Friday, November 2, 2012

Digital Storytelling

Pictures are everywhere, they evoke emotion, memories, inspire ideas, and quickly tell a story, and that is what this post is about, telling stories. Digital stories.

Do you remember when families used to invite the neighbors over to watch vacation videos. We would all sit in hard backed chairs, perhaps with a bit of popcorn. Dad would turn down the lights and flip on the movie projector. That bright light would burn the dust and the reels would turn and suddenly your face, happy and smiling, or crying, or laughing, would fill the screen in full color, noise and motion.

Well maybe you don’t remember those days. I don’t either to tell the truth, but the image is still there. We’ve come a long way from that day. The day when film and pictures were taken only during special occasions, only when you wanted to remember this day forever. It made sense then, cameras and film were expensive. Then you had to develop the film. Finally, to show it off meant pulling out picture album, or setting up special equipment.

Boy has the world changed, we have camera phones, instagram, youtube, vimeo and more. the world is awash in digital pictures, vacation videos, even wedding dances. Finding and taking pictures is easy and normal. And as in my dad’s wildest dreams, we can quickly and easily edit those pictures and videos, http://www.gimp.org/, http://www.sumopaint.com/start/, http://picasa.google.com/, http://pixlr.com/, http://www.aviary.com/ http://www.creazaeducation.com, moviemaker, iMovie. And importantly we can add our own audio track to the pictures with http://audioboo.fm/, http://www.podomatic.com/login, http://www.recordmp3.org/, http://soundcloud.com/, http://audacity.sourceforge.net/, Finally, we can leave the real world completely and go with animation http://goanimate.com/, http://www.blender.org/education-help/quickstart, http://www.xtranormal.com/, http://www.voki.com/. Finished projects can be anything from http://www.zooburst.com/, to power point, Prezis, slidshares, google presentations, GoogleLitTrips, Voki, xtranormal, movies, songs, or even live action plays.

All of these programs are free or cheap enough that anyone can use them. They make it so easy that kids younger than 5 can easily take pictures and film video. Then, with a bit of help they can use those images to create their own stories.


So the next time you ask a student to write a story, or a report, think digital. Give them the option of creating a digital story, making a presentation, or just adding some zing to the paper they would normally hand it.

That is the end of the story for most readers. For those who want a more in depth look check out the resources below and continue reading.

http://jonorech.wikispaces.com/
http://www.storycenter.org/
http://50ways.wikispaces.com/
http://www.scribd.com/doc/79101242/10-Digital-Storytelling-Projects

A digital story can be a story of course, but it can also be a summary, a presentation, a synthesis, or even a remix. Whatever it is digital stories are an integral part of the common core standards “research and media skills and understandings are embedded throughout the Standards rather than treated in a separate section.”

Why is media literacy so integral to the common core? Simply, because at its core a good digital story is a good story. It may be easy to add flashy graphics and funny sound bites a digital story, but the end result should still be evaluated on substance.

Why are digital stories encouraged? To start it can be very easy to use digital stories (movie clips) to illustrate important elements of a good story. As students learn to add good story elements to their digital stories they will become more familiar with what makes a quality story.

How can digital stories help writing? Think about the last time you listened to a 5 year old tell a story. It takes about 20 minutes because they feel the need to add every single detail, no matter how extraneous. In creative writing the first rule taught is usually show don’t tell. What better way to getting students to show than to require them to find an image that says what they want. A good presentation strives to make it’s point known with as few words as possible.

When creating a digital story it is important to spend a lot of time creating and mapping out the story. Use your favorite story primer and really let your students take some time to think about and flesh out what their story is going to be. In my own work I like to use storyboarding, or mind maps.

When the story is brainstormed then students can decide which format to showcase it best. Will the final product be a book, a presentation, a movie, what? Different formats require different methods of telling the story. Don’t be afraid to have a class discussion, especially the first time, about how the medium can influence the story. I like to tell the story of the Nixon v Kennedy debate. How the radio listeners thought Nixon won, but TV viewers (the majority of people) gave the nod to Kennedy.

Teach students how to find copyright free media and again give them time to search and play around until they have what they need. Make sure they get more media than they think they will need. You can ask them to get two or three pictures for each page or whatever, it is important to collect more than what is necessary.

As students put their story together they should have too much. Emphasize the need to cut the waste. If it helps they can make a DVD extra to go along with the finished product. Let students practice the art of editing down. Let them deliberate and choose between two images. It will strengthen the story and meet more standards along the way.

Finally, present the finished projects, just don’t do them all, especially not in one day. These are digital stories, publish them on your classroom website. Publish the stories and let students vote on which ones should be presented. Anonymous votes by students in class, school wide votes, global voting, this is the internet right, let the voting begin, just monitor the comments to keep them positive.

When it is all said and done students have created a permanent (or not) artifact of their learning. They have basically graded their own stories. They have pushed each other to make higher quality work. And you have finished a unit that has taught students, how to write, elements of style, editing, digital media, and peer review.
Post a Comment