The artwork also helps students who may be intimidated by composing a story from scratch - just direct them to tell the story they see in the illustrations. This gives them a starting point and a visual to work from. I think that this could be very helpful in jump-starting the writing process for English learner students who may be more reliant on the visual stimulation to get started.
With a free educator account, teachers can create a class and assign projects to students. Student work can be collected in a classroom library for browsing by classmates (this is in some ways the most exciting thing about digital storytelling - the ability to easily share our stories with others via the web).
The one caveat of Storybird is that you cannot print your stories easily (or, better said, freely). If you don't mind paying a small fee, you can download a pdf version of your story, or have your story printed and bound into an actual book (which could also be very exciting for students).
Storybird stories can be shared electronically for free, however. See my sample Storybird story embedded here:
This is an excellent option for students who don't need extra visual support to start composing. I would suggest using a storyboard worksheet of some sort to help students plan out their stories before working on the site to add illustrations and publish their work.
Teachers can create a free account, add students to their class, and assign and review student work. StoryJumper also provides a StoryStarter Workbook, which walks students through the 7 main elements of a short story using their StoryStarter Worksheet. This can be very helpful in a busy classroom and gives both the students and teacher a concrete instructional tool from which to work.
StoryJumper allows you to print a low-resolution copy of a story for free. If you want a high-resolution digital version or you want the story in hard-cover book format, you must pay. You can share via social media sites for free.
Students can also narrate their stories by using the voice-recording feature that is built into the site. This is the only site that allows students to build-in narrated recordings and could be very useful for English learner students who need to practice pronunciation and fluency. From my own teaching experience, having students record and narrate their own writing can be a very powerful language learning tool.
Teachers have the option of a free account, or upgrading to a premium account that will give them access to gallery sharing, adding personalized instructions on assignments, and free mp4 downloads. Students use a school code to access the site. Once teachers are associated with a school, they can create lessons and assignments using the site.
Little Bird Tales is also available as an iPhone or iPad app. If you have iPads in your classroom, you could have students take pictures with the iPad, and then use those pictures to illustrate their stories.
There is no log in required to start a story - you simply click 'Begin'. Students can print a pdf version of their story, or copy down a "magic code" to come back to the site later and view the story online. This is by far the simplest of the digital storytelling tools on the web today.
Hopefully these tools inspire you and your students to start telling stories! Please share in the comments how you used them.