Amazon Storybuilder is a cloud-based writing tool from Amazon Studios that can be used to create stories. Amazon Storybuilder uses “notecards” to represent a single beat or event in a story, just as screenwriters have for years used actual physical notecards to represent story beats on corkboards around the world. Storybuilder notecards can include both text and images. You can string individual cards together into a sequence on a virtual “corkboard” to convey a narrative and tell your story. Unlike physical notecards, it is easy to share Storybuilder projects and it is easy to take them wherever you go with your laptop, phone, tablet or Kindle.
Type of Material:
This is a cloud-based app use a metaphor of moving notecards around a corkboard and is designed to help authors organize ideas and plan scenes for screenplays and teleplays. It could also be used to organize the implementation of other media such as Motion Graphics and Animations. It can also be used as a teaching tool for organizing ideas, brainstorming ideas, design thinking, and storyboarding. This tool would be great for digital storytelling or film classes.
Internet connect, web browser, and Amazon Studios account.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
Though the app is designed to help authors organize ideas for screenplays and teleplays, the concept of moving note cards around a corkboard is one that can be expanded to tasks related to design thinking, brainstorming and storyboarding.
Target Student Population:
Multimedia authors. Faculty who incorporate their own multimedia productions in the classroom. College Lower Division, College Upper Division, Graduate School, College General Ed, Professional. Thought the language is targeted at adults, you could use this with high school students quite easily.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Though there is no identified prerequisite, having a project or a story idea before beginning production would help to facilitate usage of the tool.
At the heart of the concept, Amazon Storybuilder seeks to model strong organizational practices within the context of open ideation and composition. It provides examples, so that learners can begin to see how to form their story ideas. These skills are interdisciplinary in nature but primarily incorporated to organize multimedia projects. Amazon Storybuilder does a good job of weaving in the learning outcomes with the procedural steps for outlining a story. Learners can come in with little to no knowledge of the topic, and begin creating quickly and easily.
The app is intuitive, but there is no real guidance as to what to include on the notecards. Should it be the idea? What action should take place? How the action will be developed? All three? (Consider that this app is in beta).
It may be useful to incorporate more primary sources on why the structure of the card templates is such that it is---grounding the practice in data and more real-life examples would help to make the practice of curating ideas a little bit easier.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
Far beyond filmwriting projects, with a well-crafted prompt by instructors, this material could be used anywhere within a course where students are asked to tell a story. It can also be used to develop projects where instructors create their own multimedia objects for their classrooms.
Amazon Storybuilder offers great promise for teachers looking to incorporate digital storytelling principles into their curriculum, and are looking to leverage free technology to help facilitate the steps in the design process.
The app allows for both individual and group work. The ability to work as a group allows instructors to facilitate team building activities and simulate the development of multimedia project in the "real world."
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
Since the format of the corkboard method can be super specific (and wholly unknown to those unfamiliar with scriptwriting), Amazon Storybuilder does a fabulous job of weaving technical requirements in with the effective practices for crafting a story from note cards. The design is attractive, engaging and simple to use.
The user interface is highly intuitive, attractive and easy to use. It integrates the effective practices for crafting a story from note cards.
For those who have never worked on a multimedia project, it can be a bit confusing if the user starts with little guidance and no story treatment. Currently, the interface is limited to episodic TV shows and long format movies This is the type of content produced by the Amazon Video service. This would be a better product if other types of media where integrated as a choice such as podcasts, motion graphics and animations. Adding this categories would make the app more useful.
Since there is a limited amount of space on the cards, the user has to quickly learn how to expand cards to read them fully. This is not immediately intuitive, which stands out in an interface that, otherwise, is wholly intuitive. If you could hover over a card to read the expanded text, that would work much better.
Other Issues and Comments:
Amazon Storybuilder is currently in beta and funnels users to submit their works to Amazon programming. While users own all rights to their works, this may be a concern to some looking to use this product.
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