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A review of Into Film Storymaker: The Gruffalo Edition app

As an avid reader and a children’s literature enthusiast, I would be eternally miserable if I knew kids of today were no longer interested in books. However, the new digital era of storytelling and literacy is upon us and, I have to admit, it’s pretty cool. It may (potentially) be better than the print book. In January 2016, Into Film and Made in Me launched their interactive literacy-focused iPad app, designed with both independent and adult-led work in mind. Based on the enchanting and well-loved book and animated movie “The Gruffalo”, the new Into Film Storymaker: The Gruffalo Edition app really made me think twice about holding onto all my books. The teaching resource delivers more than any book can, as it enables students to develop their reading, writing, speaking, listening and technical skills by interacting with popular fictional character The Gruffalo.

Based in London, BAFTA nominated Made in Me are a creative studio who are interested in inspiring the next generation with playful, creative and memorable interactive experiences in storytelling. Made in Me were approached by Into Film, a charity dedicated to championing film and film-making in schools, to create an app that would introduce younger children to the storytelling possibilities of using film and video in the classroom. Developed in partnership with Magic Light Pictures the makers of the animated Gruffalo and Stick Man short films, the app features key scenes from The Gruffalo film.

Aimed at key stage 1, the Gruffalo Edition app can be used by teachers and parents at home once the log in has been created at school. It enables children to use nine different clips from the movie and move these around to create their own plot line. They can change the narration to their own voice and script, make sound effects and edit the plot over and over again. Whilst using this app, children will develop their reading, speaking and listening skills. This inventive app enables children to open up their imagination and realise that storytelling is not just in one format. It shows children that storytelling can be adapted over many different media platforms. The app keeps children intrigued and allows them to understand that storytelling is not fixed to pen and paper but can be a creative, interactive adventure with sound and images. The key stage 1’s are growing up in an environment where books no longer stay just on paper but are adapted into many different formats. Although key stage 1 students are unlikely to have future career goals at this point (aside from a few astronauts!), this app inspires budding filmmakers of the future and encourages imagination and creativity.

Along with the Gruffalo Edition app, my favourite developments by Made in Me include The Amazing Adventures of Millie Moreorless, an iPad game to help children with Down’s Syndrome grasp fundamental maths concepts and Made in Me’s interactive app The Land of Me, a collaboration with Ladybird Books and launched as a desktop game for Mac and PC in 2009. The Land of Me teaches as the child reads and allows children to create their own story over six chapters; constructing their own fantasy world while nurturing their imagination. Not only does this programme teach children about storytelling, but it also shows children how to interact with animals. There is even the option to print off activity sheets to continue learning off screen.

The Gruffalo Edition app not only explores reading and writing, but also science, art and design, music and computing. The cross-curricular activities mean that although the children are having fun and “playing” with an app, they are learning around their curriculum, whilst being stimulated by different learning techniques. Made in Me are known for their ability to create apps that appeal not just to children who find it easy to learn and enjoy classroom based lessons, but peak the curiosity of children of all capabilities and learning styles. The printable activity sheets and technical guidance to support most effective use of the app also mean that teachers can plan lessons around the app. The app is not only a one-time game, but an app that can be used for many different lessons and lasts as long as the children’s imagination.

The Gruffalo Edition app creates a much more independent learning style with the child in control of how they want the story to develop, which keeps children with shorter attention spans hooked. The app enables children to develop a wild imagination and encourages them to make their own decisions. Made in Me have created one of the most versatile app’s for school that uses a popular, loveable character to inspire imagination and to show that storytelling is not fixed on a page.

Emma Rowland is currently studying for a BA (Hons) English degree at Bournemouth University and loves creative writing, children’s books and the power of storytelling. She is looking to go into the publishing industry.

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