The Power of Digital Storytelling in the Classroom: Telling Stories With Technology | Edutopia
Edutopia on Facebook
Edutopia on Twitter
Edutopia on Google+
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
Subscribe to RSS

The Power of Digital Storytelling in the Classroom: Telling Stories With Technology

The first time I saw Ken Burns's documentary series The Civil War, I was captivated. He used old photos and personal letters to bring this part of our history to life and touch our hearts while we learned. Storytelling has been a form of communicating throughout the history of humanity and was a way to educate the younger generations.

We tell stories to children to introduce them to literature. As teachers, we are inspired, impressed, touched, and altogether enlightened with the digital stories we see. Whether on the Web, in a class, or just among friends, I enjoy them so much that when I have a little spare time, I search for new stories and replay several of my favorites. Like little jewels, they brighten my day.

There is an art to storytelling and a sequence to unfolding the story to the end. In the process of storytelling, we become more creative, gain speaking skills, and improve our verbal organizing skills and our ability to empathize. Now, with digital stories, pictures enhance storytelling's visual communication and appeal. The process includes planning, writing, editing, illustrating, and producing the components so that we communicate the heartfelt essence, not just the events.

Children are often bursting to tell their stories, and many teachers want to help them to become good storytellers. In working with hundreds of teachers, I have found that they would like resources and strategies to aid them in this task.

I would like to use the Spiral Notebook as a place to share good ideas and resources for developing storytelling in all levels of our culture and to make it even easier to tell our stories with technology. There are hundreds of guides, forms, software solutions, and examples to choose from. Each week, I will present a scenario and ask for your suggestions. Here is the one for this week:

In this week's case, a second-grade teacher wants to use storytelling in her curriculum but is too busy to help all twenty-five children individually. She decides her storytellers need listeners and help with their scripts. She collaborates with a fifth-grade teacher, and the older students are trained as listeners and scribes to listen to the stories and help the younger ones write or sequence their stories. On this Web site, she sees the Edutopia magazine article, "How To: Use Digital Storytelling in Your Classroom."

What would you suggest for next steps? We now have many helpful guides, software programs, and other resources to help us create and share digital stories. What are your recommendations to help primary teachers who want to use digital stories in their curriculum? Do you have a favorite Web site or training guide, or software recommendations, to get teachers and younger children started?

Comments (26)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Donna Yarnal's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

One resource to consider is Heritage Makers. This is an on-line digital publishing option where family stories can be captured and handed down from generation to generation. I would think uses in the classroom would be just as effective.

Terri Surrency's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Gosh, thanks for all the feedback. I am going to look into every suggestion. One problem with my school setting is that we are only 4th and 5th grade. I did take my 5th graders across town to the k-1 school so that they could share some stories they had written. Going now, I am anxious to look into Kilvington, PhotoStory 3, digitals, and Heritage Makers.


Wesley Fryer's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Peggy: At the SITE conference in Orlando this past March, higher education professors and graduate students gathered around the unifying theme of digital storytelling. The blog we created before, during, and after the conference remains online at:

I obtained Joe Lambert's permission to share his post-keynote conversation about digital storytelling as a podcast, and it is also available. Joe is the co-founder of the Center for Digital Storytelling, and has a wealth of wisdom as well as ideas/expertise to share about digital storytelling for students of all ages!

Edutopia's picture
Edutopia Team

The UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and the USC Annenberg School for Communication have developed a site for professional journalists interested in multimedia reporting. I've found it offers some very practical suggestions that are relevant for aspiring storytellers of all ages: choosing a story, storyboarding, collecting information and assets, editing, and assembling.

Learn from their suggestions and simplify/adapt them for your students. The site also has tutorials on digital still cameras, video cameras, video accessories, shooting tips, editing software, etc. All good stuff!

Muriel Wells's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

To Terri Surrency who writes that she 'would also like for my students to work collaboratively with other 5th grade students in some way. Not sure how to suggestions'.
Terri I facilitated a project for 8 years (3500+ teachers and their students participated) called the Teddy Bear Project. While I finally had to stop facilitating the project the concept is very simple but very worthwhile. A class in one school works with a class at a similar level. They send each other by surface mail a teddy bear or other soft toy. Send along some local inexpensive momentos as well. Then the bear spends time with the children in the environment and writes home a diary about its daily experiences. This can form a digital story and can include photos etc. This allows technology to be used in meaningful ways, provides a real audience for children's writing and for reading as well as learning about life in a different community within or outside your country.
Teachers have found this to be an outstanding project that allows for a wide range of interpretations by classroom teachers. If you want more information you can email me on

Ann Sisko's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

You might want to try partnering with older kids who already know the ropes.

An art teacher at our High School, and I (I'm teaching fourth grade this year) learned about digital storytelling last summer at a workshop presented by Joe Lambert and his colleagues as a part of the Teacher Institute at the National Gallery of Art.

We devised an plan in which her students would learn the process and produce their own digital stories, then work one-on-one with the fourth graders to assist them in producing their stories.

We had our first collaborative meeting last Monday. It was a resounding success with both the older and younger students. And they accomplished a tremendous amount in the time they were together!

We have two more meetings before the end of school. I am looking forward to seeing how it all turns out.

Carrie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I would like to contact Ms. Benton to further discuss digital storytelling for teachers. I work with the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching and conduct regular semianrs for teachers on storytellng in the classroom, using Grammy award winner storyteller and musician, David Holt. I would be interested in combining talents to offer a combination of oral and digital storytelling workshop for teachers. I have spent residence time in school working on storytelling techniques with students to help them with their story writing and telling skills, it seems that the digital component simply furthers the idea and brings it into the 21st century. thanks,

Elizabeth Ross Hubbell's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I did a digital storytelling project once with 3rd graders. We used iMovie and scanned our digital photos. What made the project managable and successful was pairing them up to help each other with their digital stories. I only had to show each pair how to do something, then they would help each other remember the steps. One person would operate the voice recording (starting & stopping when the reader came to a pause) and they would collaborate on where the images should align with the audio.

Sharon Krasner's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I also recommend Bernajean Porter as a source. I heard her speak at the MECC conference in St. Louis and she is wonderful. My summer project is to perfect my digital storytelling skills so I can use it in my middle-school computer lab all next year. We're purchasing digital cameras, video cameras, mikes and headphones. I can't wait!

article Blended Learning: Resource Roundup

Last comment 8 months 3 weeks ago in Blended Learning

Discussion Shrinking the World with Google Hangouts

Last comment 1 week 4 days ago in Technology Integration

article Resources for Using iPads in Grades 9-12

Last comment 10 months 1 week ago in Mobile Learning

Discussion What Does a 21st Century Classroom Look Like: Technology Integration

Last comment 1 week 3 days ago in Technology Integration

Discussion What the Research Says about 1:1

Last comment 1 week 4 days ago in 1:1 Implementation

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.