Bringing Stories to Life – Digitally!

ds tools

Last week, I spent the majority of my #etmooc time trying new digital storytelling tools (GIFs, Flip Books, Visual Poetry5 Card Flickr) and posting about my explorations and learnings. This week, I wanted to hold off testing more tools (PopcornMaker, Inklewriter & Stop Motion are high on my list!) so I could take time to reflect on the concept of digital storytelling and consider the value of it in the classroom.

Over the past few years, as I’ve learned of new tools and experimented with ways to engage children and adult learners in digital storytelling, I have been impressed with the depth of expression I have seen. Digital storytelling seems to break down barriers (e.g., fears, time concerns, language) that often prevent people from engaging in tech use. Once people see how easy a tool like Voicethread or Storybird can be to use, they are excited to tell their own stories and to collaborate with others in creating.

I think our motivation for connectedness and the inherently personal nature of stories is why I find digital storytelling so powerful. Everyone has a story to tell and I love providing my students and teachers with tools to bring those stories to life.

Last week, when I was experimenting with different tools, I was caught up in the excitement and natural engagement that comes from active learning and discovery and the knowledge that I had the power to create and share something with the world. It’s empowering to have that “I can do this” moment and to be able to add a new tool to your toolbox, one that is fun to use and allows you to convey a story in just the right way (whether that’s through visuals, audio, text, or some combination).  I want all of my students to have those moments and realize that there is a large array of tools they can use to share their stories and they don’t all have to choose the same one.

As I thought about my explorations last week, I realized that another important factor motivating me to create and share was the knowledge that I was part of a community that was listening. I had an authentic audience that was waiting for stories just like mine and I was able to visit that community at any point to ask questions, find support, and learn from the stories everyone else was telling. I want to reflect more on the how valuable it is for our students to know they have an online community who is listening to them and willing to read their work and hear their stories. How can we cultivate that community for and with them? Certainly sites like Edmodo and hashtags like #Comments4Kids help but how can we ensure that our students aren’t sending meaningful projects and stories out into a silent and empty online space?

The benefits of incorporating digital storytelling in the classroom seem clear to me:

  • Learn how to communicate/tell stories through different media (e.g., video, dictation, writing, pictures)
  • Examine the value of different types of stories and storytelling methods (e.g., poetry, short stories, six word stories, picture stories)
  • Build an understanding of technology as a tool to create and tell stories
  • Provide opportunities for students to collaborate on stories
  • Explore the ability to tell the same story in a variety of ways
  • Identify ways that culture and context can affect a story and ways of telling a story
  • Practice creating stories to teach an idea or new concept to others
  • Gain comfort using, mixing, and re-mixing content and digital tools to create stories

I’m sure there are more but these seem like some of the core skills and understandings that can be acquired by incorporating digital storytelling in the classroom. They connect with the 21st Century Skills of communication and collaboration, creativity and innovation, and critical thinking. These are also skills that will be valuable as students grow older and need to tell stories on college applications or to their employers. When you pitch a new product or propose a new scientific investigation, aren’t you telling a story? The more I think about it, the more invaluable (digital) storytelling seems to become given how much of our lives we spend telling stories, in one form or another.

With that in mind, I want to re-examine my own curriculum and consider how digital stories are already being incorporated and if there are more/better ways to integrate them into our classrooms. We have already created a number of digital stories this year but I want to keep pushing myself and my students’ to continue discovering, experimenting with, creating, and sharing digital stories. How are you using digital storytelling in education? 

Elmo Loves You - A Valentine Digital Story

A Digital Valentine Story

Image Credit: Sesame Street

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9 responses to “Bringing Stories to Life – Digitally!

  1. Margaret:

    such great thinking here. And I am really struck by your ideas about having the community that’s listening, and responding to what you’re putting out there. I know that the #etmooc community has talked a lot about blogging as reflective tool, and just writing for yourself, and getting it out there (if you write it, they will come), but I know our beginning storytellers in our classrooms aren’t quite there yet. I, too, worry about how it feels to be putting a piece out there that you love, and not getting a response. I sometimes think we need to empower/educate the parent/extended family community on how powerful their responses can be for our students. Then, we need to teach our students how they build community with their readers.

    So much to think about. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Such great thinking here. I, too, love the fact that we have an #etmooc community that is listening, and responding, and helping us work through these great new ideas. I wonder about how we help our students create their own spaces like that, and help them become active participant in a conversation – not just writing a great post, and then forgetting about it….I also think we need to do a lot of education/sharing/empowering/co-learning with the parent/extended family communities of our classes. They need to understand how powerful it can be to have someone comment (meaningfully) on one’s writing. And then there’s teaching the kids to respond to their readers in a meaningful way…

    much to think about. Thanks for sharing. (will hope my comment posts this time!)

    • The #etmooc community has been powerful and it has really made me consider how I can expose students (especially very young ones like mine) to similar communities while also helping to keep them safe online. I love your connection to the parent/extended family community and I think that’s a group that is often left behind. One of the struggles I have found is how to level the tech literacy among the extended communities of my students. I have seen a number of schools offering tech coffee hours and I think that’s a neat way to invite parents to join their child’s online community by inviting them into the physical school community and helping them to establish a comfort level with responding to blog comments or other posts/creations. What do you think?

      • I love the tech coffee hour idea – although it begs the question of what time of day, and who runs it. Right now, our library/computer lab is open for 1/2 an hour after school, with supervision by an EA or CYW, and some parents do come in for the free web access. I have a HUGE range of access in my building – from families with every gadget known to man (can’t wait ’til the first GoogleGlass wearer walks in the door), to those who have no Internet access at all….so, just getting parents/students to start to check my webpage (which I hope will evolve into a blog) is a first step. My older son’s class blogs, and his teacher was smart enough to put a map on their blog site, so they can see where people are checking in from. My best friend is currently traveling the world, and his classmates are always amazed to see where she is, and they have encouraged their far-flung family to do the same…but they’re a pretty high-end connected bunch.

        One former principal of mine always said “it’s a process, not an event”, and I try to remember that when working through this kind of challenge.

      • Thanks Lisa. The process focus is a great lens to take and I try to keep that in mind, as well and the idea that everyone is on their own tech journey (at their own pace, with their own devices) and it’s important to meet each learner where she or he is at. I have the same concerns about what the when, where, and how of the tech coffee hour and although we have less of a range in tech diversity at my school, it’s still a challenge to get everyone connected to the sites and tools I try to share via my school blog http://www.mpowerstech.edublogs.org Maybe once everyone starts wearing Google Glass it will be easier. ;) Then we can just have people scan something and go right to the class blog/tech site when they walk in the doors of the school!

  3. I love your blog and I love this post. You have synthesized everything we have been learning in the etmooc about digital storytelling so clearly, I’ve booked marked it to share with other teachers in my board. Thank you! It is amazing how powerful that authentic audience is, something to consider every time we assign a learning task that involves product creation to our students.

    • Thanks Lorraine! An authentic audience can make all of the difference when deciding whether and what to post and I hope to keep searching for ways to provide this for my students. I’d love to hear what tips and ideas you find when thinking about this too.

  4. Pingback: The Digital Storytelling Experiement « Solve4Why

  5. Pingback: The Digital Storytelling Experiment « Solve4Why

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