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Review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2017

Gone Google Story Builder

Clever but bare-bones Google Doc storytelling tool has potential

Subjects & skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking

Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (3 Reviews)

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Pros: So slick and simple that any student can get going with ease.

Cons: As basic as a tool can get, and there's no support for learners/teachers.

Bottom Line: A neat way to simulate conversations and dish out stories, but more a utility player for a classroom than a fully fleshed-out storytelling tool.

Come up with scenarios in which several characters might interact in a Google Doc. For a history class, encourage your students to simulate conversations that led to turning points in history, such as the writing of the Declaration of Independence or the plans for the D-day invasion during World War II. In an ELA class, encourage your students to choose characters from a novel or short story and see how they might interact in text like this. Encourage your students to think about what they're seeing on-screen. What do characters convey by what they type or don't type? What does it mean to have them delete another character's writing? How might this tool help students reveal major aspects of characters' personalities and motivations?

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Editor's note: The Gone Google Story Builder website is no longer accessible.

Gone Google Story Builder is a web-based tool that lets users create a video "story" that takes place within a Google Doc. Basically, students enter text and then watch it play back in a video sequence. To create a story, first create a few characters; these are the people who will be typing in your simulated Google Doc. Then, hit "Write Story" and start creating your story. You can switch characters and see their names appear on the cursors as if they're users editing a Google Doc in real time. You can also add music to add some emotion (such as suspense or silliness) to your video. Then, you can title your creation and share it with friends via a link. 

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It's certainly a fun gag to see different characters interacting in text in real time and will get students thinking critically about sequencing dialogue. As with other web-based tools that let you simulate social media posts, Gone Google Story Builder is an amusing way to think about how characters in the present or the past might behave as collaborators in a Google Doc. It also helps students think about historical context and different modes of writing. That being said, this is definitely a one-trick pony. You and your students will quickly exhaust its few features, and you might find its usefulness in your classroom very limited. There aren't a ton of opportunities for customization. For example, there are no voice-over options, and you can't easily embed your creation in another app or on another website. In general, this is a neat trick, but you'll need to then look elsewhere for more engaging, flexible ways for your students to think imaginatively about tech tools. 

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Students get a helpful initial walkthrough of how it works. Beyond that, engagement depends on how students like the tool's unique spin on storytelling.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

While there's some cool potential for helping students take perspectives and tell stories, there's little direction here that would help inspire them to use this tool's limited features to provoke deep learning. 

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The site's how-to text is helpful; it would be even better if there were more ways to customize your story or export it elsewhere. 

Common Sense Reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

Teacher Reviews

(See all 3 reviews) (3 reviews)
Featured review by
Barbara T. , Other
Create dialogue, demonstrate editing, and collaborate using this fun tool

Google StoryBuilder is deceptive because the interface is so simple. This is actually a powerful tool that I have used with great success. Beyond just creating conversations, students can do some collaborative writing where they edit each other's work and the editing process becomes part of the movie. This is fun when one student writes a straightforward declarative sentence, and the other edits it with adjectives and more details. In the example I wrote about in the How I Use It section, the students seemed to have a greater understanding about the seeds of the Revolutionary War from the British perspective. The difficulty in editing work in StoryBuilder is very frustrating for students (and me!), so I have them do their writing first in a Google Doc. I share a template for the conversation with a two column table so the students can practice what will be said by whom, and they will be sure not to exceed the limit of 10 dialogue lines total . The text can then be copied and pasted into StoryBuilder easily, and edited if necessary without retying the whole story. I would like it better if there were an option to create an account so that URLs could be stored within the app, but my work-around with having students submit URLs via a Google Form works quite well.

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