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Pros: Thorough approach to storytelling, journalism, and creation. Students build cross-curricular skills and publish work.
Cons: Technical tutorials skim the surface. Copyright releases for student work could be more student friendly.
Bottom Line: This is a site that offers both actionable resources and an active community for student voice and civic engagement.
How Can I Teach with This Tool?
StoryMaker gives teachers tons of options to help students both understand and create media as well as think through civic issues. Teachers can select skill-focused lessons on things like conducting interviews or using cameras. These functional lessons help build students' digital storytelling ability. Teachers can then have students move on to projects (like the Student Journalism Challenge) that push students to develop and use different production (e.g., principles of photography) and journalistic (e.g., fact-checking) skills. Some lessons can be done in one or two class periods, while others are projects designed to last several weeks. There's a handy resource library teachers can use to find activities with the right topic, challenge level, and duration. Teachers can also choose from a range of topic-based starting points on the homepage to kick things off, selecting the best fit for their curriculum.
StoryMaker includes detailed lesson plans for everything, including a variety of ready-to-go resources like slide decks, handouts and info docs, and videos with transcripts. The focus is universally on giving both teachers and students the support they need to create and share with a broader audience. Along these lines, since StoryMaker is part of PBS NewsHour, and an extension of Student Reporting Labs, students have a rare opportunity to reach an actual audience with their creations. Note, though, that when students submit work they sign a release. The site could do a better job of communicating just what students are agreeing to, and foregrounding that to both students and teachers.