exported, you can post it online or upload it to a video sharing site like YouTube or TeacherTube. Here’s what my finished project looks like.

iMovie 08 does much more than what is explained in this tutorial. If you want to learn more about iMovie 08, check out the video tutorials on Apple’s web site: http://www.apple.com/ilife/tutorials/#imovie