Digital storytelling is a way to express the true personal experience of something, amplified through the use of technology: The expression can be made adding music, voice, digital photos, animation, graphics, video, and more to the story. Digital stores can be made using PowerPoint, windows media player, animation software, or even special digital storytelling software such as Photo Story 3. The common denominator is that they tell the story from the perspective of the storyteller and they use technology to share the message. Digital stories are increasingly becoming popular in the K-12 classrooms. What are the advantages and disadvantages of digital storytelling for the educator? And why should instructors have their students express themselves through these means?
Well, advantages are that instructors can make students use their multiple intelligences: they can think, sense, create, feel, express. Students get to quest for and collect information, images, text, sound, etc. and piece together to a meaningful video that they can show to their peers, family, and friends giving them a real sense of pride in their accomplishment and – it also helps them become better communicators. Further, the digital story is something lasting. It can also be re-purposed in future projects and portfolios. And, it provides a way for students to learn multiple technologies while harnessing individual students’ interests.
Instructors using digital storytelling can take on the role as a facilitator in the process. They can step in to guide with the technology and ask questions that may spur further ideas with the students without having to show students a right or wrong way to do a project. Digital storytelling is a learning experience that is both flexible (can cover many subjects), scalable, and provides opportunities for differentiation. Topics can be varied and also applied to the level at which the individual learner is at.
Digital storytelling also teaches students to collaborate if used as group projects. Students may take on roles and learn to approach problems from different angles and perspectives. Outside of school, in the work environment, it is important to understand the roles different people have. In team efforts, where students get to alternate roles, they learn what is appropriate and how to make the team move forward together as a group. If a project is to be successful, everyone needs to help out. In today’s fast paced real work environment there are no promotion opportunities for those who do not help out and work for the interest of the group.
A disadvantage with digital storytelling, as I see it, may be that instructors are unable to handle the available technology or do not have access to classroom computers, hardware, software, or labs. There may also be those that have never heard of digital storytelling and its many advantages.
In the past, instructors have mostly been lecturers, spoon-feeding students with information to digest. Project based learning and connectivism calls for a facilitator role where the instructor steps back and lets the student take ownership of the learning only stepping in as needed to guide a student back on track and, of course, helps with the use of technology as needed. The facilitator role may be new to many instructors. The students get to explore and learn through experience which may be a more lasting way of learning than the spoon-feeding/digesting way of learning.
Today virtual environments provide opportunities to utilize virtual environments for digital storytelling. Using Webquests in a virtual environment is one way to engage students in a new and immersive way: Mysterious sightings have been made at the island of Caleidon…” Instructors send students out to look for certain elements for them to report back with images, narrative, and more. This is a great way to engage learners and lead learning through exploration. There is a group in Second Life called ‘Stories without Borders’ engaging in digital storytelling in-world. Webquests can be very powerful for educational purposes. The key words here is immersion and learning goals. In a virtual environment you experience and explore. In itself visiting a virtual environment is not immersive and you can easily become lost, but with a well defined learning goal – a quest to find something – the experience becomes more memorable than one where you just browse pages on the web looking for static information. A memorable moment is one that we can more easily recall from long-term memory, which clearly points to the value of this type of learning.
Being able and willing to learn new technology is a requirement if you wish to engage in digital stories. K-12 students today learn technology incredibly fast. I follow K-12 educators on Twitter that use blogs with their students in the classroom and read how students comment on each others’ blogs, add virtual pets, and change page designs effortlessly, and even write in their blogs outside of the classroom. They simply enjoy it so immensely. Adult educators have a harder time learning all this new technology that so rapidly is developed. We have to learn though, because the generation growing up is not going to stop using these social tools. Since my degree is in “Teaching and Learning with Technology” and my ambition is to become an Instructional Designer, I am following along with technology – at times frustrated with the pace and the many new tools available that I have yet to learn. However, as I graduate and make my career change, I will use digital storytelling as a powerful tool helping faculty create instructional design for the digital age learners to help students express themselves, communicate, and increase memory retention.
Example of voice narrated Digital Story by Howard Gregory, Boise State University graduate student.
– – – – –
How to use PhotoStory3 for Digital Storytelling
As presented at TxDLA March24th, 2010
Annotated bibliography of digital storytelling research papers and resources by Jenny Wakefield March 2010.
Digital Storytelling Quick reference brochure
Brochure handout for digital storytelling presentation in Houston during The Annual Texas Distance Learning Association Conference March 24th, 2010. Open brochure in a separate window.
* * *
Digital Storytelling – Frameworks for Reflective Thinking
Ideas for selecting digital storytelling topics
As presented at TxDLA, March 24th, 2010
Execellent links for digital Storytellers
Copyright and Fair Use Guidelines for Teachers:
Copyrights – UT System Crash course:
Jakes. D – PhotoStory3 Tutorials:
Lambert, J. (2010) Digital Storytelling Cookbook: http://www.storycenter.org/cookbook.pdf
Matthews-DeNtalie, G. (2008). Digital Storytelling Tips & Resources:
Microsoft Digital Storytelling Booklet (2010):
Ohio State Digital Storytelling (lots of links, templates, consent forms):
Rubristar (Free rubrics):
Script Template (Ohio State):