What is Digital Storytelling? High-Tech Education Aids


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Teach students to create digital stories. Image by Remolacha

Digital storytelling can be a useful instructional tool for both students and educators. When teachers use this method correctly, this high-tech tool can support instruction and improve multiple literacy skills in the language lesson.

What Is Digital Storytelling?

Digital Storytelling is not a new teaching tool – it’s been used since the early 1990s at the Center for Digital Storytelling (CDS), a non-profit, community arts organization in Berkeley, California.

As its name implies, digital storytelling is based around the idea of using computer-based tools and applications to create stories.

As with the composition of traditional stories, digital stories usually focus on a designated topic and are composed from a certain point of view.

However, digital storytelling differs greatly from regular stories in that a combination of computer-based images, text, recorded audio narration, video clips and/or music are used to support the storyline or plot.

Types of Digital Stories

As explained by  Bernard R. Robin in “The Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling,” there are a number of different types of digital stories:

1) Students can create personal narratives around significant incidents in their lives.

2) Students can create historical documentaries that examine past events.

3) Students can create stories around recent classroom themes to help consolidate vocabulary and language structures.

4) Teachers and students can create digital stories to teach and revise a particular language concept or point in an interesting and fun way.

5) Students can create stories to show multiple language competencies, especially if requested to go out on the street and interview or present a survey.

For digital projects in the classroom, the stories should last around 5 minutes, and can be created by students individually or together in small groups.  Once created, students can share their stories over the Internet on YouTube, for example, and other digital distribution systems.

Seven Elements of a Digital Story

The CDS created a list of the seven elements that a digital story should contain,  which provides a handy template for teachers and students. The following points are based on the list as summarized by Bernard.

1. What is the story’s point of view – what is the perspective of the author?
2. What dramatic question does the story provide and answer at the end of the story?
3. What is the emotional content? What serious issues are tackled that speak to us in a personal and powerful way?
4. How is the gift of the voice of the speaker used? How is the story  personalized so the story helps the audience understand the context?
5. How does the soundtrack support the storyline?
6. Are you overloading your audience with too much information?
7. Is the story too fast or too slow? Did you choose the correct pace?

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