Posted by: Bill Lord | October 8, 2010


This morning I have been given the wonderful opportunity to attend Storytyne at the Open University in Newcastle.

The session was introduced by Tim Rylands (@timrylands) who started the call for teachers to consider what the children are saying and the stories they are telling not necessarily which technologies they are using to produce them.

He posed the question whether we are imposing an airplane model of education on children telling them to sit down, face front when they come in from the playground.

Tim then took the audience on a wonderful journey of storytelling showing how he and Sarah Neild have used games to inspire children to tell stories and showed a film of a young girl telling her tale inspired by game playing.

Children should be given the opportunity to slow down when involved with writing.

Tim then took us onto a journey through the Epic citadel donning the storyteller’s coat and telling a wonderful story of a pickpocket in the city. (I will post a short video clip of it at lunchtime) The tale told how the pickpocket met another beautiful pickpocket with whom he fell in love. The story moved and finished with a very uncomfortable ending – a reminder that children have a right to be made uncomfortable by their reading and storytelling. Personally I believe that too often we go for the middle ground in our choice of texts. (A blog post must follow of books which could be seen as challenging for Primary children.)

We then moved out of the city and met the pickpocket (played by @ideasfactory) and his wife (@mynictle)  who came to the front in role – Tim invited the audience to ask questions and there was silence!! The reminder that teachers do feel more bashful than children on many occasions!


The pickpocket and his wife


The model of storytelling was so important and does inspire the question how many of our children are given a strong model of how to tell stories in their classroom. This will undoubtedly happen in many infant classes but I do wonder how Junior classes are led by storytellers.

Tim then got a translator to come up and interpret questions from the audience to the couple. The questions were asked and the  interpreter / translator then put them into a different form.

We then had the first freebie of the day as Tim handed out thinking dice to inspire questions – it was clear that the audience overcame their bashfulness and asked some wonderful questions.

The dice are available from and cost £9.99.


glamorous assistants


Story telling dice

Next up  Sean McCusker from Durham University and Kerry Cottiss from St Cuthbert’s North Shields. They talked about a project taking place in the North East developing storytelling in the classroom under the title of NEstories.
They are heading down different strands in terms of the research and to demonstrate it Sean played us a story told by two nine years about 2 miners called Albert and Ernie who worked in Merton colliery. The use of specific vocabulary was impressive as the children talked about high tension machinery, hands being red raw, both men being determined to finish their job. One of the children took on the role of narrator whilst the other one did all of the voices. In the story one of the miners lost one and half fingers, again children telling an uncomfortable story but without being too gory or mawkish.
The intention in the classes was that storytelling would develop and also build a cultural heritage.  So in North Shields many of the children found the story of the bombing of the Lemonade Factory in the Second World War as it was a specific cultural event of which most families had knowledge.

Sean talked about the reinvention of the North East with an emphasis on art and culture, new industries and the service sector and how important it is that the industrial history of the area is brought to live. The colliery in the story was closed in the 90s and is now the site of the Dalton Park shopping centre. It has been there for seven years and so for many of the children their history of the area will only include the shopping centre and not the mine. Therefore it has been important for the children to gain an understanding of what went before in the their area for more than 200 years. The point being that  digital storytelling brings people closer to their own cultural heritage.

Classroom practice
Some of the prompts to start storytelling included What can we add to the introduction of the story? Can we add dialogue? The games used included introducing yourself, the name game, list game , chinese whispers, whisper down the lane, story swapping in which stories are developed as partners tell a story and the swap partners to build new elements into it and story skeletons.

Kerry came on the training in May and was inspired to go back and try it with Years 2 and 5 – initially they felt that it had more impact on the younger children. The children were warmed up and sat in a circle brainstorming what they would like to research as a class. The prompts and questions were based upon some knowledge or family history (grandfather in the navy, was the soft play centre once a church etc.)
“As teachers we must respond to the changing needs of pupils, education only flourishes, if it successfully adapts to the demands and needs of time” – this chimes with the sense that teachers need to be brave and make amendments to their practice based upon where the children are and the best pedagogies to support them.

