What is Digital Storytelling? | What is the Educational Value? | Click Here to See Some Examples | What Tools are Available? | Tips and Tools for Developing Projects | | Evaluating Digital Stories | Sharing Stories | | |

What is Digital Storytelling?

Storytelling is perhaps our oldest means of communication. As language developed, so did the basic need to capture and consider the human experience through story. With the recent technological explosion, we now have access to digital tools that allow us to share experience in ways like never before. No longer does it require years of experience in audio and video or graphic design to bring a story to life with multi-media. Today’s tools are easy to use and accessible to everyone with an internet connection.

In short, Digital Storytelling is using a variety of media (sound, image, video and graphics) to tell a story. That stated, it is important to clarify the word “story” as it applies here. In this context, "story" refers to assembling multimedia content with a unified purpose. It is crucial for the creator to keep this purpose in mind in planning, design and delivery of this story. Also, like all good stories, a clear beginning, middle and end are essential, and usually some sort of problem, conflict or underlying issue to help fuel the stories purpose.

What is the Educational Value?

As educators, we understand the power of storytelling to help students connect to a difficult concept or idea. We also know the significance of audio and visual media in engaging today’s “digital natives.” Digital storytelling brings these two tools together as a powerful, 21st century learning resource.

  • Teacher designed media can help students connect content by customizing stories to highlight specific curricular areas. These can also be put on the internet via teachertube, school website or wiki, so students can access them anywhere, anytime.

  • Student designed stories might take the place of the written reports to give material new life through authentic and original projects. Using images, narration and graphics, students are forced to show a rigorous and thorough understanding of a concept or idea.

Click Here to See Some Examples

What Tools are Available?

(Of course there are MANY available, but these six are great places to start and classroom tested!)

Photostory allows you to create a slideshow of still images incorporating narratino, music and text. This software is very user friendly and somewhat customizeable as far as effects go, although anyone with video editing skills may find it a bit limited. Photostory is a great tool for students to use for project based learning and anywhere information has traditionally been presented in a report format. Photostory is installed on many computers (check your programs) and is available for free download here.

Animotois a free online tool that can incorporate still images, video, text and music into a highly engaging video format. As an educator, you can visit http://animoto.com/education to apply for a passcode to give students unlimited full length videos. Otherwise, it limits length to 30 seconds unless you pay.
Get some tips and read more about Animoto on **my blog**.
moviemaker.pngWindows Movie Maker
A very user friendly video editing software that can incorporate video, still images, text and video effects to create a movie. A little more customizable as far as text and video effects go. MovieMaker is installed on many computers (check your programs) and is available for free download here.

What's the difference between the above three video creation programs?

  • can include NARRATION,
  • unlimited TEXT (but be cautions of too much!)
  • Allows only for STILL PICTURES
  • Newest version is NOT compatable to what we have at school, so beware if students work at home
  • Flashier transitions than photostory
  • Online hosting of projects
  • Can incorporate still and video images
  • Includes a good database of photos and copyright free music
  • Does not allow for narration
  • Allows for very limited text per slide (which can be a good thing)
  • limited to 30 second videos, unless you request an access code for education
Movie Maker
  • Can incorporate still images and video
  • A bit more difficult to use

Audacity is a basic audio recording software that records and mixes narration, music and/or sound effects to create podcasts. Audacity is installed on many computers (check your programs) and is available for free download here.
powerpoint.pngPower Point
Not so much a “story” tool when used to project bulleted points and static images ( avoid "death by powerpoint"), but when embedded with images, video and audio, and developed with “story” focus, PowerPoint can be used to produce rather sophisticated projects.
Dipity is an online, digital timeline creator. You can embed images, video, audio and use text to lay out a story in a timeline format. Dipity is also a web 2.0 tool, so you can share your timeline.

Want more? Check out http://cogdogroo.wikispaces.com/StoryTools for 50+ tools to tell a digital story!

Tips and Tools for Developing Projects

  • A good place to start designing a class project is with any past assessment where students traditionally created a written report. Think of a digital story as a multi-media "report" that goes beyond just text to includes combinations of images, video, narration, music and text to show understanding.
  • Start with the end in mind...what curricular objectives do you want students to demonstrate?
  • Decide which tool would work the best (see below) or offer students choices.
  • Design a rubric, perhaps even involve students in this process (see tips below or sample rubrics here)
  • Give class time for RESEARCH before students begin using the programs to put together video. This time can be spent gathering, summarizing and organizing information, collecting images, and writing a script if narration is required. Image collection at school can be difficult because of the filter. Large, high resolution pictures work the best. Students can bring in images on a flashdrive from home or use the following sites:

  • Have students use a STORYBOARD to organize and plan their video
  • Frequently emphasize the need to CREATE SOMETHING WITH A PURPOSE. Make sure students know the purpose and audience for their project. This will help them create meaninful, focused, original stories instead of just random slideshows with cool pictures and music (which doesn't take much thought).
  • Provide time for students to watch a "draft" of their story and make necessary revisions...just like any written assignment. Peer reviews work well with this because it gives them the opportunity to see how others approached the assignment. To many video projects (and written assignments for that matter) are turned in without the creator ever even reviewing the final copy.
  • Share projects to give them a genuine audience! A great way to do this is to post them to a wiki and have students watch peer projects and nominate videos for "academy awards" specific categories. Perhaps even use Google docs or Survey Monkey to create an online nomination form.

