Lessons Learned about Digital Storytelling

We had the opportunity to work with several classes last semester that were using Digital Storytelling for student projects. Here are some lessons we have learned that will hopefully help facilitate any Digital Storytelling project your students might undertake:

  • Focus on the Writing.  The heart of digital stories is not in the technology tools used to assemble them but in the writing. Without a well-crafted script the final product will inevitably fall flat. Students should invest a substantial amount of their total time spent on any digital story drafting and revising a script (usually 200-300 words) that will be the foundation of their digital story.  Ideally, the script is shared with the instructor or other students as part of a graded assignment.
  • Collect the materials you need and keep them organized. Once the script has been finalized, students can begin assembling the different components that will piece the story together. The narration can be recorded with an inexpensive USB microphone or a digital voice recorder. Images can be scanned from photographs or located from sources on the Web. Some students may wish to include sound effects, music, and possibly even video. Keeping all these files organized is critical, and student will likely need some sort of storage device (such as an external hard drive or thumb drive) to store their files if they will be using computers on campus to build their stories.
  • Know your resources.  No matter which type of project a student is creating, she or he will need to consider their resources (e.g., software, equipment, and even a place to record.) For most first time digital stores we recommend using iMovie or MovieMaker. These free and user-friendly pieces of software are available in OIT’s Computer Classrooms. For recording narration or voice overs, students will want to use USB microphones. Access to microphones and a quiet place to record are important things to consider.
  • Give yourself extra time. Whenever students are learning a new piece of software (or even new features in software they’re familiar with), it can take more time than they expect. Remind students to plan ahead and give themselves plenty of extra time to avoid unnecessary stress and aggravation as they get close to the deadline.    
We always like to hear more about different instructors’ experiences with their students’ digital storytelling, so make sure to let us know how these types of projects have worked for you!

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