ed tech in practice · teaching writing & storytelling

Digital Storytelling: Love it!

I created the above video for my Digital Storytelling class at the University of Florida this summer. The purpose of this video is obvious, I hope: I will be teaching creative writing and dramatic writing (two separate courses) in my new teaching position for 2012-2013. One of the foundations for the writing courses, as I am designing them, is a daily journal. I have spent years collecting my creative writing inspirations and resources and spent the bulk of this summer (at least that time that was not devoted to graduate school) picking out my favorite journal prompts. The prompts featured in the video will appear within the first two weeks of class. I believe strongly in the value inherent in writing a journal — regardless of the quality of the written product. The act of writing — of expanding one’s comfort level with writing on any topic for a mandatory period of time — is arguably the best way for my adolescent students to improve their confidence and, therefore, their skill in writing. I wanted to explain these ideas in a fun way to them. Plus, I want them to create their own digital stories, and I can’t very well ask them to do something that I haven’t successfully accomplished myself. Can I?

Digital Storytelling is one of the electives I chose for my Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction. I am excited about teaching a short unit on digital storytelling using many of the ideas that Jason Ohler explains in his text Digital Storytelling in the Classroom: New Media Pathways to Literacy, Learning, and Creativity. For now, I will include the commentary that I wrote when I turned in this assignment. I do hope to elucidate some of the additional lessons learned in future posts.

In reflecting on the completion of this digital story, I have learned the following lessons that will help me when I implement a digital story assignment with my students:

  • It is easy to underestimate the length of the final video. I estimated that my video would be three and a half minutes long, but, without adding anything to the original pre-production plan, the video is seven minutes.
  • The nitty-gritty details in producing a digital story can consume a lot of time. I will strictly limit the number of elements (transitions, titles, stills, music, sound effects, etc.) that students are permitted to include. 
  • Production could easily overshadow story. Although I am confident that production highlighted the quality of my story, I can see how my students might get lost in producing and forget that the story is the central objective in digital storytelling.  Therefore, through limiting elements and focusing on the story core, I will endeavor to keep the story as the central focus.
  • Advance access to an excellent rubric is vital. As long as the rubric reflects the learning objectives, students should be able to focus on the most important aspects and not get lost in the details.

I hope to include a few more posts about some of the additional teaching ideas I have gleaned from this course. Suffice it to say that I have a lot of “take aways” that I will be taking directly into my classroom this coming school year. Certainly, a unit on digital storytelling is a new “must have” for my students. The only question to remain is how much am I going to learn from their videos? I venture to guess that I will learn quite a bit!


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