Product Review of StoriumEdu
StoriumEdu is a web-based, collaborative writing platform that’s part card game and part role-playing adventure. Developed in partnership with the National Writing Project, it’s a school-focused version of a popular online collaborative writing game of the same name. In groups of up to four, learners write a story together that follows a scenario created by their teacher. Each student picks a character (using built-in pictures and character names, or by creating their own), and learners take turns writing brief scenes. On each turn, learners draw and play cards that give them a basic framework for what to write, including the scene’s goals, their character’s motivations, and their character’s strengths. While they wait for other learners to write, learners can write a “flashback” scene where they might further develop or explain their character’s background, their relationships with other characters, or other elements of the story. Teachers can access the platform for free for a 30-day trial period, and subscriptions start at $10 per month (billed annually).
Before your learners get to writing, you’ll need to do some thinking. Step one is to create a storyworld and select cards for the world’s setting, beginning, and ending as well as the successes and setbacks learners will face. Step two is to create a scenario that broadly outlines the story arc learners will follow. It might take an hour or more to set it all up, but there are lots of resources to help you get started. Take a spin through the setup videos and PDFs included on the developer’s website. There’s detailed guidance for setting things up, plus there are ideas for using StoriumEdu for ELA, social studies, project-based learning, social-emotional learning, and more.
Perhaps most importantly, consider how you’ll structure class time with StoriumEdu. The on-screen prompts during gameplay make it pretty easy for learners to get started and know what to do next, but keeping learners engaged while other learners take turns may be tricky. Some learners will inevitably write faster than others, so encourage your speedy players to take advantage of the “flashback” feature and write more about their character or the setting while they wait for their next turn. Consider having learners take turns together or brainstorm in pairs to help move gameplay forward and keep learners motivated and engaged.
This platform hits a rare and fascinating sweet spot between free and constrained writing. The familiar card-based game mechanics help make writing approachable and offer just enough structure. Between the on-screen prompts and game cards, learners see a clear purpose to their writing, freeing them from potential writer’s block and usefully challenging them to develop their characters and push the story in interesting new directions. Students will be building core writing skills, working with their peers collaboratively, and also having fun imagining their character and seeing where their story goes. The addition of “flashbacks” is also a smart way to offer an outlet for learners who might otherwise get frustrated by the turn-taking style of writing.
This isn’t a one-size-fits-all experience, though, and that’s a good thing. There are tons of ways for educators to customize their learners‘ experience, and a lot of guidance for how to set up and run the experience, from built-in cards to instructional videos and PDFs. Still, it would help to have more guidance about how to introduce this tool to learners and how to integrate its use into the classroom. Examples of how other educators have used the platform would be a welcome, helpful addition.
The biggest concern with this tool is time, both for setup and gameplay. It may take an hour or more for educators to customize their storyworld and scenario, and it may be challenging to structure class time, as some learners write much more quickly than others. Teachers will need to consider how StoriumEdu aligns with their classroom’s learning objectives and then craft the scenario and its instructions to match. Teachers might also indicate how — and how much — learners should write.
Overall User Consensus About the App
Students customize a character and take the lead on storytelling. The well-designed interface makes it easy to play and dive into the story.
Curriculum and Instruction
Clever game mechanics help make meaningfully focus and inspire writing. The cards and scenarios offer just the right amount of scaffolding. Collaboration is the cherry on top.