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Digital Storytelling

Page history last edited by Mike King 10 years, 1 month ago




       Digital Storytelling

Historically, we have valued creative writing or art classes because they help to identify and train future writers and artists, but also because the creative process is valuable on its own; every child deserves the chance to express him- or herself through words, sounds, and images, even if most will never write, perform, or draw professionally. Having these experiences, we believe, changes the way youth think about themselves and alters the way they look at work created by others. In this session Mike King and Jesse West will present the art of digital story telling as it applies the formative writing process. Participants will learn how to create digital mash-ups in a storyboard through the use of creative common picture searches, recording written narratives in audacity and developing a digital story in moviemaker, photostory3 and or imovie. (See Reference Guide: digitalstorytellingebook.pdf ) 

What Is a Digital Story?

Each of us has the ability to tell stories, from ancient times until the present man has told stories to cultivate and document history. Today with the emergence of the digital age, story telling is taking on a new form of storytelling, called digital storytelling. Digital story telling combines the conversion of written narrative to digital voiceovers that is aided by computer tools. By taking a written story and then converting into a digital sound narrative provides a means for expressive creativity. Additionally, digital narratives can be overlaid to both digital pictures and background music to give the digital story depth of expression and mood.   An example of a digital story with the emotion of time and expression can be found at Daniel Meadows site entitled Scissors.”1


Daniel Meadows

Daniel Meadows defines digital stories as "short, personal multimedia tales told from the heart." The beauty of this form of digital expression, he maintains is that these stories can be created by people everywhere, on any subject, and shared electronically all over the world. Meadows describes digital stories as "multimedia sonnets from the people" in which "photographs discover the talkies, and the stories told assemble in the ether as pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, a gaggle of invisible histories which, when viewed together, tell the bigger story of our time, the story that defines who we are." 

What are the elements of a digital story?

To construct a digital story there are a few elements in design to consider. First a digital story as an end product is usually 2-5 minutes in length that includes a combination of narrative personal writing, photo images and a musical soundtrack. Daniel Meadows states that “There's strictness to the construction of a Digital Story: Two hundred and fifty words, a dozen or so pictures, and two minutes is about the right length. These strictures, I find, make for elegance. Digital Stories are a bit like sonnets in this respect, multimedia sonnets from the people (only it's probably better when they don't rhyme).” With the design elements defined the next question to answer would be “What is an effective process to consider when constructing a digital story?” 

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Digital Stories that Examine Historical Events

Digital Stories that Examine Historical Events are records of events which chronicle the life or development of people or institutions and often include an explanation or commentary on them: a history of the Vikings; a formal written account of related natural phenomena: history of volcanoes; a log of a patient’s medical background; or a posted pattern of behavior: inmates with histories of substance abuse. Then there is the branch of knowledge that records and analyzes past events: “History has a long range perspective” (Elizabeth Gurley Flynn).  This might include events relating to something in particular such as the history of their rivalry is full of intrigue. Perhaps an aggregate of bygone eras or human affairs could be the subject: basic tools used throughout history. A house with a history could be the topic of something with an interesting past. Also included is something departed: Their troubles are history now. 

Stories that Inform or Instruct

Stories that inform or instruct are meant to impart information or make the viewer aware of something such as a change in plans or reinforce rules or policies. They also acquaint us with knowledge of any given subject. Information and instruction grants form or character to the story giving it quality or essence (The Flower That Shattered the Stone).


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What is the process for constructing a digital story?

The process begins by first defining the style that best fits the kind of digital story you would like to portray. The KQED/DSI website suggests several types of story styles that can be used to create a digital story. These styles include: a story narrative over pictures; a story with music over pictures; or a story with interviews and pictures. The KQED/DSI has four chapters devoted to the construction of digital story telling that includes style definitions.  

Why Should I Select A Theme?

Once the story style has been determined then a theme should be developed to support the story line. Themes can range from stories about adventure, travel, places, artifacts, and memories. The most important part of digital story design is its expressed point of view. An expressed point of view allows for the understanding of perspective and what compelled the telling of the story in the first place. Without a point of view or perspective, a story can appear to be a recitation of facts. A digital story is thus effective if it is told from an expressed point of view that captures a mood or emotion about ones topic.

