Thursday, February 7, 2013

Does Storyboarding Take Creativity Away?

As I pondered the new assignments from #etmooc on Digital Storytelling, I found myself reflecting on the many ways and forms I myself have learned and taught digital storytelling. From Scratch to Animoto, Voicethread, Photostory, GoAnimate and anything really within the web 2.0 realm. I started to ponder a question I would like to throw out to the many.

How important is storyboarding? While I teach Scratch from MIT, you work with character’s called sprites and bits of code that can change your background, move each character, add have them think or talk. This I know I need a storyboard for and have always loved watching students think they have it and start programming then back to rewrite, as they change their minds. Scratch story embedded here took a great deal of storyboarding but it was again, worth the effort and I am not sure with the complexity of the visual components they could have done it without good storyboarding:

Scratch Project

I have also taught what I consider to be “collaborative stories” on wikis. In this process, each person, begins a story and then each student in a class from 11-20 middle school students are told to add 5 – 10 sentences to the story. Within a few days you can really see which stories are taking off. So soon we are usually down to 3 to 5 stories which get added to by all members of the same class. They write their comments and then we moved them around to create pages(the full story). Feel free to view my old wiki here, story Mars done by 6th graders. Now look at the history of Mars, it took group effort. I have also left their story Dewey the Alien and the history here, you can actually see how 15-18 different wiki threads turned into some cool stories.

The stories come out really cool or silly but if you think about it no one needed to sit down and think about how many characters, setting, backgrounds or conversations they were going to have. They wrote truly from their heads with no determined plan. Are these methods two different styles both with great results or is it the complexity of move advanced software that will be seen by the eye that lends for storyboarding?

I believe and I may be wrong, that we might be taking away creativity when we ask our students for thought out well planned storyboards before they begin, for some are we losing the creative component that is the strength of digital storytelling? Curious..


  1. I think storyboarding makes you pause and consider all of the possibilities. My student are quick to grab a camera and just want to go shoot video. When I make them storyboard out their ideas I believe I get better work.

  2. I think when we work with students they have to start with a plan - whether it is a storyboard or another kind of plan. I also think we have to help them develop strategies that work for them, but that can only happen if we introduce them to a variety of ways of doing things, including storyboarding. A storyboard, as you wrote above is a plan and digital storytelling, whether through Scratch or any other medium, should be a starting point. The whole process, as you described above is iterative - go back, revise, continue, reflect, go back etc. As students get older they can choose the methods that work best for them at the planning stage - but plan they must! unless they are doing what we are, which is more experimenting with the tools and less thinking of powerful stoires.