Digital story telling
A challenge for teachers is finding strategies that motivatestudents
to seek knowledge and connect information in the past with their lives
in the present. The readwrite web provides powerful opportunities for
the development of a productive and creative relationship between
students and scholarship, ideas and interpretation.
Stories are part of human history. They offer experiences that
transcend our daily lives. In analogue environments, parents tell
stories to their children about rules and responsibilities, offering
hope and warnings. Digitisation has transformed how we shape and
structure the tragedies and joys of our lives.
We use songs, films, photographs, Twitter, blogs and Facebookto piece
together a version of reality. Through social networking sites such as
YouTube, Flickr, Tumblr and Pinterest - the online pinup board - we not
only consume stories, but produce them.
In the past five years, an innovative range of hardware and software
has assisted digitally literate men and women in creating and
disseminating new ideas in innovative ways.
Often termed digital storytelling, this phrase is defined as
narratives created by amateurs, not professionals, and built through the
creation and selection of digital objects such as photographs, video
footage and sounds. These 'born digital objects,' as they are called,
are shaped into a narrative that presents and resolves an idea or
Digital storytelling has advantages when capturing the experiences of
family and friends, logging important birthdays, weddings and
But it is also of great value in education for staff and students.
A photographic series can be overlaid by an academic voice-over,
making an event, building or idea meaningful for new audiences.
Digital storytelling is not an abstract theory. It is applied
knowledge. To create the best work, students must move through a series
of eight stages.
Students develop an idea, argument, problem or question to resolve.
They storyboard their idea, creating a narrative arc and moving an
idea from a beginning to end.
Students define an audience and explore how this group is best
reached through the project.
They create, capture and organise varied media, including
photographs, films, audio and sound effects.
Students select the most appropriate software and hardware.
They explore whether or not a voiceover is appropriate for this
Titles are written to create the transitions between the disparate
sections of the project.
Editing and alignment of all media into a narrative and pattern
concludes the project.
The goal of this process is to shape narratives from the building
blocks of digital objects, including sounds, still images, moving images
and digitised text. Digital storytelling crafts information with meaning
and emotion to create warmth and engagement. The goal is to find a way
to organize knowledge. Problem-based storytelling positions a central
challenge or question. This problem gives the propulsion of a narrative.
The use of hypertext in digital stories also creates some alternative
navigation modes. References and evidence can be presentedto verify the
I have found digital storytelling particularly appropriate to assign
for student assessment when exploring emotionally and politically
volatile topics such as colonialism, terrorism, war and migration. These
abstract and controversial ideas can be rendered real and personal.
Students must translate other histories and experiences into their
context and their lives. One of my former students, Laura Kinsella, is
currently completing her PhD on the use of digital storytelling for
migrant communities in Ireland. Her doctorate brings visibility to the
invisible and allowsthose silencedto be heard.
There has never been an easier time to use digital storytelling in
education. There are so many options for hardware and software.
PowerPoint is one choice. Blogs are useful as they enable the embedding
of screen shots, sound files and YouTube videos.
Sound is important to digital storytelling. While what we see
dominates what we hear, listening to the voices and views of others can
frame and shape photography and film. The software for editing
soundincludes the open source Audacity, but there are other options,
including Acoustica's Mixcraft 5 and Apple'sGarageBand, which now has an
application for the iPad.
Beyond learning to use software, students gain new skills when
thinking about sound. If a voiceover is deployed, then students must
create a precise script and focus on the delivery of those words, adding
emotion. Therefore it is necessary that students learn about their
voice. Students explore how to make sounds attractive and compelling for
listeners, while building productive relationships with images.
With the proliferation of mobile phones, almost every event in our
lives can be photographed or filmed. The question is how to render such
material fresh and relevant for formal education. The software for
editing images includes Adobe Photoshop, iPhoto for Apple and - for
video editing - Apple's iMovie, Windows Movie Maker and Magix
PhotoStory. Hosted by YouTube, Google Search Story is a video-creating
toolthat transforms Google searches into a video presentation.
These are simple methods through software to create integrated
packages for sound and vision. A new possibility, using hardware rather
than software, is Fotobox. Looking like a USB stick on steroids, the SD
memory card is inserted in one end, with a USB connector on the other.
When attached to a computer, the programme runs from FotoBox. Software
is resident on the platform.Themed templates are available. Voiceovers
may be inserted, pictures edited and background music attached. The
resultant videos can be converted into MPEG4 for mobile devices,
uploaded to social networking sites or burnt to a DVD. Being based in
hardware rather than software, Fotobox moves between computers and is
ideal for laptops.
There are more professional Photostory options available, but for
convenience and mobility, Fotobox is effective. For students in schools
and universities who are beginning to create and shape digital material
for assignments, this is a fine option.
Through such hardware and software, digital storytelling provides
teachers and learners with great gifts. Teachers and students can bring
the world into the classroom and the classroom to the world.Digital
storytelling expands communication skills, project development and media
production strategies, applying academic ideas in new ways.
While 'new media' may distract students from core skills in reading,
writing and thinking, digital storytelling grants students the ability
to learn and apply knowledge. The personal can be made political. The
abstract becomes applicable.