Tristan Bancks | Australian Children's & Teen Author | Kids' & YA Books: Meet Story Scrapbook Developer Ben Train

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Meet Story Scrapbook Developer Ben Train

Ben Train is a forward-thinking new media developer and advocate of creativity in education. He is responsible for programming Story Scrapbook, our free multimedia story brainstorming tool. Here he gives insight into the motivation behind Story Scrapbook and his hopes for the future of education.

How would you describe what you do for a living?
In my day job I am an Interactive Media Developer for an educational publisher. In this role I am responsible for finding ways to bring existing paper-based material into the digital world and also the development of brand new interactive education apps utilising the latest technologies.

Why did you want to develop the Story Scrapbook app?
I have always been interested in using technology as a creative tool. I had been working on a simpler app which allowed you to cut out content from a web page and store it on pages. One night you and I had a great brainstorming session about the future of books and how storytelling would evolve over the coming years. Our shared passion for creativity in education led to the idea to initially build a simple app that allowed kids (and adults) to create 'story scrapbooks'. This app would be an extension of the physical vision boards you had been using, a place where kids could bring together ideas and visually brainstorm stories. I think there is a lot of scope to develop Story Scrapbook into a full interactive story telling tool and not just a place for gathering ideas. 

Story Scrapbook in Action in a Recent Teen Workshop
Why did you want to offer the app for free download? Are you crazy?
Ha! One thing that is particularly important to me is removing barriers for people to be creative. Too often one of these barriers is money. Sometimes you can't afford the equipment, the materials or the software. I hate to think of all the great ideas that never saw the light of day because of these barriers.
There is a real movement at the moment towards promoting openness and giving away content. Digital distribution has enabled and, in some cases, forced these new business models and I think this is important and exciting. I believe if you have a good enough idea or product you can use a model which involves giving all or part of it away and still be rewarded financially if that is your motivation. In the case of Story Scrapbook I know, first hand, the struggle to find extra funds in schools for software and, as this product was initially for the school market, it was important that it be available for free.

The latest version of SS allows users to add music, video, images, text and maps
as they develop their story.
What would you love to achieve in your own creative work?
I have always been obsessed with stop-motion animation and have always fiddled around with pieces of my own. I would love to combine my love of this and other traditional arts with new technologies to produce interactive story books. There is so much potential in these new mediums, I really think we are on the cusp of a 'Golden Age' of story telling and I would love to be part of that in some way.

What is your message for kids and teens who might use Story Scrapbook to develop their own stories?
Storytelling is one of the most important aspects of the human experience. I think in the modern media world it is easy to be swamped by sound bites and hollow content. It is more important now than ever to tell good stories and be creative. The place to start to encourage this is with kids and teens. Hopefully SS offers an easy environment in which kids and teens can express themselves and get those creative juices flowing. Often, as adults, we get caught up in our nine-to-fives and we forget how to be creative. Great people like Sir Ken Robinson are leading a movement to bring back an emphasis on creativity in classrooms. This is so important. These guys are solving the challenges we collectively face for the future. But the main thing I would say is, keep telling stories, even if no one ever hears them.

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