Creating A Storyboard

The next step in the process of digital story telling design is to construct a storyboard. Storyboarding helps to create a more exact sketch of the digital story and to define the technology tools that might be included. Using a storyboard template can help a story teller reflect about both the sequence of events and the technology they want to include. This might be as the story teller is reviewing content and deciding what will actually translate into the story. At this instant, the story developer narrows their focus to a specific theme. Once the content has been determined and the theme for the story has been decided, it is time to develop a story board.


Creating a storyboard for your digital story is an important and necessary process for visualizing what your story will look like in its completed form. The digital stories made in this workshop are time based—they progress across time in a linear format. A storyboard is a visual road map that allows you to organize what you will be seeing and hearing as your story moves from beginning to end. Creating a detailed storyboard in advance of the editing process helps you to think about what images (photographs, video, other types of artwork) your story will need and provides a guide for you to follow during the edit. Having a well-thought-out storyboard in advance of production reduces the likelihood that you will end up frantically searching for visuals as you go along.

The Storyboard Template

We have provided a blank storyboard template at the end of the manual for you to create your storyboard. Starting in the upper left corner of the page, use the square boxes for simple sketches or drawings to represent what visuals will be taking place. The space beneath the boxes is used to indicate the audio that accompanies the visual. It is not necessary for you to include the entire text of your script in this space, but it may be helpful to include the beginning and end of the audio portion for each panel so you are clear on exactly what will be said in that section of the story.


You will need to progress in a left-to-right pattern, filling in the panels with script and key images as you go. The final panel should be the end of the story, and don’t forget a panel for credits! How finely detailed you make your storyboard is up to you.


If this is your first digital story, you may wish to organize your storyboard so each scene change is a new panel. You may prefer to create your storyboard based on the audio portion—creating a new panel for each sentence. The main thing is for your story script to be complete, for you to be familiar with all the images needed to support it and know exactly where they will be used. This road map is paper, not stone, and it will likely change as you start to create your piece. As you move into the next sections of this manual and begin working on the computer, keep your completed storyboard handy for reference.


Digital Storytelling as an Effective Learning Tool for Students

Digital Storytelling by students provides a strong foundation in many different types of literacy, such as information literacy, visual literacy, technology literacy, and media literacy. Summarizing the work of several researchers in this field, Brown, Bryan and Brown (2005) have labeled these multiple skills that are aligned with technology as “Twenty-first Century Literacy,” which they describe as the combination of:

  • Digital Literacy – the ability to communicate with an ever-expanding community to discuss issues, gather information, and seek help;
  • Global Literacy - the capacity to read, interpret, respond, and contextualize messages from a global perspective
  • Technology Literacy - the ability to use computers and other technology to improve learning, productivity, and performance;
  • Visual Literacy - the ability to understand, produce and communicate through visual images;
  • Information Literacy - the ability to find, evaluate and synthesize information. In the area of technology literacy, students who create digital stories improve their skills by using software that combines a variety of multimedia tools including working with text, still images, audio, video and oftentimes, Web publishing. In the area of technological literacy, Digital Storytelling can provide a meaningful reason for students to learn to digitize media content by using scanners, digital still cameras, and video cameras. In addition, as students create the narration and soundtrack for a story, they gain skills in using microphones, digitizing audio and working with music and sound effects.

Creative Commons Images

The Fair Use Act is in section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976. This act stipulates that a piece of music or other copyright protected work can be used and even reproduced without limits for the purpose of criticism, comment, news reporting,  teaching, scholarship or research without the party using the music work for these purposes suffering legal consequences, and even if the work does not fall within the category of public domain music. The following features distinguish the Fair Use Act in relationship to a particular work of music or other creative work: 


  • The person using the work of music must be for non-profit or educational purposes;
  • The copyrighted work must be suitable for educational use, criticism, research or other non-revenue-generating uses;
  • The work must not be used in its entirety or presented in its entirety without adding any commentary or supplemental educational material;
  • The use of the music work must not alter the value or accessibility of the work to others purchasing or paying royalty fees for commercial use of the work.
  • If a work of music is unpublished, the components of the Fair Use Act still apply. 

Embeding Code

Multimedia like sound, music and video files add some energy and interest to pages. Using code that has been available for years now, you can embed any number of different types of multimedia files. Without all that fifing around with embeds and non-standard code, the easiest way to put a video on your site is simply to upload it to YouTube and then embed their version of the video on your site. On the side of most YouTube pages is a snippet of code that will look something like this:



What is A Rubric?

