When I think about the topic of digital storytelling, I can’t help but think of the opening song for The Brady Bunch. It is a simple, but clever digital story that tells a lot in just 1 minute of time while catching the attention of people young and old. Not to mention, it has spawned a ton of parodies over the years. Here is my personal favorite of the ones I spent FAR too much time watching this week.

Ok all fun aside, this week I learned that getting students to be the creators of their own personal digital stories is a really powerful tool for learning in the classroom. Here is how I intend to use it.

The Unit

In my Coetail course 1 final project I revamped a current unit I teach in my first grade classroom. It just so happened to be a unit all about expressing ourselves through creating powerful stories. The central idea for this unit is…

A powerful story engages the audience, communicates meaning, and invites a response.

Throughout the unit students inquire into how people tell stories, why people tell stories, and how people consider their purpose and audience when telling stories. The culminating project of this unit is for students to create a powerful story using any method they choose while incorporating all of the findings we learned throughout it. Students can choose to either retell a story or create a new one of their own. They can also choose to work independently or in a group if they like. Since we wanted to allow for more student agency, we did not block students in to only creating digital stories, but instead allow them to choose creating a digital story as an option if they like. Even still, when doing this last year students gravitated toward the digital media in order to express themselves while creating their own powerful stories. Here is one of my student examples from last school year.

In 7 things you should know about… Digital Storytelling by Educase they say,

Constructing a narrative and communicating it effectively require the storyteller to think carefully about the topic and consider the audience’s perspective.

This is indeed our focus for our students in this unit. It is more on the intention and less about the final product. The planning and preparation beforehand tell a lot about the students’ understanding of the concepts. In order for us to see this deep thinking, we sit down and interview each of our students about their stories as they plan them. Here are the questions we ask so that we can see their thinking.

  • What story do you want to share? (original/retold)
  • Why does this story speak to you? (perspective)
  • Why is this story told? (purpose)
  • How will you make your story powerful? (presentation method, function)

The answers to these questions really tell us their level of understanding of the content. The reason I love using digital storytelling in this unit is that the students not only learn the about the content, but also many other necessary life skills including digital and visual literacy, collaboration, planning, time management, comprehension, speaking, listening, and presenting.

Global Collaboration

Another way I intend to utilize digital storytelling in my class this year is by participating in a globally collaborative project called the Traveling Tale. I am very excited my class gets to participate in this project this year. I really love how it is focused around the UN Sustainable Development Goals and allows my students to practice collaboration by breaking down the walls of our classroom and opening it up to the world. The beginning of our tale has just now been completed by a class in Thailand and my class will be in charge of creating the resolution of the story from Oct 24-29. I am excited to see the learning that will happen as a result of this collaborative digital story.

A Little Fun

Since I started this post with some fun, I thought it only made sense to end with some as well. This week we have been on break for the Chinese National Holiday so I haven’t been at school. Because of this, I have had some time to create my own digital story just for fun. I decided to build some LEGO with my children for the characters and setting, and then I used Stop Motion Studio and iMovie for the video creation. I only did a little bit of preplanning and then jumped right into it. It didn’t take long, only a little more than an hour. Because I didn’t add many images, it is quite short-only 20 seconds. Anyways, I hope you enjoy my story called, The Sneaky Wizard!

Featured Image by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash