Once Upon a Digital Story…

“Miss Degelman, Miss Degelman, guess what happened on Saturday!” exclaims Ethan as he runs into the room excitedly after assembly.

“I rented that really good movie for the sleepover tonight,” Anna whispers to Tavah during math class.

“Did you know my sister said her first word yesterday?!” declares Calem to a group of his buddies during lunch.

Children are full of stories. They love hearing stories, whether they come from books, movies, or are told by family, friends, and teachers. And, as demonstrated above, they also love telling their own stories to others. Storytelling is an effective way for kids to reveal and gain true information about the past, present, and future; their families’ history and legacy; their friends’ experiences and jokes; and events happening in their city, country, and around the world.

Photo Credit: Giorgia Pallaro via Flickr cc

Photo Credit: Giorgia Pallaro via Flickr cc

Children can also listen to and invent their own fictional stories – stories about castles, dragons, and brave knights; pirates and sunken ships; talking forest creatures; spaceships and trips to Mars; dinosaurs and their adventures…

The Land Before Time, anyone?

Last Tuesday, Alan Levine presented some fascinating ideas about digital storytelling to our EC&I 831 class. I admit, I did not know much about digital storytelling before. All I really knew was, “it’s listening to and creating stories using technology…”

As a Grade 5/6 teacher, I am a fan of journaling. Most of the time, I allow students to come up with their own journal topics or present them with a Topic Box. Even when the topic is pretty clear, asking students to write a first sentence is like pulling teeth! Ouch! Instead of going through this painful experience, why not use pechaflickr to brainstorm ideas before the real writing begins? Using the pechaflickr program, a student can recommend a topic to be used for the activity. Twenty pictures (all from Flickr) are then revealed for twenty seconds each. An individual, small or large group, or the entire class can do their best to improvise an oral story that is related to the pictures that are shown throughout this process.

Isn’t this a more engaging way to involve students in their learning and spark creativity? I think so!

Photo Credit: Elaine faith via Flickr cc

Photo Credit: elaine faith via Flickr cc

A thought occurred to me while writing the last couple paragraphs. Instead of only relying on visual stimuli (Flickr images) to tell a story, could auditory stimuli work for digital storytelling too?

What do you think of when you hear the following melody?

Yes, of course, The Lion King! But, because of the loud vocals, choice in instruments, and changes in dynamics and pitch in the chorus, perhaps you also thought of a celebration, a fascinating discovery, or a changing landscape. We can do this same exercise without lyrics too.

What do you think of when you hear this melody? (If you are not musically-inclined, many instrumental soundtracks from YouTube include a series of images, in case you mostly prefer the activity with visual stimuli.)

Please give it a try. Or enjoy the sound of the piano and relax for seven minutes. 🙂

Animoto anyone? Tara Smith embedded Krista Gates‘ ideas into her post, and mentioned that Krista used Animoto to gather pictures to tell a story about herself. How cool would that be for a beginning-of-the-year assignment?

“To formally introduce yourself to your classmates, I would like you to gather photographs of you and your family, take pictures of any items that are important to you, choose one or two songs that demonstrate your identity and/or personality best, and create an Animoto to show the class in a few weeks.” Now, that’s an assignment!

Photo Credit: Kevin Dooley via Flickr cc

Photo Credit: Kevin Dooley via Flickr cc

Why do I say that? This is an exciting opportunity for students to “get their feet wet” when it comes to using educational technology, personalizing their learning by selecting images and memories that are most meaningful to them, and presenting these important moments to the class. Being a student in the Curriculum & Instruction program, I think it is important to note that this assignment could hit the following outcomes from the Saskatchewan Curriculum – pretending that we teach Grade 8 – CC8.1, CC8.5, and CC8.9 in Language Arts and IN8.1 and DR8.3 in Social Studies. Depending on the teacher’s expectations when it comes to selecting and analyzing music, a number of outcomes could be selected from the creative/productive, critical/responsive, and cultural/historical strands of Arts Education.

Like Jason Munro mentions in his blog post, “Everyone Has a Story”, digital storytelling allows students to feel important and develop a sense of belonging in the classroom. Students, especially young ones, may not always be thrilled to listen to a long story about someone else. Digital storytelling presents an exciting opportunity for students to share personal stories and create fictional stories that respond to various genres.

Has anyone used other digital storytelling programs in their classrooms? Which ones would you recommend and for what purpose?


12 thoughts on “Once Upon a Digital Story…

  1. Danielle, I love Animoto and have used it quite a bit in teaching as well as with my students where they just use my account, but I have also dabbled with Photostory (super easy to use) and Educreations (like Explain Everything) for iPad but used it to narrate a “learning journey”. On our school devices we have access to Comics Head, Explain Everything and Pixie. I would recommend “mashing” these apps. Students could create a comic using Comics Head, then save the comic images and narrate their comics using Explain Everything or Pixie. Pixie is great for presentations but impossible to get off the androids (sigh), but it allows for narration and music. Lots of options… Really anything will work. If it’s about effects and narrating, a student could even create a powerpoint, set the slide transitions to a certain time, then narrate the story using screen-cast-o-matic or Mimio record. It’s all about what you have available, the age group and of course, time…


  2. Great post Danielle! I enjoyed reading your thoughts about digital story telling and seeing how you connected fellow students posts to your reflection.

    I have used Photostory with my students before last year. They really enjoyed it a lot!! I am looking forward to learning about new programs and trying them out with my students. Thanks for the ideas Jennifer!!


  3. Hi Danielle! Thanks for reading my blog! I love your idea of beginning of the year project. The possibilities are endless really. Kind of like this class we need to represent some way our learning throughout the semester. Why not get students to share their learning after a unit? I have done something similar to this but I used Power Point. Which I now realize there are so many other options (some even better) out there. I love hearing all your ideas because I teach middle years students also and they are the best to try new things on. They are independent for the most part and they get excited when they use technology and learn new things. (They even teach me things)!


    • Middle years students are so fun to teach! I know what you mean…this afternoon, they had questions about digital sharing/collaborating that I had never even thought of myself! Using digital storytelling after teaching a unit is a brilliant idea. It could even be as simple as: “What did you learn about _______ in our _______ unit?” or “Using the information you learned about _______, how would you solve this problem?” Great idea!


  4. I absolutely LOVE your idea of how students can introduce themselves to their fellow classmates by using DST….. Brilliant. From this students can share in so many values, cultural experiences etc. Good for you!!


  5. Pingback: My EC&I 831 Colleagues are so Smart…….. | Andrea Needer's Blog

  6. Pingback: Now, this is a story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down… | keltie dawn

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