The Benefits

  • An I-can non threatening environment
  • Enhanced confidence in the use of storytelling
  • Home – school links
  • Community cohesion
  • A unique approach of bringing language to life
  • Links well with APP (particularly with AF3 Talking within role-play and drama – AF4 Talking about Talk)
  • It evened out the playing field for

What makes a good story? I wish all our lessons were was good as this!” Ben Year 2

The story that Kerry finished with was incredibly moving as a young child talked about his grandfather who had been in the SAS and how he had suffered to come to terms with what he had experienced in times of conflict and how this had led to him drinking. A very frank reportage from a 6 year old child.

Break time

Tim Meek from Scholastic talking about Story stage ( and Kodu from Microsoft. He describes how he works with disengaged pupils as his ongoing CPD in his role working with Scholastic. He showed video clips of children working at the same laptop and the disengagement caused by the fact that there is only one mouse, Storystage allows up to four children working on the same computer plugging in four separate mice.  (He did advise scaling this up from 2 at first). He reassured the delegates that adults are pre-conditioned to only expecting to see one mouse / cursor on the screen at a time when children simply don’t see an issue in it at all.
The immediate beauty of Storystage is the fact that it is very simple. It is an on-screen version of a puppet theatre (the Luddite in me feels that it should sit in a class where there is the potential for puppet play as well!)  It does allow the user to develop a multilayered story with roles  being assigned and even the ability to cause it to snow, put stage lights on the screen or dismiss a character through the use of a trapdoor.
Tim described it as a playful space – this ties into the discussion we had on #ukedchat about four weeks ago (I will find the link later) where we discussed creativity. I still have not clarified the definition of what I think it want it to look like but the closest word is probably is bringing in a sense of playfulness. It would appear at first demonstration that this is a resource which has the potential to develop collaborative on-screen playful using storytelling, discussion, negotation etc.
At present finished pieces of work can only be shown in the programme but there is a patch being developed to allow it to be embedded in school portals / websites / VLEs. It is only Microsoft compatible at the moment.

In the resources there are also ebooks and animated tales for use out of the theatre as well as sound effects, music, ambient sounds (allowing the children to use diagetic and non diagetic sounds which is an important part of storytelling and the move towards writing.)

A resource worth looking at.





Tim next modelled the Microsoft application which he first saw at BETT 2010 which he describes as a jazzed version of Logo. It is a 3D modelling environment but Tim linked it to Monsters versus Aliens  and sought to find out if it could be linked to narrative themes by building a world. It is driven by a handset which to a middle-aged man like me looks like a Playstation controller. He showed the game in build mode and how it uses programming language and mainly icons.  He built a scene from the Wreck of the Zanzibar by Michael Morpurgo. As a book lover it is lovely to a session which is undeniably very techy being built around reading language . Returning to the impact on the group of disengaged learners Tim showed how the children wrote diaries from the story, retelling of the story and writing for purpose. The children wrote to Microsoft to complain about the handsets and to request some free ones – a successful blag!! I think that this application will be too technical for many teachers but it will certainly not be above the children. The question is how many will be prepared to cede control of the technology to their pupils?

Vicky Cable from Shoofly


Angel boy


Vick y talked about imagination – can we imagine without experience? Can a child imagine a running dog if they have never seen a dog – it is our duty to create the experiences for the children on which they can build their imagination.
Vicky asked the delegates to look on their seats and find a feather on their seats – this was linked to the wonderful book from Shoofly  – Angelboy which is challenging, beautiful and incredibly evocative. A link from all presentations that the resources have been things of beauty and with a level of challenge or even the power to make children uncomfortable. Vicky has now brought out the role play clothes and this blogger has rushed to the back to appear very busy on his laptop. Delegates are being asked to think about role, voice, tone etc and divided into 4 groups.

Angel boy can be found here and is something that you should look at in Upper Junior Classes.

Vicky took responses in from delegates from their role play and then showed some simply wonderful examples of audiobooks made by children including The wolf and Little Red Riding with one of the scariest wolves I have ever heard!!!


