A Day of Discovery

Discoveryworld_4Hello from Discovery World! I am in Milwaukee along with many of my Discovery Education colleagues and a large number of Discovery Educators and active unitedstreaming users from Wisconsin and Illinois. We are at the beautiful new facility on the shores of Lake Michigan for a Day of Discovery on September 23 featuring such topics as podcasting, digital stories, and DEN website features.

Linda Chiles and I will be facilitating a forum covering a variety of tips and techniques that we hope will help teachers to find new ways to design digital story assignments for their students. In that spirit, here is a “Top Ten” list ala David Letterman that contains many of the ideas we will explore on Saturday:

10. Remember that the only video segments from unitedstreaming that can be used with video editing software are those that have been designated as “Editable” content and that display the “Edit” icon on the page that contains the description of the video.

9. Try using a “kit” for your first projects so that your students can spend more time learning how to use the software applications and equipment while spending less time searching for resources. You can create your own “kits” by creating folders filled with interesting images, video segments, and audio files, or you can explore pre-made examples such as the Kitzu examples pioneered by KOCE in California.

8. Study the suggestions offered by educators who are actively involved in digital storytelling projects and create an FAQ list for yourself with tips for using microphones, lighting, camera angles, and special circumstances that may require some creative shooting techniques.

7. Be sure to pay attention to the copyright issues that pertain to the resources you include in your projects. This is easy if you and your students include only original photographs, video footage, and recorded narrations, but the copyright issues may be harder to define if you use materials created by others. Hall Davidson has put a comprehensive guide to copyright issues on his web site.

6. Have a plan for your digital story projects and show students how to use storyboards or other organizational tools so that they develop logical narratives and an efficient work flow. Bernajean Porter devotes a complete section of her Digitales web site to such planning guides and templates.

5. Don’t forget that many of the software tools and resources that you will need to create powerful digital story projects are free or come bundled with the Macintosh or Windows operating systems. Applications such as Microsoft Photo Story 3, Audacity, iMovie, and MovieMaker are not only free, they are relatively easy for students and teachers to use.

4. Explore ways that traditional assignments, book reports, and research projects might be transformed into more creative digital stories. Plot summaries might become movie trailers, standard biographies assume new dimensions as oral history projects or personal narratives, and persuasive essays become original commercials or public service announcements.

3. Locate a few good digital story websites such as those I highlighted in my September 21 post and study a variety of sample stories posted on those sites. You are likely to be amazed by both the creativity and the skill that student authors bring to their projects, and you will no doubt find ideas that will fit well into your curriculum.

2. Consider creating video “festivals” in your own schools or districts to provide a means to showcase the digital stories that your students create. Students are far more likely to devote more time and care to projects that they know will be viewed by other students, teachers and parents. This can also be a great way to connect your schools to the community at large, especially if other citizens are invited to create their own digital narratives with the help of students.

1. Finally, don’t forget that the most important element is a compelling story and not merely the images, background music, or video clips. Too often, story authors gather the visual elements first and try to create a story around them. If you encourage your students to hone their rough drafts and create storyboards before they shoot video footage or search for images, you will help them to improve their narrative skills and create more interesting and effective stories.

These are just a few ideas to help get you started. Since the core of the Discovery Educator Network is a community of users sharing ideas, if you have other suggestions to help other teachers have success with digital story projects, please share your ideas by leaving a comment.       


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  1. Cheryl Woolwine said:

    Thanks for the list = if you don’t mind I will share the top ten with my staff in North Florida. We are having a day of Discovery in November with Danielle Abernathy – Can’t wait!

  2. Jeanne Paulus said:

    Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that has many free images for students or teachers to download. To check copyright issues, simply double-click the images.

  3. Marci Lanois said:

    This is a very cool, free download. The description from the site states; “Display and manage your images in a virtual album that lets you browse the images by flipping the pages. Whether the images are in BMP, JPEG, or MAG, you can instantly create an album by simply dragging and dropping the folder onto the Bookshelf, or by adding the images directly from a media device such as the memory card. The image files are displayed as thumbnails and you can add text as well as sounds to each image. Images can be viewed in the actual size just with a single click. You can customize the album by defining the number of pages and changing the layouts of the thumbnails in the album page. Also, additional album skins are available. Your albums will be stored in a Bookshelf and will be managed in a user friendly manner.”

  4. Jeanine Brennan said:

    is a fantastic site to help you get started

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