Digital Storytelling

Technology has added a new twist to storytelling, although we must always make sure that the content is the driving force behind any project. What our students are saying should always be more important than how they are saying it. That said, the use of technology can pique interest in a variety of students with a story to tell. Digital storytelling uses the available tools of the computer and Internet, and morphs it with words and narration, with the final outcome being an interesting multi-media mix of images and voice.

Digital Storytelling is the modern expression of the ancient art of storytelling. Digital stories derive their power by weaving images, music, narrative and voice together, thereby giving deep dimension and vivid color to characters, situations, experiences, and insights. Tell your story now digitally.
- Leslie Rule, Center for Digital Storytelling


There are seven main elements of a digital story developed by digital storytelling pioneer Joe Lambert in his Digital Storytelling Cookbook. Below, I have used information from an enlightening journal article written by Glen Bull and Sara Kajder entitled "Digital Storytelling in the Language Arts Classroom.(The Connected Classroom)" in the December 2004 edition of Learning & Leading with Technology. Anything in quotes comes directly from the Bull/Kajder article.
  • Point of View: "... the goal of digital storytelling is to allow a writer to experience the power of personal expression. Therefore, students' digital stories need to be constructed from their own experience and
    understanding. Using the first-person pronoun "I" rather than the more distant third-person point of view is essential."
  • A Dramatic Question: "A story that holds the attention of the audience has a dramatic question that is resolved by the end of the story. This characteristic distinguishes the digital story from a travelogue. Narratives that lead the reader to become invested typically pursue a compelling question that evokes interest and commitment."
  • Emotional Content: "The most effective digital stories evoke an emotion from the audience. We often see laughter, tears, and expressions of pleasure from the audience when digital stories are screened. This can be tremendously rewarding to student writers, validating the effort and investment they have
    made."
  • The Gift of your Voice: "The pitch, inflection, and timbre of the storyteller's voice convey meaning
    and intent in a very personal way. This has proven to be one of the most essential elements that contribute to the effectiveness of a digital story. There is no substitute for using your own voice to tell your story."
  • The Power of the Soundtrack: "Properly employed music can enhance and underscore the accompanying story, adding complexity and depth to the narrative."
  • Economy: "Modern digital editors offer a plethora of special effects and transitions. It can be
    tempting to replicate the visual onslaught of music videos on MTV. We have found that the effective digital story uses only a few images, a few words, and even fewer special effects to clearly and
    powerfully communicate intended meaning."
  • Pacing: "Monotonous refers to an unvaried inflection and pace. The word has become synonymous with boring because an unvaried pace will not hold the audience's attention. For student writers, pacing means pulling back or racing forward when the story calls for it, as opposed to when the time limit approaches."
external image tele-book.jpg

**Daniel Meadows** defines digital stories as “short, personal multimedia tales told from the heart.” The beauty of this form of digital expression, he maintains, is that these stories can be created by people everywhere, on any subject, and shared electronically all over the world. Meadows goes on to describe digital stories as “multimedia sonnets from the people” in which “photographs discover the talkies, and the stories told assemble in the ether as pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, a gaggle of invisible histories which, when viewed together, tell the bigger story of our time, the story that defines who we are."
-- from the University of Houston digital storytelling site


external image tele-book.jpgBut how do teachers use digital storytelling?
This website from the University of Houston provides some clues and examples of how educators are using this new medium. You should head to that site and spend a some time observing.
The goal here is to give an overview of this exciting concept, but the best thing you can do is
Experiment, Experiment, Experiment!


Student Digital Storytelling from ExploreNet -- a vault of different stories.
Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction -- this site offers a wide range of digital stories.
This school district in Scott County, Kentucky, has created an archive of digital stories.
Bubbe's Back Porch -- the keeper of this site documents her own life through digital storytelling, but also invites viewers to participate.
My Hero Website -- a series of digital stories about the unsung heroes of this world.
This is one of Joe Lambert's digital storytelling sites, called Memory's Voices.