Digital Storytelling in the Classroom
Storytelling dominates the study of literature, but the means through which the stories have been told has evolved with each civilization. From the oral histories presented by bards in ancient courts, to the works of scribes during the Renaissance, to newspapers, CNN, and now the Internet, personal narrative has been used to communicate the events of the past. Digital media now combines tradition with technology and allows students to tell stories through voice, text, images, audio, and video.
Digital stories allow students to take a linear series of events and turn them into a multidimensional experience. It encourages them to communicate, collaborate, and research as well as to infuse media into the process. A plethora of tools exists to create these projects – both in terms of software as well as hardware – and all of them enable students to gain a deeper understanding of English as they explore the most effective way to retell it.
Creating a digital story could be as simple as using a presentation tool such as Apple’s Keynote or Microsoft PowerPoint, or as complex as a full video project with Apple’s iMovie or Microsoft MovieMaker. However, there are also a variety of web-based tools that enable students to create unique user experiences as they tell their stories.
- Explain Everything – Technically a screencasting app, because of its ability to include images, drawings, and video as well as record audio and animation, Explain Everything is a fantastic digital storytelling tool. Students can share their work either as published videos or PDF files. Explain Everything exports to most cloud storage options, YouTube, Vimeo, and the Camera.
- Book Creator – One of the best apps to create books on Android tablets, students and teachers can add text, record audio, draw pictures, and insert photos as well as videos to create multimedia books. Once created, books can be exported as PDFs or ePubs to DropBox, Evernote, and Drive. It is also possible to combine books for collaborative projects.
- ThingLink – With ThingLink, students create “touchable” images. Using a single image as a background, they can layer text, images and video from the Camera, as well as links to web-based content. Completed ThingLinks can be shared with a link, via social media, or embedded on web sites
- PhotoStory3 – A free download for Windows computers, this program provides an easy way to edit videos. More information can be found on the Microsoft site.
- Animoto – This intuituve and powerful web-based application provides basic but impressive multimedia features. Animoto offers music and professional-looking special effects to add to your photos and text. Students can sign up for a free account and access Animoto from any Mac or PC with an Internet connection.
- PuppetPals HD – Students can easily create their own unique digital puppet shows to tell a story. Use the pre-designed puppet packs or insert your own characters and backgrounds. The app records audio narration and all motions with the puppets to create a video. Completed shows can be saved to iPad or exported to the Camera.
- Tellagami allows you to create short, 30 second stories that come complete with a talking avatar (cartoon person) and pre-designed backgrounds or backgrounds inserted from the Camera. Either record your own audio or use the text-to-speech option to have your avatar talk. Each clip is called a Gami and provides a useful way for students or teachers to submit summaries, make predictions, or provide directions. Completed Gamis can be saved to the Camera as videos or shared on social media.
- 30 Hands is a great entry point for digital storytelling projects. Without needing an account, teachers and students can upload or draw images and then record their narration. Completed stories can be saved as a video to the Camera or posted to the 30 Hands Cloud for sharing.
- Chatterpix – Draw a mouth on any photo, and ChatterPix can make it speak with your recorded voice. Imagine having students bring historical figures to life or create talking animated characters for stories. Completed videos can be saved to the camera, shared on social media, or published to YouTube.
- Go Animate! – This Chrome App allows students to create animated stories with a host of characters and backgrounds. GoAnimate walks them through a 5 step process to choose characters and setting, type or record up to 10 lines of dialog, and then publish their video. With the free version, completed animations can be downloaded, exported to YouTube, and published with a link or embed code. Students can use their Google account to login and save their work.
- Pixton Comic Maker – With the Pixton Chrome App, students tell digital stories with comics. They can create characters, give them expression, move them into a pose, and use text bubbles in order to tell a story. Pixton also includes project banks scaffold the process, or students can start from scratch or remix comics made by classmates. Published comics can be uploaded to a Pixton gallery where students can then comment on each others comics, adding a collaborative component. The “fun” version of Pixton is free. There is a paid-for option for schools.
- Little Bird Tales – From the Little Bird Tales web site, students can write, illustrate, and narrate their own stories. Teachers can create classes and assign student accounts, so no email addresses are needed. Completed tales can be shared via a link or embed code as well as purchased for download. There is even a set of Common Core templates, and teachers can assign and scaffold the process from their account.Check out our EdTechTeacher Video Tutorial.
- Comic Strip It! allows students to create comic strips from photographs taken with their device or from images found on the web. Import images into the storyboard and add text boxes that emulate the feel of a traditional comic book. Final products can be exported back to the gallery for sharing or uploaded to any storage or collaboration tool.
- Clay Frames Lite – This free, Android stop motion app allows students to create two digital stories with 50 frames each (unlimited with the paid version). Final products can be exported both to the gallery or uploaded directly to YouTube.
