Monday, 11 June 2012

The nuts and bolts of digital storytelling

Digital Storytelling is a hugely worthwhile activity to use in your classroom.  I have discussed the benefits and some resources for digital storytelling. Beyond theory, a practical guide to actually implementing an idea in your classroom is essential, so here it is! I mentioned that planning and preparation are key and I want to share my thoughts about the methods and steps that I have use for digital storytelling.  Before I ventured back into the classroom this year, I worked with 6 different schools, and worked with students and teachers on digital stories.  My process is tested and is based on reflection on my experience.  
A quick note- the benefits of digital storytelling are far reaching.  Working in a second language classroom, visuals are an essential tool for teaching and learning.  Digital storytelling allows second language learners to express imagery, tone and even content.  Students in my class have the advantage of reverting to their first language to clarify their thoughts, but many English Language Learners do not have that luxury.  Imagine the richness!s in communication that an ELL can share and not even speaking the same language!
The procedure that I follow when leading a digital story project are based on Bernajean Porter’s steps and my own experience.  The Digitales steps can be found here:
1.   Write a Script- 
An essential step.  At this stage, teachers and students should write like they normally would, following grade level expectations and writing based on whatever program you have been using.  We have been using Barbara Mariconda’s work called Empowering Writers, which is a student friendly guide to writing.  This step is is worth investing time, to get the best product from your students.
2.  Time to Storyboard!  
This is the most important step!  Take the time and effort with the students to develop the storyboard.  Properly completing this step will make the process much, much easier in the subsequent steps.  You can use any format that you like.  I found the ones on the Digitales Wiki to be student friendly and effective.  At first, I didn’t think the elementary storyboard was especially valuable, but my grade 1 and 2 students took the template and ran with it.  Clearly, the Digitales team did some user testing, because they work well for students.  
Now that the hard work is done, it’s time to create.  The Digitales resources suggests five more steps, but I think this is where the path diverges according to what you choose to create.
 3.  Collect your media
  • Take digital photos 
  • Select photos from past events
  • Collect images from the web
  • Produce other images like illustrations or clay representations
  • record or download sounds needed
  • record or download music needed
 4.  Build the story digitally.
You can use whatever program is available to you and your students.  Software and online tools all have advantages and disadvantages.  Take the time to experiment before you set your students at it. Here are a couple of programs that I have tried.
Microsoft Photostory-- a free download from Microsoft.  This program is very simple, and guides the user step-by-step through images upload to voiceover and conversion to a video file.  The downfall is the simplicity, as it can limit the user and does not accommodate video. 
Moviemaker for Windows- Usually on most standard Windows based machines, the user can mix photos, video, sound and music to weave their story.  This program can be very glitchy and can cause a level of frustration with students and teachers. 
iMovie- A great program if you are fortunate enough to have access to Apple machines.  
 5.  Add your voice over.
The voice of the creator brings the magic to the digital story.  Encourage your storytellers to develop the voice in their writing, and their physical voice in telling their story. 
6.  Add music, sounds, text and effects to enhance the story.
7.  Edit.
8.  Produce the final cut.
Now it is time to share the stories!  The creations that come out will be beautiful insights into the souls of your students.  They will burst with pride at their work.  Celebrate and share the stories within the classroom,and share the stories out within the school, to parents and within reason, share the stories out to the world.

1 comment:

  1. Isn't it helpful to have a solid procedure you can follow when teaching digital storytelling to your students? Now, if you want to take this to the next level, I've got the mother of all digital storytelling sites for you ( This amazing collection of ideas and tools was pulled together by Alan Levine (a.k.a. @CogDog), and he has been around the world sharing these wonderful ideas. On the site, you'll also see a number of presentations he has made on the topic. Great stuff to add to your collection!

    Thanks for sharing this, Theresa.