Technology Integration

How to Incorporate Digital Storytelling to Empower Student Voice

February 26, 2015

As part of my classroom's blogging assignment, I decided to incorporate a digital storytelling component to give students an opportunity to share a story and add to their blogs. Of course, I needed to think about “why” students would be creating digital stories:

  • To gain knowledge on the structure of storytelling.
  • To communicate a message through a non-traditional medium.
  • To experiment with tools of digital storytelling to enhance their story: music, videos, images, voice, etc.
  • To build a culture of sharing and empathy in our classroom
  • To understand the power of storytelling and the impact it has on listeners/viewers.

I set up an appointment with our librarians, who are part of a great initiative that helps students with video making and media. They also help teachers like me who want to incorporate a digital aspect in the classroom.

How to Start Digital Storytelling:

  1. Decide on a topic for their digital stories: For me I left this very open, since it was a new territory we were stepping into as a class. I didn’t want to limit students’ thoughts and ideas and instead wanted to give them as many options as possible. Some suggested topics: life, culture, school experience, experiences related to issues discussed in class, advocate for a cause they believe in, etc. Several students struggled with the fact that the topics were so open, so we had a sit down conversation about what they feel passionate about and would like to share with their classmates.
  2. Create an outline/rough draft of the story: Students needed to write their stories down, so there is still a writing component in this assignment. Outlining their story is a necessary step to follow because it will be their guide as to how they want to approach creating the digital aspect of the story. There are several elements that are needed in the story in order to engage audience and grasp them in the story:
    1. Dramatic question: A question that students would like to explore or answer throughout the story. This question should be interested and engaging to grasp the attention of the audience.
    2. Emotional Content: A vital aspect of digital storytelling is the emotional element behind the words and the tools used to tell the story. Many students shared their experiences, memories, feelings about an issue, nostalgic moments. One of my students shared her experience with immigrating to Canada as a single mom, and she recalled looking at the sky above her for the first time and thinking that this was the same sky that her family is looking at back home. Examples like these are very powerful and help students to connect with each other on a personal and emotional level.
  • Identify your material: Here is where The Sandbox, the library’s media zone, was very helpful. They helped students to identify the different tools they can use to create their digital stories. They also talked about the importance of citing images, music, and information in stories. My students mainly used PowerPoint. They added music soundtrack in the background and recorded their stories on top of the slides. Stories were no longer than 4 minutes, otherwise they would get too long to share and the audience might also lose interest. Here is a link from The Sandbox that shows an instructional video on how to use PowerPoint to create a digital story: Here is another link full of open resources such as images, clips, and audio/music files for students to use in their digital stories:
  • Map out your story: There are several templates for students to use to map out their stories. The importance of mapping it out on a storyboard is to be able to read it simultaneously with the slide that goes with the sentences. There are some helpful links that students can use to create their story boards:
  • When my students shared their digital stories with the rest of the class, everyone was very astounded and inspired by each others’ words. More importantly, everyone appreciated each others’ thoughts, ideas, opinions, experiences and perspectives.

    Here is an example from one of my students, he discusses his country & culture:

    Here is another example where my student talks about how to successed in school:

    After going through such a new learning process when it comes to using tools to communicate an important message, students felt very empowered by their own words. They saw new possibilities when it comes to writing. They see writing now as a tool to communicate something they truly care about. When it comes to writing, there are so many way to help students see its power and full potential. In turn, students realize that their own voice is important and impacts others in meaningful ways.

    This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.

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    • Technology Integration
    • Media Literacy
    • Student Voice

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