- Creative Book Builder – With Creative Book Builder, teachers and students can create robust digital stories. In addition to adding text, images, and video, it’s possible to embed web content and import documents and presentations directly from Google Drive. Completed eBooks can be exported as PDFs or ePubs, and books can also be combined for collaborative projects.
- ComicLife – With this program, students can easily tell their stories through their own comics. This program works on all platforms and is relatively inexpensive. For a quick project, a 30 day free trial is available.
- StoryBird – Another free, web-based application, StoryBird allows students to read, write, and collaborate on digital picture books. Thousands of illustrations have been contributed to this online community, and all authors can integrate them into their written pieces. Completed stories can printed as books and shared via the Internet.
- Digital Vaults – This new tool from the National Archives allows students to create their own accounts and then build a story using digital resources directly from the National Archives. They can search through historical collections and even build their own collections of resources. Each image contains historical information that can be added as captions. The movie making tool includes soundtrack options as well as basic editing functions. With a free login account, students can save their work, and completed projects can be emailed or shared via hyperlink.
- VoiceThread is a great Web-based digital storytelling program that enables users to upload pictures or documents, record accompanying audio (or video) commentary, and invite others to record commentary as well. Its simple combination of visual and recorded media is perfect for creating multimedia presentations in a relatively short time frame using simple tools. With VoiceThread teachers and students can create virtual tours, report on books they’ve read, comment on historically significant photographs, debate a topic, and more. Its uniqueness lies in the ease in which audio commentary can added to images and documents and the ability to add multiple commentaries to a single artifact.
- Glogster is a powerful online poster creation platform with an easy drag-and-drop interface and enables students to create interactive, aesthetically appealing, and media-rich posters. With Glogster students create “Glogs,” an online multimedia poster made with text, images, graphics, music, video and more.Glogster EDU is an advertisement-free educational community wherein educators set up a ““virtual classroom” for their students. By default Glogs are private unless a teacher designates them as “public,” and students are assigned randomly generated login information and passwords. No student is identified by name. As such, Glogster EDU helps address issues of inappropriate content and undesirable contact with those outside an educational community.
- Kerpoof Create fully animated comics online with Kerpoof. Choose from a library of scenes and characters, add animation, movement, as well as music and speech bubbles to bring a story idea to life. Extremely intuitive menu bar and helpful video tutorials make this tool quite useful. A key feature is a Teacher Account that allows teachers to register students and create classes where students can collaborate on creations.
- Scratch and Scratch Jr. Learn to code through storytelling! Scratch is a web based tool of dragging and dropping steps in a logical order to create animations. Scratch Jr. is an iPad app version with a simpler interface. Students can use these tools to create animations for their stories. Learning coding becomes a secondary result of creation.
- 5th Grade Ellis Island Narratives This VoiceThread project was designed to enable students to truly feel the immigrant experience. Students closely examine images looking for clues to foster understanding.
- “Telling Their Stories” – Oral History Archive Project of the Urban School Visit “Telling Their Stories” and read, watch, and listen to perhaps the best student-created oral history project in the country. High School students at the Urban School of San Franciso have produced three impressive oral history interviews featured at this site: Holocaust Survivors and Refugees, World War II Camp Liberators, and Japanese-American Internees. Urban school students conducted, filmed, and transcribed interviews, created hundreds of movie files associated with each transcript, and then posted the full-text, full-video interviews on this public website.
- Youth Producing Change – Human Rights Watch International Film Festival Adobe Youth Voices and Human Rights Watch present Youth Producing Change, an innovative program of youth-produced short films from across the globe.
- Check out more innovative project examples on EdTechTeacher.org
Rich media is the key to a good digital story. The resources below will help students find what they need in terms of content. For more information about working with copyrighted and Creative Commons licensed media, visit the Creative Commons page.
- Wikimedia Commons – a wiki database of Creative Commons or Public Domain images.
- Flickr – a photo and video sharing site where most works are licensed under Creative Commons. The Advanced Search allows students to search only for Creative Commons licensed media.
- FlickrStorm – another way to search through Flickr that provides even more results. There is an option to search for only images that have been licensed for reuse.
- Jamendo – a music sharing site of all legal to use songs.
- Google Advanced Image Search – setting the usage rights shows images that are labeled with a Creative Commons license
- Library of Congress – an online catalog of thousands of prints and photos currently archived at the LOC. Most of the resources can be published without having to seek permission, and they provide terrific digital artifacts for historical stories.
- National Archives – billions of images, videos, and digital documents can be found and integrated into projects.
Digital Storytelling can be integrated in any number of ways:
- Create a virtual tour of a country or historical place that was described in the literature.
- Create a public service announcement on an important local or world issue.
- Simulate an interview with a character from the reading.
- Simulate a debate on an historical topic, such as the Bill of Rights, that related to the literature.
- Create a presentation based on images of local artifacts and architecture that may have appeared in the setting of the book or in the lifetime of an author.