Wednesday, February 13, 2013

When is it a digital story?

In a previous blog post, I wanted to know if storyboarding takes away from creativity. Feel free to read here if you missed it. I got varying responses but it has been on my mind. I have moved forward as does my digital story for #etmooc. I'm using and it's fun. I think I picked a topic that is well quite revealing and quite personal so I'm never sure how much to add and where it ends. I've changed my storyboard several times so I'm starting to wonder if I should just do something made up? I guess we will all find out. Moving on, I have been reflecting a lot on the concept and definition of digital storytelling.

Alec Couros was kind enough to send me a link for Ira Glass on Storytelling. It was the first movie in a series and of 4 which I highly recommend. It discusses having an antedote ( a sequence that keeps people interested) and a moment of reflection, the point of the story. My question lies in do all digital stories have to true point? Is it OK, as I have been teaching it for a while, to just have a perspective or a sequence that is well predictable? As the technology educator, do I stick to the literary steps I know make up a good story or as a digital technology teacher, am I exempt??

I participated in the great session on digital storytelling by Alan Levine, find here it the #etmooc archives. He also discusses having a hook, "entice me" into your story, yet he also introduced us to "how to tell a story through flickr" where pictures appeared and the participants made up a few sentences on the pictures surrounding the topic "connections". When we did this were we participating in true digital storytelling or were we just having fun?? I again have taught the same but I feel like I'm being hypocritical to the literacy aspect of a true story.

I'll explain, I teach Scratch Programming by MIT, and each story must indeed have a full storyboard, a hook, an antedote and a good conclusion. These stories vary but feel free to take a look at one of the stories HERE.

I also teach digital photography sometimes and I have my students do what we call "stories" from a series of pictures. I have embedded one here. Yes it is mine.

See it is cute, but it really is sentences that seemed appropriate for the picture. Does it tell a story?

Last year, I worked on some integration projects with voicethread and students decided to do their essay's on planets in voicethread. Again emebedded below, and begs the question as they are truly giving us facts, are they not telling a story?? It took a lot of storyboarding and collaboration for the students to bring it all together in a logical manner.

So do we stick to the steps of digital stories via literacy practices everytime? Do we hold to the storyboards, the hook , the antedont and the climax and ending or do we in the 21st century decide that we need a better definition for digital stories?


  1. Hi Sherry ;) I've been wrestling some with defining digital storytelling as others are wanting to define it. I appreciate you bringing the "conflicted" feelings & thoughts about it. For me, I just keep it quite simple. It's telling a story - ours or someone else's - including planets, Native Americans, a reflection on a field trip, a video or slideshow of my daughter's engagement, a reflection on a book or experience(a story of my thoughts on something), the story of cells, etc. using digital tools. Sometimes, we use storyboards for more complex storytelling and encourage "hooks" and other ways to engage/connect our viewers/readers to the story. Sometimes, it's just plain fun, and other times, there is a moral to the story or metaphor/analogy or point to remember or a call to action. If we're the storytellers, there is no one way to tell it. It is through the storyteller's eyes. With whatever the subject matter is with students, we can certainly ask for & teach certain elements to teach them different aspects of the writing/storytelling process & presentation in digital media, but allow them different kinds of digital expression, don't you think? My thing is this. Do we allow for students to tell a story, or are we, as educators always telling them what we think the story is? If it's the latter, then in an age where people are creating & sharing stories online, are we setting students up for a less than inspiring experience at school? Just thinking out loud.

  2. Thank you so much for your comment. I've been really pondering it lately, so I threw it out there and I love the points you bring up as I do believe that we should let students decide what the story is. I actually think that we limit them we we empose "this is what is has to be", yes do it digitally, but make sure it fits the definition of a story. I like being open, I like it when they and I think on the fly and fun a cute concept or when students get pleasure out of researching planets just so they can use the cool tool Voicethread. Yes, I believe digital media should allow for open expression, thank you for reminding me, I guess I'll leave the symatics of a story by definion to the LA teachers. Great thoughts, truly appreciated.

  3. I do think when we are teaching, there is time for fun and exploration. That's part of how we find the possibilites of the tools. And then there is a time for a more focused effort - telling a story and thinking about the best way to do it. When is it important to tell it through images, audio... when does music add to a story and what music would you choose. I think we have to help students think about their choices and be able to justify them (and have fun in that part of the process too!).

  4. Great discussion about what is digital storytelling. Since I was one of those LA people in the K-6 world for a while I look upon a story as a narrative connecting events. That is storytelling at its simplest. This is why the activities we've been doing over the last two weeks speak to me: simple, yet effective and easily translated into the classroom. Do I use storyboards with students (and myself)? Of course. Once the narrative becomes complex a storyboard helps to keep all of the ideas organized. But before you get to the storyboard there is the dreaming/imagining stage when a picture, a word, a sound triggers a story in your head. This is where creativity lives. The problem for many is getting it out of our head where it sings and dances to the cold light of day before it dies, a very painful process for many of us. This is where storyboarding comes in as a support (not a replacement) for literacy. I look at technology as a way to facilitate storytelling not a constraint. Terrible handwriting or difficulty typing? Use a voice to text program or a video to tell a story. Why would I mark it differently than a written story? Not able to articulate your story? Use pictures and sounds to capture it in a slideshow format. What I, as a language arts teacher, want to see is the story first. Language conventions can be added to refine the story after. Create first, reflect, refine, present. And of course, give them that space to create and be creative. And since being creative is fun and playful, fun and playfulness is the centre of creativity. Just my thoughts on the issue.

  5. Wow, this is a great comment, thank you so much. What resignated with me most was the following. "Once the narrative becomes complex a storyboard helps to keep all of the ideas organized. But before you get to the storyboard there is the dreaming/imagining stage when a picture, a word, a sound triggers a story in your head."
    I agree the creativity the imagination is what I enjoy the most and it certainly does give students that didn't have a voice ( great writing etc.) an amazing way to communicate. I do think we creative license to the definition of a "story" when we add the word "digital". You have shown me that no matter what the word ahead of it, following the conventions of a story is important. Thank you so much. You are a great contributor :) I've appreciated a lot of your blogs and thoughts..

  6. Sherry, thank you so much for the kind words and I echo them back to you. I always enjoy reading what you post!