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The Learning Institute Project Day 2 – Digital Storytelling

This is day 2 at the Learning Institute at the American School of London led by the esteemed Leah Treesh. Our big project of the last couple of days has been Digital Storytelling. Now, I had heard of digital storytelling, and played with a few examples but had never really sat down and played with it. I’m so glad that I got the opportunity to do so because there’s a lot of cool stuff that I plan to implement in the next academic year!

The goal of digital storytelling, at least broadly (teachers will need to develop their own immediate and focused goals), is to enable story to use images, text, video, audio, etc to present a topic or idea. It allows for greater creativity and, from the experience in class, focus and investment. It’s a lot more engaging than a simple oral report and combats my problem with students giving PowerPoints presentations (they all want to write their report on the slides). We were given a step-by-step process (I’ll go over it here) that you can tweak for individual needs. I’ll even put in here my finished product.

The overall step-by-step process was published by the University of Houston’s Digital Storytelling webpage (a great resource and tool – if you’re interested at all in Digital Storytelling, this should be your first step).

Part One: Define, Collect, Decide

  1. Select a topic for your digital story
  2. Begin thinking of the purpose of your story – are you answering a question? provoking a response? informing your audience? etc.
  3. Create a folder in your documents in which to store, text, pictures, video, etc.
  4. Start locating resources such as music, photos, text, etc.

I decided to specifically choose and write a project that is directly related to my course content. Leah Treesh brilliantly suggested that we build our projects around an existing lesson plan and then we could use it as a demonstration to our students for what we are looking for in their projects. Since I will be teaching U.S. History again this Fall, I decided that I would adapt my lesson plan on Civil War Battles and focused specifically on the Battle of Gettysburg. Instead of having my students do an oral presentation (with PowerPoint or other visual aid) on a battle of the Civil War, I will have them present a Digital Story along this model.

I then proceeded to collect a number of resources, images, audio, etc. To ensure that there wasn’t a copyright issue, I used a website called Creative Commons. This website searches for license free (or educational license) content, to ensure that copyright is not violated. Being the Battle of Gettysburg, and the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, there was a lot  of material available – photos, videos, music, and more (all at a professional level) for free! It was very cool.

Part Two: Decide, Select, Import, Create

  1. Decide on the purpose and point of view of your video.
  2. Select Select the images you would like to use (you may want to edit them)
  3. Select the audio you would like to you.
  4. Select the content and text you would like to use for your digital story.
  5. Modify number of images and/or image order, if necessary.

The way that we did this was with story-boarding. Apple’s Pages actually has a story-board template. However, you can easily use Keynote or PowerPoint to the same purpose. Because I didn’t have access to pages on my loaner computer, I wrote a story-board (think of it as an outline with pictures) using Keynote.

A quick shot of my story-board

It essentially serves the same purpose as an outline for an essay and ultimately can be tweaked and changed. I moved the order around in mine and completely removed the reference to Vicksburg. I also, when seeing how the timing worked, put in a few additional photos.

Part Three: Write, Import, Record, Finalize

  1. Write a scrip that you will use for the narration in your digital story.
  2. Import images into your chosen application (e.g. GarageBand, iMovie, Keynote, PowerPoint, JayCut)
  3. Use your microphone (many computers already have it built in) and record the narration of your script.
  4. Finalize your digital story and then save it in the appropriate format (hint – you can even upload it onto YouTube to share!).

I took about an hour or so to write up my script. I’ll attach a copy of it here: The Battle of Gettysburg Script. If you want to read it, it’s a simple Word document. If I had had a little more time, I would have spent more energy editing it and likely given a copy to a friend or colleague for review. Still, not bad considering the time constraints.

I then used iMovie (yay for loaner-Macs) to make the final product. I find it a lot easier to use and it present a much more professional looking final product. Most of my colleagues that used iMovie for the first time found it very easy to adopt-to and the process itself wasn’t overwhelmingly time-consuming or cumbersome. Others in the group used PowerPoint or JayCut – but the process there was less straight-forward. Clearly, your actual creation process is dependent on the software you elect to use. However, thanks to intuitive modern software, google, and patient friends, most of us can make a pretty solid product with little investment and a shallow learning curve.

Part Four: Demonstrate, Evaluate, Replicate

  1. Show your digital story to your colleagues.
  2. Using a rubric, gather feedback about how the story could be improved, expanded, and used in your classroom.
  3. Teach your students how to create their own digital story.
  4. Congratulate yourself for a job well done!

When we all finished, we then took turns showing our presentations. As we’re all at different divisional levels and have various responsibilities (e.g. administrators, educators, tech people, etc), we all had different topics and presentations. The level of creativity in the room was amazing!

We had a sample rubric that we used that had been developed by UMass (and readily adaptable to every classroom). Another great rubric developer, also free for teachers is Rubistar.

So, here is my finished product. It’s not too bad (although I can still think of ways I could improve – especially the sound). Still, I was pretty happy with how it turned out and think it will be a great resource in my classroom and am excited to see what my students come up with.

I thought I would also include a video created by my friend and colleague Jane Cooper who not only made her first video, but did it her first time using a Mac computer!

You should also check out Karen Arrington’s blog, where she highlights her experience.