Web2 course M4: Digital Storytelling

This is a reflection post as part of a Professional Development course our school is undertaking.

In this module, participants were introduced to digital story telling through videos, podcasts, and vodcasts.

Digital story telling has been a pet interest of mine since 2008. Back then, and with a group of educators from Melbourne, we went to South Australia for a mini study tour. One of the visits was to the extraordinary Australian Science & Mathematics School in Adelaide. Here I was introduced to Photostory for the first time, and was instantly hooked. Whilst it is now outdated and no longer officially supported, to date it is still one of the best pieces of software for authoring digital stories for the following reasons:

  • the digital text is built upon photos or images, which makes creation a breeze.
  • whilst other tools might make authoring automatic, in photostory you have full control over text, narration, sound, zooms and transitions; and therefore, the meaning of the text can be controlled more effectively, and more efficient at teaching the semiotic systems.
  • the interface is easy to follow with next and back buttons.

More than ever, digital texts need to be used in the classroom. You only have to consider how much time students spend watching TV, playing digital games or watching YouTube to realise the world in which students consume. I would be a fairly irrelevant teacher if I ignored digital texts and favoured only 2D books. Although, I am not saying we should do without books. We need both traditional texts and digital texts.

Consider the elements inside the book of Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”. Other than written text and visual images, there is not much else to it. Consider then a digital version of the same story:


Not only does it have the same written text and visual images, it now also has audio in the form of music and narration, spatial elements of zoom and framing, and images which are moving and animated. Semiotic systems of multimodal texts (see some of Anstey and Bull‘s work) intertwine together to tell the story. This is a lot more complex then just dealing with 1 or 2 systems in a traditional book. Just as we teach students to decode and comprehend 2D books, we should approach multimodal texts in the same way. Moreover, their should be opportunity to view, interpret, create and share them… just as you would with any text students create.

Wasting time on Youtube one evening (as you do!) I came across this intriguingly humorous video:

At the time I thought it would be a great film to show students and have a discussion about the power of story telling through digital mediums. We discussed the language that was used, the camera effects and positioning of the subject, the mood of the music, and how this all told the melancholic story of Henri the cat (Henri is even on twitter!). Using photostory, students took photos of their own pets and told stories of despair and loneliness, in a similarly dramatised and exaggerated way.

Below is an example that was featured on Kidsnews 2012 Episode 18, called Melancholic Max (By Taj, Dion and Khoeby).

Creating fictional texts with students has been great, but we have also used digital texts in the past few years for informative texts eg. like reports, explanations and procedures.

When I first started creating multimodal texts with my students, they were not of great quality. This was because I was so focussed on getting stidents comfortable with the tool that I forgot about what writers need for the writing process… scaffolding! Now when creating digital texts with students, planning and story boarding becomes a critical determinant in the quality of the text. I encourage my students to think about 2 points when planning for a digital story, what the audience will see (image) and what the audience will hear (audio). Asking the students to plan for the image, zooms, transitions, narration, music and effects gives a holistic approach to ensure that the 5 semiotic systems of multimodal texts are used within each other to convey meaning. An example of a simple storyboard planner that I use with my students is below (see http://bit.ly/ZHd2FZ for a soft copy):

As well as digital media, our students produce a weekly vodcast called Kidsnews, a live 10 minute newscast that is streamed across the school. Students design, edit and produce each show in our school multimedia studio. As the hosts sit in the studio on a Thursday morning, they are watched on by students, staff and parents on interactive whiteboards in each learning area of the school. Here is an example of a typical show, which was the last for 2012. Kidsnews in 2013 is due to start when students return in term 2.

One possibility in 2013 may be to utilise a service such as www.ustream.tv. The show is broadcast around the school on Thursday mornings, which allows parents to watch on if they are around. The show is uploaded to www.stmarks56.global2.vic.edu.au during the day which allows members of the community who were not present at school to watch. It also means that members of the wider school, and other blogging communities on our blog roll can view the students’ work. Using http://www.ustream.tv however, would mean that anyone interested could watch on live through the internet as the broadcast continues to be shown throughout the school.


How do you teach with digital media in your class?

5 thoughts on “Web2 course M4: Digital Storytelling

  1. Pingback: 3 Things I found on Twitter this week « ACT Learning Innovations
  2. I agree with you regarding Photostory – I feel like there is more ownership of the finished product. Love the video clips you included, certainly makes you think of all the possibilities.


  3. Hi Anthony, I stumbled upon your blog last week and was very inspired and amazed as to what you and your school are doing. I explored the links and was really blown away. Regards.. paul h


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