March 26, 2010

Digital Storytelling

Don't you just love a good story?  Sitting around the campfire reliving memories of the past or reading a good book and directing the movie in your mind.  Stories today are just as popular as they were way back when they adorned the walls of caves during the Stone Age.  The only difference is that our stories today have evolved tremendously from the primitive cave paintings that depicted tales of the hunt or natural disasters.  Our methods for telling those stories have also become a bit more grandiose.  Programs like Windows Movie Maker and iMovie have made it possible for the everyday computer user to create impressive digital stories using pictures, movies and audio.  In this installment of the SPS Technology Integration blog, I will walk you through the basics of Digital Storytelling  and how you can incorporate it into your classroom repertoire of performance assessments.

The first step is to determine the purpose for having your students create a digital story.  Recently in my classroom, students created a Public Service Announcement geared toward saving the rain forests of the world.  You might have your students tell the story of Pi or how photosynthesis works.  As you know, a good story teller can turn even the most mundane topic into a thrilling yarn...not that there is anything wrong with Pi or photosynthesis :)  Once you have your topic, it is time to complete some story boarding.  During this step, students will plan out the images, text, audio and and/or narration that will accompany each slide.  Microsoft offers this template for your students to create their stories before they begin the actual digital development.  Once they have their storyboards complete it is time to gather all of the necessary ingredients.

Each story can include any combination of the following components: video, still pictures, audio, sound effects, slide-by-slide narration and text.  You can decide which of those pieces you would like your students to include depending on the resources that you have available to you in your building.  If you have a microphone, you can have the students narrate their video.  If you don't, you can have them use audio instead or sound effects that accompany certain parts of the video.  If you have access to a video camera you can include your own live video or you can search on the web for relevant clips (e.g. speeches, flash videos).  You can also choose to use your own digital images or the ones that are on the web.  It's all up to you and your students.

Next comes the fun part...assembling the story.  In our school district we have access to Windows Movie Maker which comes standard with Windows XP.  I have seen quite a few tutorials on how to use Movie Maker but this is one of the more comprehensive walk-throughs with images.  You can share this document with your students and also use it as a guide when helping them to make their storyboards come to life.

So how can you evaluate these digital masterpieces?  This rubric is an excellent starting point and can be modified to fit your specific needs.  Now all you need is a giant tub of popcorn, a cold soda and the lights dimmed as you sit back and enjoy the products that your students have worked so hard to complete.  In the comment section below, be sure to share with your colleagues your ideas and suggestions for assigning and creating digital storytelling projects.  Let's collaborate!!!


Sue Dowdell said...

Mike (, I've been using in my grade 3-5 classes this year. My third graders created songs to explain to the second graders how to decipher the call number of a book.

My 4th and 5th graders have written and are now recording their opinion paragraphs of their favorite Nutmeg last year. It's AMAZING to see students motivated to revise their writing in order to get it approved to be published. I'll let you know when they are all done. Sue

Mike Oberdick said...

Sue, VoiceThread is excellent too. I like that more than one person can create narration for a picture, document, etc. For your Nutmeg paragraphs, are you allowing more than one student to comment on the same book? That would give the viewer more than one perspective and really take advantage of the VoiceThread application.