Brainpop Eylan Ezekiel from Brainpop talked about Fact versus Fiction. Brainpop although technology based is not about technology driving the curriculum but about using technology firing the children up and opening up the learning in the classroom. Eylan talked about classes where the use of Brainpop has then inspired pupils to make their own movies as part of their own published final outcome.

Creativity – a word we often use but can’t always clearly define.

Eylan demonstrated how Brainpop had storyboarded their latest film about the Queen and then asked the delegates to work in groups and develop their own storyboards on a theme. The link was made to the session by Alan Yeoman of 2Simple as Eylan encouraged us to think in his session about how we could make our storyboard in one of the 2Simple products such as 2CASS (2 Create A Simple Story)

I was sat  upstairs whilst in the other room the delegates were being shown The Land of Me by James Huggins. The Land of Me describes itself as ‘The Land of Me is a collection of playful learning activities that adults and children can enjoy together. Created in collaboration with early learning experts, six enchanting chapters inspire you and your child to create monsters, buildings, music and more. Their follow up session was by Anithings – it was described by Susi Arnott on Twitter  as something which lets you create and control animations using characters and objects (you can build up your own) looks good!

Alan Yeoman
Alan works for 2Simple and quickly demonstrated 2 Create A Story  and how it enables children to create images, insert a voiceover, add music and import photographs. The  files can be exported as .swf flash files which enables them to be embedded in school websites. Alan then moved onto demonstrating 2CASS and how animations can be developed.

Inanimate Alice
Bill Boyd talked about his work with a group of teachers using Inanimate Alice.  It tells the story of the 8 year old Alice and her adventure in China. At present the book has four different chapters in four different locations. The text is written by an award winning author and is incredibly high quality. The text is moved through page by page which can be re-visited by clicking on the relevant icon. It is an interactive text which is divided into different frames using a wide range of modes. It used diagetic and non diagetic sound, animations, video films, exploded diagrams with a handheld mobile device as the main interaction tool between the character and the user.

The character was born digital (Alice was conceived as a digital project), it is a high quality text, has highly interactive engagement, uses trans-media engagement, covers different continents, gives potential for wide curriculum coverage and is progressively challenging – she moves from 8, 10, 11 and 13 in the fourth chapter. It is used widely in the Pacific Rim particularly in Australia but is being worldwide.

Useful links

Sarah Brownsword talked about her work using Inanimate Alice in her classroom at TMEast earlier this year.


At this point I blathered on about some projects I have been working on and will post it up later.
Bill Lord
I talked about the power of talk within the classroom and the role of the teacher in it. In order to develop it across the whole school there has to be whole school discussion of the expectations that we have of our children. Teachers need to have high expectations of their children and a clarity of the vocabulary that they are going to use. My opening pondering was to consider my own family with this image on display.


Boy in toilet


This photo was taken of me around the age of two when my mother came into the bathroom and upon discovering me rather than rescuing me ran to get the camera! I reflected on the fact that on this side of the family there was a strong oral tradition and stories which I could recount very easily from several generations whereas I couldn’t do that for the other side of my family. It was only during the summer when we were on a family holiday and visiting the National Trust property, Lanhydrock, when we were in the Nursery did I get the smallest recollection of a family story about my grandparents from my father’s side. Once we checked it turned out that there was an interesting story about how my Grandad was Butler in a country house where he met my Gran who was the Nursery Maid. The point that I was musing on was whether the issue which came up was that the difference between the two families was not a difference in the stories that they had to tell but in the importance within the family of storytelling.

This then takes me to the Primary classroom and how we approach storytelling – during the morning we had talked a lot about adult led and directed storytelling but I wanted to consider how we support children in recounting stories. I am always embarrassed to recall finding out two weeks before the end of an academic year that one of the boys in my class was a local moto cross champion (something of which I had no knowledge whatsoever until late in the year.)

What expectations do staff have for children to share their stories with their peer group?
How do staff make time for developing oracy? I did then look at some of the issues about perceived time and curriculum constraints and how teachers should seek to ensure that children have time to talk, listen and respond to each other. Teachers need to trust that their children will provide evidence of the talk based work taking place in their class (on top of the fact that if children are given the time for oral rehearsal their writing will invariably improve.)

