BY KEVIN HODGSON

If you watched the Super Bowl on television this year, you no doubt caught the Google commercial that told of a love story entirely through search queries. The ad, known as Parisian Love, was effective and I know I wondered — from a writing and teaching perspective — how it could be replicated. A complicated method of screencasting seemed to be the only thing I could think of, and that would be too cumbersome for most of us, including me. But Google has now made it simple to duplicate its efforts. The company launched a site called Google Search Story, which is an online digital story tool that allows users to create a shortened version of what we saw on the Parisian Love commercial.

In Search Story, users have seven lines to add in a few words of a search, and then they choose options for what kind of search they want to show in the video. Should it be an image search? Web search? Perhaps it’s a book that should be connected to the query? A blog post? Users review what will show up in the video in the preview windown, and then, when ready, they can move to the next page to choose a soundtrack (sadly, the music is limited to only a few preset options). Another step forward in the process and users create the video, which can be uploaded directly to YouTube for sharing and embedding into other websites (which is where some teachers may run into trouble, but there are plenty of places online now where you can download or pirate filter-safe versions of YouTube videos).

Use in the classroom

One thing a lot of young writers struggle with is how to find focus in a short amount of writing space. This tool could be a fun and engaging way for writers to understand the nature of brevity of story and use of media. With just seven lines of search (and a limited number of characters for each query), a writer must get to the point in a short amount of time and still tell an interesting story. The most effective Search Stories tell without showing, or they have a “kicker” at the end that makes you reconsider all that has come before.

Any teacher who uses this tool should remind students that Google is a corporation, and while this digital story site is free to use, it is also no doubt designed to get more people to use Google, which helps it sell more advertising, which makes it more money. In other words, be open and transparent about Google’s intentions, and then use the tool as a learning device. If the idea of students work going to YouTube raises concerns, one alternative idea is to have students go through the process at Search Story, but not upload the video to YouTube. Instead, they could have a gallery walk of stories for the classroom.

Google Search Story

Here is a Search Story that I created. I call it A Teacher’s Dilemma

A Google video about the History of Storytelling that leads to announcing Google Search Story Creator

Related stuff:

Making movies with Stopmotion Animator

Tell Your Story with VoiceThread

Make better animated movies with Xtranormal State

Have Mad-Lib fun online with Wacky Web Tales