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Pros: Easy to dive right in and start creating. Extensive support resources. Provides perfect context for coding.
Cons: Its simplicity also means students who take to it may age out quickly. Needs better control of visibility of stories.
Bottom Line: This is a great storytelling tool for younger kids that also offers an entry point into coding and computational thinking.
Elementari's versatility as a storytelling platform means that teachers can use it in multiple subjects: in language arts for story writing or book talks, in social studies for research projects about core content, in science for illustrating key concepts, and in world language classes for developing fluency. Since stories can be remixed -- and these remixed creations credit the original creators -- Elementari might work well in a digital citizenship lesson on copyright. Of course, given the integration of coding, Elementari can serve as a basic introduction to coding concepts, especially scripting, logic, functions/objects/events, sequencing, etc. Though the end result is ultimately a digital story, teachers can build on the bits of coding woven into Elementari with a more robust coding or computational thinking curriculum or platform that allows for more flexible creation, and/or that digs into specific coding languages and syntax.
The way Elementari combines a few different creative pursuits -- writing, voice-over, scripting, art -- also lends itself particularly well to cooperative group projects. Students with different levels of experience, expertise, and interest can take ownership of a role and then collaborate on a single project.
Elementari is a website for creating and publishing simple interactive and animated digital stories. The story creator -- which looks and feels like a presentation or slideshow tool -- fuses digital storytelling with important elements of coding and computational thinking. Students create a series of slides featuring text, images, illustrations, sound (including music and voice-over), and code blocks (functions, variables, logic, events, and objects). Creators toggle between a Layout Design tool -- that controls the visual elements -- and an Event Graph tool -- that controls the animations, sounds, and interactive elements -- to build the two layers of the slides and the finished story. Readers then click through those slides to read through and/or listen to the story (and maybe even play a little). The site comes with a large library of existing media to use in stories, but students can also upload their own illustrations and add their own audio for truly original content. There's a nice community of creators that students can participate in to share their own work or to remix/borrow from. Unfortunately, the site currently doesn't offer detailed control over the publication and permissions of stories. It'd be nice if creators could keep stories private, only share with specific people, or unpublish stories.
For teachers, the site offers the ability to create classrooms to easily check student progress, offer feedback, and showcase student work. For both teachers and students, there are ample support materials to learn key functions of the site and to develop deeper understanding of key concepts. Since projects can be remixed, those also serve as perfect learning tools. Sample projects come with all needed resources, including connections to learning standards.
Elementari, first and foremost, is a useful digital storytelling platform. Students can use it to develop and refine key language arts skills -- from writing to story structure to speaking -- by creating well-told storybooks, or projects that showcase learning and illustrate concepts. The platform uses a slideshow metaphor that is easy to use and accessible for kids while also giving them important tech skills. But where Elementari really shines is in how it folds coding into the storytelling process without making it feel too technical or confusing. And given that the coding is motivated by students' stories, they'll be driven to learn those skills to make their projects look and behave how they envision them. In this way, Elementari has the chance to make coding palatable to a whole new group of students who might normally be disengaged with typical computer science lessons. Still, this is a basic platform -- in both the storytelling and coding sense. That means kids could quickly age out of it; however, by then its likely that teachers -- and students -- will have gotten what they need from it. In this way, Elementari is an easy-to-use and recommended stepping stone for young kids to get better at -- and interested in -- both writing and coding.