Everyone loves a good story. And some people are particularly good at telling them. Storytelling is an ancient tradition and a fundamental part of culture. Many kids like to share stories, as it provides them an opportunity to speak from authority on a topic they know and love – themselves. As an educational tool, storytelling helps define a narrative, can hone writing skills and provide the foundation for many types of project-based activities in the classroom.
Add a digital element to the mix, specifically a way to use all of those photos kids are taking and posting to their Facebook or MySpace sites, and we have the basis for an interesting and engaging classroom project. As educators, how do we harness these activities and the level of engagement that naturally occurs from telling stories, sharing pictures and the sharing of their personal narrative?
Enter digital storytelling. Digital storytelling, defined as, telling stories through digital photos, video and audio, is a powerful way to combine the strengths and interests kids have with a relevant, engaging project-based activity that can be applied across the curriculum and all grade levels. Digital storytelling not only encourages creativity and the use of practical technology tools, but it is driven by the writing process, as students are challenged to be focused and synthesize their ideas through a compelling narrative, while encouraging creativity and self-expression.
I am excited to highlight new set of resources we are making available to educators to support digital storytelling in the classroom. Designed conceptually as a teacher’s guide to digital storytelling, we hope to provide a core set of resources to help get you started with a digital storytelling project in your classroom today.
Within this teachers guide is an e-book on Digital Storytelling! This is the first of its kind that Microsoft has ever produced, so I look forward to hearing your feedback (please post comments below), as we have more e-books in the works and any feedback on how to make these more useful is incredibly valuable. The Digital Storytelling e-book includes a detailed overview of digital storytelling, tips for getting started, ties to project-based learning, and numerous ideas and resources for how to integrate digital storytelling across the curriculum while helping you to determine the right technology tool for the grade level and subject matter you wish to work with. Truly one document that will jumpstart your next engaging student-centered project!
You will find a nice short video featuring Lynne Zalesak, a 28-year veteran middle school social studies teacher who feared technology in all forms until she engaged with the University of Houston on the use of digital storytelling in the classroom. Lynne latched onto PhotoStory as her tool of choice and hasn’t looked back sense. We need more stories like that. Btw, insider tip: we will be doing a minor update to PhotoStory this week to ensure it works with Windows 7. Good news for this popular tool.
I encourage you to dig around this new resource, share it with a friend and more importantly try this with your students. There are excellent storyboarding templates and a well-defined rubric graciously provided by Prof. Bernard Robin at the University of Houston and his excellent center for Digital Storytelling. We also have a new resource kit for Windows Live Movie Maker, with how-to videos and step-by-step guides.
One of the most intriguing aspects of using digital storytelling in the classroom is that it is very easy to evolve these projects based on the technical knowledge and aptitude of both teacher and student. In its most basic form, a digital story can be told through PowerPoint. To evolve this slightly further, students can use PhotoStory (free) which is one of our most popular tools due to its straight-forward ease of use, making it applicable even in the primary grades. And, if you want to cultivate the next Ken Burns the new Windows Live Movie Maker (free) product enables you to combine still images, video and audio in a compelling movie – checkout the new AutoMovie feature and the built-in upload to YouTube feature. Here is a link to download these free tools – be sure to include Photo Gallery when downloading as it is a simple tool for organizing your photos and doing basic photo editing.
Finally, as part of this set of new resources we have launched a new Digital Storytelling community within our Partners in Learning Network moderated by Nancy Pratt, a Curriculum & Technology Integration Specialist from Cave Creek USD (AZ). Nancy is deeply passionate about digital storytelling and has been using digital storytelling with students of all ages. Nancy kicked-off our new webinar series with ISTE on Jan. 26th on using Digital Storytelling in the classroom and you can watch the archive here.
As always, I am interested to hear your thoughts on these resources and how Microsoft can help make your jobs easier with regards to integrating technology into your curriculum (I’m sorry, but I can’t help you grade that stack of papers! 😉 I know first-hand as an ex-9th grade Social Studies teacher what a difficult job you have as an educator, but I truly believe that relevant uses of technology can engage your students and light-up your school day.