Jeff Mao Education podcast with FamilyBookform

Jeff Mao Education podcast with FamilyBookform

20 May 2020 Life Writing Autiobiography Memoir Collaboration

Jeff Mao interviews Carey Furze, FamilyBookform Founder - Listen to 45 min podcast

Excerpt from the interview...

And from an academic perspective, what’s to be gained through these stories? Through these interviews? 

Schools have been getting students to interview their grandparents or someone special in their life for decades, we all know the huge cross-curricular & social-emotional benefits from doing this, but usually the process is quite amateurish - kids handwrite & maybe draw or glue pictures onto a big piece of cardboard - which is hard to share & not valuable for long. So I wanted to automate the whole process, for the teacher, the students and the families, to make it more of a 21st century activity, using technology as a tool, so students can achieve more than they traditionally could by themselves, and create a polished end product that teachers can give feedback & a grade, student’s can include in their portfolios for reflection & proof of learning, and books have longevity and value to the families.

If I’m a middle or high school teacher what are some ways to structure a story telling project? How might I use story telling — and particularly through engaging with my grandparents or parents, aunts and uncles — to explore and better understand something? So, what might this look like in English or history? Is there something here for the science teacher? 

It’s probably best to use a recent example of a project at the Champagnat Catholic Boys High School in Sydney. The Director of Teaching and Learning there, Melissa Carson, said they had identified a lower than usual literacy level in their Year 7 cohort, they wanted to address this and try to improve the family engagement at the school as well. They used my tech for their English ‘Life Writing’ unit, where students had to write a biography or autobiography. Instead of students writing onto a blank page, which is difficult for anyone, they used the FamilyBookform template page to either speak their story or interview others, using the speech-to-text, and they could invite other family members to contribute content directly into their book too. Some students had relatives that spoke other languages, and this usually limited their conversations, so the student could collect the story in their native tongue & use technology-as-a-tool to translate & transcribe directly into their book. Families told me at the book presentation ceremony that they were hearing stories from grandparents that no one had ever heard before, and that was truly wonderful, especially since it had been saved.

The FamilyBookform dashboard provides all the scaffolding needed & video explainers, so the teachers don’t need to give constant instructions or explain how to do it. Similar to any online game students play nowadays, the instructions are built in. Students can work independently, follow the question prompts or make up their own questions. They could differentiate by using the speech to text or just free writing. Students of various abilities could rely more or less on their family’s help & contributions to their book. So the students were able to work asynchronous & at their own pace to collect a lot of content that they could present in the classroom lessons.

In the class lessons, sort of like a modern day ‘show and tell’ the students could take turns to play some of their audio files. Not everyone has grandparents or extended family, so this was an opportunity for everyone to enjoy authentic voice story-telling and hear real migration stories or escape from war-torn countries or recovery from a tragedy or even a success. 

So if this is a literacy lesson, the teacher can focus the student's attention on collaboratively editing the text. The class can discuss the difference between oral stories & written stories. And character development. 

Or in History, it’s authentic original content related to migration or conflict or people’s lives from different eras. 

Or in Science, it’s ‘primary source’ original content, for a research project.

Students can’t copy & paste this information from the internet, it doesn’t exist. And they are connected to their content, so therefore more interested to make it a polished end product that they are proud to gift to their families and their families would treasure.

So as a teacher, you don’t need to try to motivate your students, they’ve got their whole family doing that. You’ve outsourced the motivation back onto the families.

Example uses:

  • Collaborative Class book: COVID-19 & Me Automatically collect student's contributions into a book.
  • Student's Collaborative book: My Favorite Recipes Students automatically collect recipes & the stories about why that food is special, with photos.
  • Family Book: Granddad's Memoir Students interview family/others, using speech-to-text & collaboration to create an original personal book.

More case studies, testimonials, lesson plans and video explainers:


Collate your stories
  • Q&A templates to guide
  • Voice-to-text instantly into your book
  • Collaborate to build a book together