Chapter 6, Part 1

Chapter 6:

Digital Storytelling


Teaching is an art that includes storytelling at its core. Stories are an essential part of our nature as humans. Stories are how we pass on our history, our culture, and our heritage. The brain does not remember isolated facts, but makes connections with other ideas, often in the context of stories.

Stories have been around longer than recorded history. Cave paintings that are tens of thousands of years old have been found depicting ideas that were important to the ancient people who made them. This was before written speech, so the stories used drawings. It is right that it is so. Whereas storytelling is the vehicle by which history is passed down, art is often the language. Art is a universal language that is accessible to anyone at its most basic level. Combining the language of art with the medium of storytelling can be incredibly powerful.

That is the goal of digital storytelling. It combines art, in the form of pictures, drawings, and/or videos, with the medium of storytelling, in the form of text, narration, and/or music. It generally assumes publication because a story needs an audience to fulfill its purpose. There are many tools to accomplish this in very different ways, but they all subscribe to this basic, underlying idea.

The instructional implications of digital storytelling can be vast. Every content uses stories. It is obvious in Language Arts, where the curriculum is often built around reading different types of stories, but storytelling pervades all content areas. Social studies looks at stories of humanity. Science looks at stories of how people can interact with, understand, and manipulate nature. Math is often about processes and how to handle abstract concepts; stories help students to understand and internalize those processes. Art and music tell stories, even though they often do not use words.

Digital storytelling can help students to master content in a variety of ways. For students to write an original story, there has to be a certain level of autonomy. If the teacher guides the students more than is necessary, then it really becomes the teacher’s story more than the students’. One of the pedagogical ideas built into this type of assignment is social constructivism. Students are creating or discovering their own knowledge through the creation of the stories, which almost universally require some level or research, and sharing that knowledge and gaining feedback through publication. Through research, planning, writing, and creating, students’ knowledge of particular topics or ideas can oftentimes become quite deep and possibly even surpass the teacher’s own. Furthermore, communicative, presentation, and writing skills are also embedded throughout the process.

This book will look at free tools that allow students to make several different types of digital stories with lesson ideas that fit the distinct tools:

  • Stories told through pictures and video clips with audio narration – Voicethread.
  • Slides with pictures set to music – Animoto.
  • Animation and text-to-speech – Xtranormal.
  • Comic Strips – ToonDoo.

There is generally more than 1 tool that can accomplish each of these functions. These particular tools were chosen because they are both free and excellent at what they do. It should be noted, both Windows and Mac computers have built-in programs to aid in digital storytelling. Movie Maker and iMovie respectively work well and are fairly user-friendly; to have the widest appeal to users of any platform, online tools that can be used from anywhere are being focused on.

4 comments to Chapter 6, Part 1

  • Hello Mr.Bedell,
    My name is Amelia Platt and I am a student in Dr.Strange’s EDM 310 class and I was assigned your blog to read. I think this is a wonderful way to make teaching more fun for the teacher and the student. This is a wonderful way for students to show their creative side which as teacher we are not encouraged to let be free sometimes. This is something I have noticed about Dr. Strange is he has let his students be creative and express themselves where as every other teacher does not let us do that. Plus this is something the student will have to look back on and say that they worked really hard on, and are really proud of. I have a blog and I will have a summary on my blog on November 7th. I look forward to reading more of your post.

  • ktenkely
    Twitter: ktenkely

    I am teaching a virtual digital storytelling class right now. Digital storytelling is powerful in the way that it combines communication mediums to tell a story. I am having a great time introducing students to tools that help them accomplish this!
    ktenkely´s last blog post ..Juxio: Online Visual Creation Tool

  • Jessica Hadaway
    Twitter: jkbhadaway

    Hi Mr. Bedell,

    I am Jessica Hadaway in Dr. Strange’s EDM 310 course at the University of South Alabama. I have been assigned to your blog for over two weeks now. I enjoyed reading your blog posts about social networking and PLN’s. Now I just read your post on digital storytelling and it sounds so interesting for students. This sounds like a great way to grab a students attention. What I like about it is it requires the student to do the research not so much the teacher so the student has the ownership in the story. Great idea! I can’t wait to use this on my own class one day. I am preparing my summary of your posts that will be available on my blog on Nov. 7th.
    Jessica Hadaway

  • HEllo

    My name is Sharon Barrow and I am in Dr. Strange’s EDM 310 class at the University of South Alabama. I have been assigned to read your blog for the past two weeks and I really enjoyed this post especially. I am a Language Arts and Secondary Education major so anything involving literature or creative writing is near and dear to my heart. I totally agree, teachers should be minimally involved in the students creative process because students will just go with whatever the teacher instructed rather than actually creating on their own.
    Sharon Barrow´s last blog post ..Additional Assignment 5

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