6 Reasons You Should Be Doing Digital Storytelling with Your Students

Anna Warfield
What is all this hooplah about digital storytelling? Digital storytelling is a blend of video, audio, images, and text to convey stories, information, and ideas. Most likely, you are doing digital storytelling activities in your classroom already. If you are not yet convinced of the benefits of digital storytelling, here are the top six reasons why you should be doing digital storytelling activities with your students.

Leadership and Digital Storytelling Go Hand in Hand

Strong leaders of tomorrow start their journey today in classrooms. just like yours, all over the world. Students cultivate leadership qualities by being able to take charge: learning about themselves and their passions, directing their learning towards their interests, and developing initiative. Students who take initiatives make decisions based on a willingness or desire to act, and use both creative and analytical thinking skills. Initiative demonstrates leadership skills, confidence in one’s self and one’s potential, and a willingness to do more or to start something.
Good leaders listen to their audience and consider its concerns and reactions. Digital storytelling is also very audience-driven because of the necessity to help your audience understand your story through various media. By taking part in various digital storytelling activities, students can reflect on their own projects and on those of their peers. Being a member of an audience is an important step on the road to leadership.
“[W]e have always learned about life from our family’s narratives, and… we learn to live our lives in more productive ways when we can learn to listen to the stories of others.”  –Carolyn Conforti-Browse

Digital Storytelling Promotes Competency with Technology

Digital fluency and literacy are vital for careers that will increasingly be machine-based. In the workplace, many students will need to be competent with a wide variety of interfaces and computer skills to be successful. As educators, we should be encouraging the positive use of available technology.
Expose students to the benefits of creating and uploading their own ideas (See: Why Students Value Blogging). Give them a chance to interact with the digital world and make their own mark while still using the internet in a safe environment. By searching, critiquing, and producing for various media, students improve their research skills, evaluate the credibility and quality of sources, and learn about copyrights and the proper citing of sources.
Pro Tip: Photos For Class is a great resource for school-appropriate photos and it automatically cites for you!
In addition to creating a story or message, digital storytelling gives students the ability and flexibility to work with different web tools and software programs. Word processors, image editors, music, and more all come together.  

The Process Mirrors the Traditional Writing Process

Digital storytelling is still writing. Whether it is a multi-day project or a storyboard created in ten minutes, the process for digital storytelling is the same as any other project:

  • Brainstorm
  • Plan
  • Create
  • Revise
  • Edit
  • Publish
  • Reflect

Students should be involved with every step, including the publishing stage if feasible. The bulk of the work remains in the planning stage. The implementation of planning and creating may cause students to rethink grandiose ideas in favor of more manageable and practical ones. Digital storytelling is also the perfect platform for project-based learning.

Critical Thinking and Making Decisions Drives Digital Storytelling

When creating a digital masterpiece students need to think about the project’s purpose and craft with a goal. There are multiple aspects to any digital storytelling piece. While all pieces will not include images, video, audio, and text, incorporating all four enriches the story or presentation.
Possible questions to motivate critical thinking and decision-making:
Why are we doing this or what is the message?
Who is the audience and what do I want them to feel?
What is that person thinking?
What mood should the music make?
What kind of words work best for the purpose?
I have a limited amount of time, where should I spend most of my time?
I need to make this shorter/longer, what can I add/take out?

Digital Storytelling is Perfect for Sharing and Collaboration

One of the greatest strengths of digital storytelling is the ability to share it with others instantly. Sharing might consist of showcasing student creations, or sending a message out to the world. Students can also work together on projects remotely or get feedback from their peers.  
Use social media as a means to distribute digital storytelling:

  • Teach an Academic Concept
  • Teach a Specific Skill
  • Tell a Story
  • Create Impact
    • Bring Awareness to an Issue or Cause
  • Start (or Stop) Something
    • Challenge Popular Opinions

Keep the internet and privacy policies of your school in mind as you share student work.

Digital Storytelling is a Creative Means of Assessment

Big or small, digital storytelling projects can demonstrate student understanding and completion of goals. There are many times when paper and pencil tests are still necessary, so use alternative assessments whenever possible! Students will love creating a storyboard for a commercial, without even realizing you are evaluating their progress for CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8 1, 1.B, 1.C, 4, 5, 6, and 8! Make a rubric for any of these projects with Quick Rubric.

  • Talk Show with a Special Historical or Literary Guest
  • Comic Strip or Storyboard with Voiceover
  • Public Service Announcement Posters or Commercials
  • Documentary of a Class Experiment
  • Movie Trailer for a Book or Historical Event
  • “Choose Your Own Adventure” Project
  • Propaganda

Digital storytelling – in all its myriad forms – forges opportunities for both student initiative and student agency. With digital storytelling, students can create amazing projects with a greater range of creativity without being a stellar artist or wordsmith; they can tell stories or impart information in their own way and on their terms. All students need a vehicle for self-expression, to show what they have learned, to see new-found knowledge and skills in a practical light, to take risks, and to take learning into their own hands.
What will you create?
For more, check out:

Anna Warfield is the Head of Curriculum and Content at Storyboard That. Follow Anna on Twitter, @AnnaMYWarfield.

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Exciting stuff, but how is this any different from film making/video?

Maricarmen Ramos

I´m an ESL Teacher Trainer.... I find your articles very motivating and useful... Storytelling is a means of creative communication and language production for language learners.

life lesson stories

Hey! Thank you for sharing such a comprehensive post on digital storytelling. I believe that in today’s time, where technology has taken over our everyday activities, it is very important to bring these advanced technology and techniques in classrooms as well. Digital storytelling definitely has a significant positive impact on children’s learning process and their leadership skills. And it not only helps them learn what’s in their syllabus but also about the new technologies.

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