Digital Story Telling in the Classroom
by Eric Lawson
The Rye Education Foundation just awarded Rye Elementary School with a complete studio set and equipment for school plays, skits, presentations, digital storytelling and a live streaming student broadcast program. The grant included a green screen kit with lights, an HD Panasonic Video Camcorder, a Snowball Mic, a Soulo wireless mic for iPad, Telestream Wirecast Pro editing software to edit on the fly, a movie mount tripod for iPad with wide angle lens and two lapel mics, a sound mixer for an iPad, a boom mic, and a year's worth of ad free streaming services.
It's truly a dream come true for me. My first love as a kid was listening, reading and watching stories come alive. I remember seeing my first movie at the drive in theater with my parents. Steven Spielberg's ET, made me laugh, cry and even frightened me in parts (I was only 5), but it was an experience I will never forget. Since then, I have always wanted to make movies, and to tell my stories in the digital world we live in. Now I get the best of both worlds! I can be a Curriculum/Technology Integrator and help teachers and students make professional looking digital stories at the same time.
Digital storytelling has evolved tremendously since the days of typing your final draft on a word processor. A published work back then may have been shared by you and your teacher, potentially with your classmates, and probably your parents, but that was about it. Now there are many more options to create, edit, collaborate and share your published work with virtually anyone online.
Programs are becoming more and more sophisticated to allow the story teller to tell their own unique story through pictures, movies, podcasts, comics, slideshows, interactive games, and much more. In fact, it is difficult to tell a student any more which program to use to publish their work. This decision really should be up to the creator of the story, and reflect the imagination behind the story.
Web 2.0 applications and tablet devices have played an integral part in the evolution of digital storytelling. Students can now collaborate, reflect, and gain feedback from a much larger audience. This generally inspires students to produce much higher quality work, and gives them a sense of audience that was nearly impossible to teach in a small classroom setting.
Online collaboration can be hugely beneficial, too! Imagine your students are writing an essay on a book they are reading in class and post it to their blog, and the author himself writes a comment, or reflection, on the students’ essays. Primary source feedback and authentic interaction can motivate and inspire students infinitely.
The best part about digital story telling is that there is no one set blueprint on how to teach it, or facilitate this learning in the classroom. Stories are as unique as the story tellers themselves. Presenting these stories should be just as unique! Students should be allowed some choice of tools and presentation mediums when publishing their stories to a global audience.
The one constant that has been around since the beginning of story telling (before the digital revolution) is the foundations of the writing process. As a teacher we aren't always ahead of the curve when it comes to newer technologies. In fact, many of our students could teach us a few things when it comes to the latest and greatest device or application, however, as the facilitator of digital story telling in the classroom it is wise not to focus on the tools, but the process itself.
You are the professional in your classroom. Help guide your students through the writing process from brainstorming, organizing and writing a rough draft or storyboard, editing, collaborating, and creating and publishing a final draft or published presentation. The foundations of the writing process are more important, and the essential skills that students must strive to master, in order to become a great story teller.
Preplanning and organization at the beginning of a digital story telling unit is hugely important. Before any film is shot, any puppets are made, or any app is even downloaded, students should organize their stories. Personally, I have used many different tools for story boarding in my own classroom in the past for this very reason. Marco Torres, a social studies teacher and technology director at San Fernando High School, as well as the digital story telling guru for education once said, "You can either take an eraser to the blueprint, or take a pickaxe to the foundation." (A Curriculum for Digital Media Creation, Torres and Kallen). Preplanning and planning some more cannot be stressed enough in the early stages of the writing process and for creating marvelous digital stories.
Allow your students to choose their own tools to tell their story. They may even teach one another a thing or two about the tools, and how they can be used to enhance their stories. Don't forget the real power behind digital story telling though, the story itself! It doesn't matter how glamorous or fancy the movie turns out, it's the meat of the story that makes it worth an Oscar. Help guide your students to become better writers and great story tellers, and you will be amazed with the enthusiasm and dedication they will put into these digital stories.
About the author:
Eric Lawson has been teaching for 12 years. He has been published in eSchool News, Tech&Learning Magazine and ISTE’s Learning and Leading with Technology Magazine for technology integrated projects and ideas. He was named a member of the Maine Starting 6, and was inducted into the Unum’s Maine Teacher’s Hall of Fame in January 2012. He now finds himself working as the Admin Curriculum and Technology Integrator for the Rye School District back in his home state of New Hampshire.
The great part about digital storytelling is that there is no one correct blue print. Stories are unique and told from different author perspectives. Therefore they should presented as uniquely as their story. Here is a web page with some great links and resources to get started with digital storytelling in your classroom.
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