Sunday, July 17, 2011

Digital Storytelling: Multimodal Approaches

What is Digital Storytelling?

I wrote on Digital Storytelling a year ago, but thought I'd do a similar post as I see great opportunities with this approach. Digital Storytelling is a relatively new term that has varied meanings. It began as a way for people to tell their personal stories and family histories. They combine relatively simple texts with images and sometimes videos that the author has often created along with the texts. Their purpose was initially to inform, as therapy, as creative expression, as part of local histories, and so on.

They are usually short, taking just 2-5 minutes to view, read and listen to. They are real stories told in your words and usually using your own voice. Here is just one example (there are others at the end of the post).

Above: The story of 'Intelligence and Luck' is an excellent example of how well written text supported by the most simple of sketches can be very meaningful.

But as the idea has been embraced it has been adapted to suit varied purposes and creators. The common elements are:
  • It is a form of storytelling
  • They are authentic creations
  • They use images in association with print and sound
  • They are published digitally
Just like the illustrations in a good picture book or graphic novel, the digital resources used in association with words are very important in a digital story and include:
  • Still photos
  • Scanned images and documents
  • Short videos
  • Music
  • Sound effects
How are they made?

Essentially, digital stories are short movies produced on inexpensive and readily available equipment:
  • Home computer
  • Computer video programs like iMovie (Macintosh) or MovieMaker (Windows)
  • Digital recorder
  • Hand held video camera or phone with built-in video
  • Digital camera
  • Digital scanner

Of course, you don't need all of the above, you could get started with a digital camera or video and a computer.

Once completed the digital stories can be uploaded to websites, blogs, burned onto DVDs and shared with others, projected onto a television screen, or viewed on your computer, viewed in a school hall by large audiences, presented on a Smart Board for the class to share, or given to parents and other interested audiences.

What are the advantages of Digital Storytelling?

There are many good things about digital storytelling that relate to the creators and the community of interest in which they are shared. Creators are able to:
Use word, image and sound to communicate powerful and effective stories.
Publish their digital stories to wider audiences that can have access anywhere around the world.
Extend their network of relationships as they share their work with others and cooperate with others on joint projects.
Learn to comprehend and use images as well as words to communicate.
Learns new things whether the creators, collaborators or the audiences for the digital stories.
Nine Simple Ideas for Digital Storytelling

You might try one of the following ideas for digital storytelling:

a) Have students choose a person and simply tell their story in 10 pictures and with 10 associate text segments. This can be a famous person, or someone known to them.

b) Interview someone about something and take photos to support the story.

c) Have the students choose three people to talk about the same incident or experience, for example, a recent climatic event like a storm or fire, a sporting event, or the childhood memories of play for a sibling or fellow student, their mother or father and a grandparent.

d) Create a series of drawings, pictures or collages and use these as the visuals for a story that they tell in spoken and/or written word.

e) Do a web search and capture images that relate to a significant event (e.g. an environmental disaster or an historical event) then retell the event in words and images.

f) Have children collect a sample of photographs that sample their life span and tell their own story.

g) Retell a well-known picture book with a twist in the plot, a change in characters, a shift in time or setting and their own illustrations to support their text.

Above: These storyboards were created by individual students then put together by the teacher into a digital story

h) Use modelling clay, play dough or even Lego or other construction toys to create a series of characters to support a story - use and manipulate the 3D models and photograph them or video them to help tell the story.

i) Create a group or class digital story that is based on a common narrative storyline that is then told using story boards that different children make. These are photographed or used with video technology to present the story in image, word & sound.

j) As well the above story-based ideas some teachers have been using the same concept of the storyboard for science, social science, history, in fact any school subject, as a tool for learning and communication. 

Further Examples of Digital Storytelling

Because Digital Storytelling is a relatively new activity, there are few good examples available with younger children because the earliest work in this genre has been with adults and high school children.  However, the following additional examples should give some sense of the possibilities.

Above: 'Mongolia for Mongolians' is an excellent example from senior High School students of an account of their experience of Mongolia

Above: This is an excellent video that tells how one 3rd Grade teacher taught her children to make digital stories

Hopefully, some of these examples will get you started if you haven't already attempted digital storytelling. Have a look at the resources below. There are a couple of good kids examples on the site promoting Lisa Miller's new book (link below).

Useful Resources

The 'Center for Digital Storytelling' has been a key resource for ideas on digital storytelling (HERE)
Lisa Miller has written a very practical book that has just been released 'Make Me a Story' (HERE)
Edutopia has a helpful online piece- 'How to use Digital Storytelling in the Classroom' (HERE)
The 'Digitales' site offers a lot of good technical advice (HERE)

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