Accept the Challenge: Create a Digital Story! Here's How to Begin!

Digital Storytelling opens a new creative world to everyone brave enough to give it a shot.  Are you fearless?  Do you enjoy a challenge?  I do… always have.   I took on a bit of a challenge this past weekend when Linda Chiles, MO/KS Field Manager, invited me to help present a Digital Storytelling session in Wichita, KS.

One hundred and twenty-five Wichita Public School and area educators explored many unitedstreaming-related integration strategies on 2/18/06. Linda sponsored a fun day-long unitedstreaming event with the help of WPS instructional technology director, Robin Surland. And, they did a GREAT job! (Wow… WPS Technology Department has tremendous programs and resources in place for educators! Check out their online resources for educators! Very impressive!)

It was rewarding to see so many teachers exploring Digital Storytelling for the first time and experimenting with a free Microsoft program, Windows Movie Maker 2.0, as the primary storytelling construction software tool. 

I do not consider myself an expert on digital storytelling (far from it!.  I am just someone who has seen the amazing end products that talented teachers are developing when they understand how to work with the digital media technology tools.   I have dabbled in digital storytelling as a CESA #4 Technolgoy Director wearing my "trainer’s hat" helping educators in learn how to edit digital video on the Windows platform.   

I led many Pinnacle’s Studio (which I love and is reasonably priced but not free) dv editing tool workshops and have found this truly exciting.  Why?  Because everyone of us has a great story to tell through digital media… be it an instructional lesson or a personal, heartfelt story! However, I found that many of my teacher-student’s end products were missing the mark. The stories seemed to wander, lack engagement, become tedious due to overuse of transitions, etc.    Good projects are built on a strong foundation!   

So… how do you begin?  I usually begin by exploring the resources of multiple experts for guidance. I found my deepest and most valued understandings in wisdom of Bernajean Porter.   I have been lucky in knowing Bernajean and working side-by-side with her.  Truly, one of my favorite educational technology leaders!  Visit Digitales, Bernajean’s gift to all of us wanting to plunge ourselves into the Digital Storytelling experience. Her on-line resources are rich in content and meaning.  First stop… find out what digital storytelling is.   Digital storytelling is much, much more than just taking images, video clips, and sound and blending them together in a multimedia project.

Next, take a look at Bernajean’s 7 Steps to Creating a Digi Tales Story which details the essential elements and serves as a guidepost to helping us begin our creations.    I also value Jason Ohler’s approach to Digital Storytelling.  His on-line resources also provide much insight into development of a powerful digital story but with a different approach than Bernajean’s.

If you need good storyboarding template to help plan your project do a Google advanced search like the one pictured here. Try restricting the file format to PDF type as often excellent resources are formatted this way so that all end users (Mac and Windows) can open the files.


I located 95 hits using this search strategy.  There should be plenty of good examples of storyboards within the resulting group of hits. My favorite elementary level storyboard is one available through Time for Kids. You will find a wealth of reproducibles available on-line there!

Next, be sure that you spend a good deal of time thinking about the Six Elements of a Good Digital Story.    The best digital stories are ones in which you have immersed yourself either through first-hand experience or have spent much time researching, brainstorming, discussing, reviewing, living vicariously. Your digital story is a reflection of who you are, how your perceive the world, the lessons you have learned, a sharing of a bit of yourself.  That story might be very personal.  It might be focused on a benchmark moment in life.  A student who changed you forever.  The love you have for your subject matter.  The love you have for teaching.  Begin where your comfort level lies and with a story that is meaningful to you!

Note: Next time I will share some of my favorite digital stories!   If you have some helpful Digital Storytelling resources to share please post your comments!   I am also including my table of helpful web resources for Digital Storytelling Download janweedigital_storytelling_helpful_web_resources.doc

I consider this list of URLs to be a good start, but not comprehensive, so please help us by sharing your favorite web resources not on this list and why you like them!

Start crafting your stories and you will find it both rewarding and addictive! (in a good way!)


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One Comment;

  1. Brian Bartel said:

    If you are a science teacher attending the WSST Convention at the Kalahari in WI Dells March 2-4 (, consider taking this session on Thursday: W6. Mov(i)e over Mr. Spielberg.

    Dick Seng (from Lake Geneva Middle School) will be hosting this session, where you’ll learn how to use Windows Moviemaker to make and edit films for your classroom. Participants will be viewing and editing a film to use in the classroom.


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