By Chris Drage
Since the pre-BETT taster at the advisers' day organised by 2Simple Software, many education ICT advisors have been eager for the release of 2Create a Superstory, or 2CaSS as it is rapidly becoming known. Was it worth waiting for?
It is described as "a complete tool for personalised multimedia story creation", but if you know any of 2Simple's previous titles you guess that this a massive understatement. Offering easy-to-achieve animation, simple storyboarding and augmented reality among a plethora of other features, 2CaSS is an amalgam of 2Create a Story and 2DIY and will inspire children’s writing through the use of tools and templates incorporating text, drawings, imported images, sound and object animation. It's simply dazzling.
Characters can be brought to life with the use of simple lip synchronisation, but the jewel in the crown is the magical augmented reality template that allows drawings to move across a printed page both on and off screen! More pragmatic teachers will of course value the fact that creations can be saved as Flash (SWF) files to be shared online and embedded within a learning platform. This means children can retell their "super stories" when they get home.
2Simple has not skimped on the genres available for writing: the software offers a massive range of learning opportunities. For example, the Square Book (used to create a traditional story), the Reference Book to introduce children to non-linear writing because the pages can be flipped over in any order by clicking on the tabs at the side (Remember hypertext? Branching stories?).
With Aged and Scroll Books, writing can be displayed with a historical setting while the final pair, Activity Book (create stories which include a simple drag-and-drop element) and the Full Screen Book, offer on-screen books that could be used make a virtual flipbook. That’s not the end of it though. Learners' work can be showcased using slide shows. Endless possibilities await imaginative teachers.
'Achieving animation is a breeze'
Any child used to using 2Simple’s recent releases, like 2DIY for example, will quite quickly become familiar with 2CaSS. Achieving animation is a breeze. Simply drag and drop the object (character etc) on to a page where a faint outline of the shape is presented. Learners create their own designs within these "blocky" shapes – excellent, for it means they have to design their own characters.
Once a character had been designed, children can edit how it behaves on screen. They can drag and drop various animation options – jump, wave, walk, spin, fade away – add a speech bubble and many other effects. For certain types of character there are specific effects, like tail-wagging for an animal, or wheel-turning with a vehicle. Each activity has a maximum of 20 pages, therefore allowing plenty of scope for detailed work to be produced and several of the templates permit character movement within each page. Simply dragging the desired effect on to the 10-step timeline below the character determines how it is to be used and for how long.
Anyone familiar with digital video editing will immediately recognise this as a timeline. This is a laudable approach as it not only helps children manage a sequencing exercise but also lays foundations for digital video editing and control technology later on. If the process appears too complicated, an easy way to animate and move characters is to use the "auto" template.
Another most useful feature within 2CaSS is the ability to add "actionscript" code (similar to 2DIY) so older users can make their activities as simple, or advanced, as they wish. And it will extend 2CASS use beyond the primary classroom.
Children can of course choose to import an image (a digital photograph for example), and there's a useful selection of image enhancement tools to edit it with – thus encouraging children to experiment and make their own choices. However, one of the new technologies seen at BETT 2010 was "Augmented Reality" (there was even "Mixed Reality" on the Smart Technologies stand!) and 2Simple has been quick to offer an Augmented Reality feature as standard within 2CASS (see TrueTube video below of Max Wainewright demonstrating AR in a 'beta' version of the program below).
Without going into huge detail here, how do you think your charges would react when they see one of their printed pages placed under a visualiser and the resulting image, projected on to a screen or interactive whiteboard to reveal the animations happening on the page before their very eyes! Clever or what?
2Create a Superstory now makes it even easier for children and teachers to create their own animated and interactive storybooks for uploading online – perhaps on to a school website or class blog page.
2Create a Superstory is extremely versatile, yet still simple to use. Its many templates will allow it to be used effectively across the curriculum, and the ability to control actionscript within activities will allow more advanced work from secondary pupils as well. The opportunities for linking activities across the curriculum are vast, and teachers too can easily use the software for creating learning resources and teaching tools.
Its intuitive interface makes it easily accessible for younger children yet at the same time its open-ended, flexible nature will make it a powerful tool for older children and adults alike to create their own dazzling interactive books to publish online. In short, another outright winner from 2Simple Software. This is one resource schools cannot afford to ignore.
Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose 5
Ease of use 5
Value for money 5
2Create a Superstory
Software for multimedia story productions, capable of handling all digital media with a wide range of applications and techniques, even 'augmented reality'. Single user £59 or school site licence £399.
See the 2CASS blog for ideas