I then talked about a school which has trained adults who come into contact with the children as storytellers and storyreaders – in the school they try to flash mob reading giving children a couple of minutes’ notice that a story is about to be told – the extension of this is for children to then become the storytellers. This is about storytelling becoming a central part of what the school is and stands for – a place where stories are valued and create a buzz.

Screen recorder
I showed the use of the screen recorder within IWB  software from two schools as something that most teachers could introduce the next time they walked into the classroom. I also stressed the importance of getting the children to drive the technology and for teachers to concentrate on pedagogy. The use of the recorder tool allows children to record their oral rehearsal and also the teacher to record child feedback in the plenary (there will be a blog post on this coming). This is something that we have been talking about for more than five years but it does appear to be striking a chord with teachers I am working with at the moment. Schools are developing the use of mentors to train other children up so that teachers can concentrate on pedagogy and get the children to drive the board.

Children driving the technology
I talked about the importance of handing over technology use to children as much as possible (referring back to Tim Meek’s session from the morning and my hope that teachers who were put off by the interface of Kodu would hand it over to their kids. I posed the question Have we spent millions of pounds on putting technology in classrooms and leaving it in the hands of people who are not even trusted with the remote control in their own houses?
We need to get the children driving the technology and leave teachers to concentrate on which strategies would best suit their children and raise standards. I wrote a blog post on launching ICT mentors in February which can be accessed here.

I finished the session off with two examples of project work about which I have previously blogged.  I talked about the Jolly Postman project in Rotherham LA where I ended up videoconferencing with 19 classes dressed up as Burglar Bill. Blog post here

I then talked about the Giraffe class and their wonderful week of tweeting with comedian, Mark Olver. The blogpost with many of the slides from yesterday’s presentation can be found here.

Final Session
Tim rounded the day off with a call to arms for delegates to start using Twitter and promised to send out a list of people in the room who tweet.

He recommended linkbunch and visuwords which is a wonderful visual way of developing richer vocabulary.
Other sites recommended:
Tagxedo – a more beautiful and sensuous version of wordle.

Tim then talked to us about his work bringing role play to children who simply don’t “want”to learn – he got them to arrange their seats as a rollercoaster and took them on ride using clips from Myst.

Sarah then joined Tim as he talked about his favourite artist Norman Rockwell and how teachers can draft writing in the presentation mode in PowerPoint. It was excellent to see how wonderfully they had made a device which is so often poorly used.

In order to do this you have to put in a text box – the instructions on how to do it are here and here.

Finally Tim launched into recommendation of:
Lulu – free web publishing
Zooburst – a great place to publish children’s books.
Tapestry Cartoon Maker

All of the links for this session can be found at


  1. I think you will all have a wonderful time on this. Tim and Sarah did some of this with us the other week and it is great to use their techniques – every group we use it with at the CLC is absolutely entranced.

  2. Comment above merely about the first 9? paragraphs of the marvelous and ever lengthening blog.

  3. Tweeting is one thing… but live blogging like this is something else again! Thanks for your generosity and smoking fingers… 😉

  4. Wow you are doing an amazing job getting all of this down “as you go”! thanks so much for doing this – there is so much here to look at and ponder over I’m glad I have a weekend to do it in 🙂

  5. Thanks so much for posting this Bill, it certainly has made me think. There are so many ideas here to ponder over and use in the classroom. So much so that I’m now wishing tomorrow could be Monday so I can get stuck in!

  6. A fab record of a wonderful days events. I don’t know how you can multiple-task so well. Good work sir. 🙂

  7. Thank you, what a fantastic post. I’m so envious of everyone who was at what was obviously an amazing event. So many ideas to follow up. I’m doing some kodu training next term, will be happy to cede control if pupils and I can do things like that.

  8. […] posted in some detail on the Storytyne blog post about attitudes of teachers towards children driving the technology. It is important that teachers […]

  9. […] posted in some detail on the Storytyne blog post about attitudes of teachers towards children driving the technology. It is important that teachers […]

  10. […] So what happened next? The answers are here and here. […]

  11. Thanks for great resources! I’ll try to use them.
    But as for languages, I prefer online tools, like google translator and thesaurus dictionary.

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