There are student resources, tips and tech help for video projects on my webpage:

Evaluating Digital Stories

“How do I grade something like this?” No doubt, this is a crucial and somewhat challenging task in developing a digital story project. It is not so much the actual act of grading, because these can be much more engaging to view than a traditional typed report, but defining exactly what to assess and how to quantify it that can be a challenge. Click here for some rubrics examples and templates or read on below for some tips on assesment of video projects.

The Criteria Conundrum

Good assessments are tied to curricular objectives, but some project criteria is often NOT relative to curriculum. For example criteria like length, number of images, video quality, technical effectiveness, meeting deadlines etc. is certainly nowhere to be found in most curriculums. Many of us feel we need to “give” these points out because they are easily quantifiable …for example points might be given for “including at least 10 images.” A suggestion is to give a grade for meeting project criteria, but not automatic points . Instead, try giving three values—does not meet project criteria, meets project criteria and exceeds project criteria. That way, students are pushed to take it beyond what is expected to achieve an “A”. That way too, all non-curriculuar criteria can be handled under one category.

In short, good digital story projects ask students to: “Apply content knowledge to create something with a purpose.”
If that’s not a rigorous objective, I don’t know what is! In keeping this in mind as you decide what to assess, it might be useful to pull out the following rubric categories from this objective:

  • Content—this now becomes multi-dimensional as students demonstrate understanding and present information through not only text, but pictures, video, audio and graphics. Is their information thorough and accurate? Are they addressing content specifics as outlined in the criteria?

  • Application—are students using the dimensions mentioned above to show a deep understanding and connection to their subject? Are they finding and demonstrating relevance? For example, are the images random, or are they selected and organized with clear intent in relation to the content and purpose? Does the script simply dictate facts, or is there a clear attempt at using factual information to make clear connections, provide relevant examples, and show a deep understanding?

  • Creativity and Originality—definitely related to application, this category can help assess how well a student can use their content knowledge and the tools at hand to create something original. With multimedia projects, we no longer need to deal with copied and pasted Wikipedia articles, but we do need to emphasize creativity. Facts and information is readily available…the question is, what can students do with it to show ownership? Reading a Wikipedia article over a slideshow of images does not show much creativity, but a well thought out script, woven together with original photos, video, interviews, testimonies, etc. creates something truly original and shows a high level of understanding and application.

  • Effectiveness—Again the significance of purpose…how well does the final project establish its purpose and reach the intended audience? Content and organization come into play here as does more technical components like sound, image quality, music, graphics, etc. Some may argue that technical components do not relate to curriculum, but when grading writing, how important is it for students to clearly express their ideas and facts…VERY. When using technology to convey information, sight, sound and experience become the vehicle, and if the vehicle is not effective, it doesn’t get you there.

  • Process—it’s not obvious in the stated objective, but process is a crucial component of these types of projects. This might include things like research, evaluating sources, organizing of content (see storyboarding handout), managing time, working effectively as a group, and revising and evaluating work.

Of course, the problem with quantifying the above is that they are inevitably a bit subjective and sometimes, you might not know an “A” project until you actually see one. Some students will express frustration and demand to know “what you want” or “what do I have to do to get an A.” It will help to develop a description of each category, perhaps even WITH your students, review it with students and perhaps even show them examples of “A” work so they understand what can be done with the project. Creativity is, according to many 21st century educators, the peak of higher order thinking, so it is supposed to be a challenge for students!

Sharing Stories

Stories need to be shared and student multimedia projects need a genuine audience beyond just the teacher. Sometimes there is time available for students to present to the class, but often times, especially with individual projects, it is impossible to find enough time to allow for all to share.

One way to give an authentic audience without having all students present is to post stories to a wiki or other online resource where students can view projects from home and perhaps evaluate and discuss each other’s work. Using a genuine audience helps students find relevance in their work and helps the teacher as well as the student evaluate its effectiveness. Stories could even be used to teach and enrich concepts beyond what is possible in the classroom and perhaps even shared with students in other classes, disciplines, districts, and even continents!