Creation of digital stories in the classroom is a powerful instructional technique that has the potential to transform learning for students. Digital stories are portable as they are documented and shared via digital texts and tools. This allows the teachers to document the work process and product of the learner, while allowing the students to view the work of others. Products created in digital storytelling transcend traditional classroom assignments as they allow students to explore identity and the meaning of their own experience through multiple avenues (Alonso, et al. 2013).
Digital storytelling, like traditional storytelling, focuses on the development of a chosen theme or focal point for the story. In this process, students typically brainstorm, conduct research, write a script, and develop an interesting story. In moving from storytelling to digital storytelling, there is one key difference between digital storytelling and traditional storytelling. Digital storytelling is supported by a variety of digital multimedia tools. Digital storytelling combines a mixture of graphics, text, recorded audio narration, video and music to present information on a specific topic through the use of technology.
Digital storytelling in education
In educational settings, different technological tools and programs, such as podcasts, infographics, and other types of presentations, make it easy for instructors to create digital stories (McLellan, 2007; Bower, 2015). Digital stories weave “the art of telling stories with a variety of digital multimedia, such as images, audio, and video“ (Robin, 2006, p. 1). Digital stories can be used in the classroom as teasers to pique students’ curiosity about a topic or idea or link prior knowledge to new knowledge (Robin, 2006). Using digital stories to provide a reason why or to introduce a larger topic is one way to use stories that inform and instruct and delve more deeply into an issue (Simmons, 2006).
Even with these opportunities to embed digital storytelling in educational settings, there are questions about the role and place of these digital screens and devices in early childhood education. Mentoring students in digital storytelling may seem overwhelming in early childhood educational settings, but the focus should be on student learning objectives, building capacity over time, and supported by plans for mentoring and targeted professional development of teachers.
Digital storytelling is an especially good technology tool for use in instructional settings as it combines researching, creating, analyzing, and combining visual images with written text (Cherry, 2017). Robin & Pierson (2005) adds to this by indicating that integration of visual elements with written text both enhances and accelerates student comprehension. In addition, digital storytelling has a variety of applications in the classroom, including the telling of personal stories, narrating past events, or as a means to teach on a particular topic (Jakes, 2006).
Elements of digital storytelling
Most of the work on digital storytelling began in 1990 as Joe Lambert developed digital storytelling in the virtual world as the cofounder of the Center for digital storytelling (CDS). Since that point, the CDS has been influential in developing and disseminating the Seven Elements of Digital Storytelling (see Table 1), which aids teachers in creating digital stories with their students (Robin, 2008). Creating digital stories in education brings with it a number of different variables that impact instruction and student interactions.
Seven Elements of Digital Storytelling:
- Point of view. Told for a specific purpose or to make a point for a given audience.
- A dramatic question. Gives a reason for the audience to stay interested; answered question by the end of the story.
- Emotional content. Images, tone and effects connects the story to the audience.
- The gift of your voice. Personalizes the story for the audience to help them to understand the context.
- The power of soundtrack. Music or other sound that supports the storyline and conveys emotion.
- Economy. Uses just the necessary elements to tell the story.
- Pacing. Controls the story; and how slowly or quickly it unfolds.
Digital storytelling has been shown to be a powerful collaboration tool that teachers have used to support student collaboration and communication. The tools and practices included in digital storytelling are useful as teachers encourage students to prepare their own stories for their peers and connect with others in and out of school. Teachers can create digital stories as inspired from content, or have students express mastery of the content in digital stories. The most powerful examples of the use of digital storytelling may be instances where students are asked to create their own narratives either individually, or as members of a small group (Sadik, 2008).