A rubric as "a scoring tool that lists the criteria for a piece of work or 'what counts.' " For example, a rubric for an essay might tell students that their work will be judged on purpose, organization, details, voice, and mechanics. A good rubric also describes levels of quality for each of the criteria, usually on a point scale. Under mechanics, for example, the rubric might define the lowest level of performance as "many misspellings, grammar, and punctuation errors," and the highest level as "all words are spelled correctly; your work shows that you understand subject-verb agreement, when to make words possessive, and how to use commas, semicolons and periods."


See example of Digital Story Rubric below:

Digital Media Editors

Streaming media adds engaging motion and sound to the digital experience, increasing interactivity, and retention. Streaming allows timely, dynamic content to be seen by a larger, even global audience, helping to disseminate information, to address or reinforce concepts, and to bring students closer to far-reaching populations.


·     PhotoStory 3

Photo Story 3 for Windows: Create slideshows using your digital photos. With a single click, you can touch-up, crop, or rotate pictures. It’s that easy! Add stunning special effects, soundtracks, and your own voice narration to your photo stories. Then, personalize them with titles and captions. Photo Story 3 is an almost perfect tool for digital photography enthusiasts, digital storytelling and a must-have utility for anyone who enjoys their own digital photographs. The effects generated by this application are both stunning and compelling, and very similar to the photo slideshow capabilities that Media Center users enjoy. However, by making Photo Story 3 available for free to all users of Windows XP, Microsoft has both elevated the status of the XP platform and given all XP users a wonderful simple way to create digital stories . If you're an XP user, you can download Photo Story 3  and get busy having your students creating their own digital stories. If you're not an XP user, then what are you waiting for? Photo Story 3 is just one of many excellent reasons to try the art of digital story telling.


·      MovieMaker

Windows Movie Maker 2 lets you create, edit, and share your movies right on your PC. It's easy to use, yet it provides powerful capabilities that rival those of expensive computer editing packages. You can download the software FREE from Microsoft. It works with both Windows XP Home Edition and Windows XP Professional Edition. You can also store your video and create links to your Wiki or embed HTML codes to play right off your web site.

Authentic Assessment 

Tests and quizzes have been the bread and butter of educational systems for a century. The nationwide movement toward use of 'authentic' assessments is improving on that tradition by asking students to demonstrate their knowledge in a variety of different ways and 'real-world' contexts.

Authentic assessment (also known as "alternative assessment" or "performance assessment") seeks to gather information about a student's level of knowledge by engaging him/her in a task that:

  • offers an opportunity to demonstrate understanding as it applies to a real situation or possible scenario
  • may extend his/her knowledge of the subject through completion of the task
  • is designed to 'make visible' the students' performance on a specific set of criteria (related to course objectives)

Green Screen Storytelling Project by Jason Ohler

Students planned, created, performed and video recorded original stories before an audience in front of a wall that was painted green, which allowed for "chroma key green screen editing" during the editing process. Students created original artwork using paper and crayon, which they "slid behind" their video recorded performances using chroma editing, and collected all of their chroma-edited performances on a DVD. Students did all of the video recording, computer work, and DVD mastering.

Uploading and Downloading 

Uploading” and “downloading” mean transferring data from one computer to another. The two words have the same relationship as exporting and importing—the correct choice depends on which side of the border you’re on. Uploading is sending, or exporting, data from one computer to another; downloading is retrieving, or importing data from one computer to another.

From the award-winning documentary, "Playing For Change: Peace Through Music", comes the follow up to the classic "Stand By Me" and the second of many "songs around the world.” Featured is an incredible track written by Pierre Minetti performed by musicians around the world adding their part to the song as it traveled the globe.


“In many ways the world tells it’s story through a digital medium that touches all of mankind.”


M. D. King


Playing For Change Explained from Playing For Change on Vimeo.

Digital Story Telling References


Classroom Instructional Tools



1. http://dsi.kqed.org/index.php/workshops/about/C66

2. http://dsi.kqed.org/images/uploads/Chapter_1.pdf

3. http://www.calvin.edu/~dsc8/digital-storytelling.htm 

Niles Township Website Digital Storytelling is the art of turning a personal narrative into a multimedia experience.  It can combine music, video and/or still images with your creative voice.  The results are an original production that engages the viewing audience in ways that are often surprising and powerful. The Niles Township website was designed to showcase digital stories told by students, teachers and our community. 



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