Engaging Learners through Digital Storytelling: 40+ Resources & Tips

7/11/2012 12:00:00 AM

Currently, I am moderating a free online course, Digital Storytelling for Young Learners, with a dream team of moderators who are phenomenal at working with young learners, Esra Girgin, Barbara Sakamoto, Özge Karaoglu, Jennifer Verschoor, David Dodgson, and Michelle Worgan. Over 250 participants have joined and have shared incredibly imaginative stories in our online class portfolio. One of the most surprising discoveries, though, was that 62% of the teachers who took our survey said they had never had their learners create digital stories. Our language learners have powerful stories to share and often share personal stories in blogs, Facebook, Youtube, or Twitter. Through digital storytelling we motivate our learners to apply, contextualize, visualize, and personalize the language they learn. There are 100s of free digital tools and websites to inspire your learners to create extremely imaginative stories and share them with a global audience. I hope the following tips and resources will help you along your journey towards integrating digital storytelling into your curriculum.


  • Ease your students into sharing information about themselves by doing a fun icebreaker activity such as Show and Tell with a Cell! Simply have your students take out their cellphones, share one of their favorite pictures and tell the story behind the picture. If they can’t use their cellphones then have them come into class with a picture.
  • Teach your students about creative commons. Below I share some of my favorite websites.
  • For collaborative projects and more detailed stories, have students plot ideas in a storyboard. Kevin Hodgson has some fantastic storyboarding worksheets here!
  • I like to break my students into small groups of 4 and while they are creating their characters and drawing the scenes I elicit vocabulary from them. For example, I will ask questions such as, “Is this a boy or a girl?” “Is it hot or cold?” “Does she have blond or brown hair?”

Recommended Webtools

Literally, 100s of webtools and apps have been shared, but I would like to share with you the ones I believe are the easiest to use. We are listing these in a livebinder, which is being constantly updated.

Creaza- One of my favorite sites where you can create comics, make movies, edit audio, and more! Embed in a blog or wiki.
GoAnimate- Choose from various characters, type in the dialogue, choose your background scene, and create a free fun movie.
DVolver- Choose from various characters, type in the dialogue, choose your background scene, and create a free fun movie.
ZimmerTwins- Choose from various characters, type in the dialogue, choose your background scene, and create a free fun movie.
PicLits- Drag and drop words unto a beautiful image.
Bubblr- create your comic strip with Flickr pictures and add bubbles to tell your story!
Comicmaster – Cool graphic novel creator.
Stripgenerator – You don’t have to register in order to create a comic.
Make Beliefs Comix – Two, three and four panel comics that you can create in multiple languages.
Comic Strip Generator – You can upload photos or use web images in addition to their library of ready-to-use images
ToonDoo – the site allows students to share their comics, comment on other comics, and even save and edit a copy of a comic
Kerpoof – Create videos or an animated picture.
Googlesearch – Use Google searches to tell your story.
OneTrueMedia – Mix your photos and pictures with text and animations.
Blabberize – Make your pictures talk
Smilebox – Create videos from your pictures and videos adding design and music. You download this software to your computer.
Glogster – Create and online poster with your videos.
VoiceThread for Educators-Interactive way to present stories and have parents and other students comment on the stories. Several options. Embed in a blog or wiki.
Storybird-Students create beautiful stories by choosing beautiful art and adding the words. Embed in a blog or wiki.
Voxopop – Construct audio stories.
5cardflicker – Tell your stories through flicker photos.
Zooburst – 3D pop up story creator.
Scholastic story starter – Start your story randomly.
Thestorystarter – Start your story randomly.
LittleBirdTales – Upload your picture, record your voice to tell your stories.
Animoto- Upload up images, choose a soundtrack from the library (many nice holiday tunes to choose from, and click a button to make a free short video online and on your mobile device.

Creative Commons Music and Images

Musicshake – Create copyright free music for your video.
Compfight – Search Flickr photos for your videos.
MorgueFile – Find free pictures for your videos.
Free Music Archive, and Jamendo, and Royalty Free Music are all great places for free creative commons music!
SoundBible - FreeSound – Free sound effects.

Digital Storytelling Apps

Posterous- With this app, learners can include a mix of text, photos, audio, and videos as well as tags and location information in a blog post. Share immediately on Facebook and Twitter! Even allow others to add to your posts (set this up through the web app vs. the mobile app). Free version available online as well as various mobile devices including the iPhone, iPod, Android, and Blackberry.
Flixlab- Like Animoto. Free app to create incredible slideshows on the iPhone, iPod, iPad. Soon available on the Android. No website editing like Animoto but longer videos when using the app. CC library of music, themes, fonts, and more.
StoryRobe- It’s incredibly easy for children and adults to create audio/visual stories on the iPhone and iPod Touch using this app. Use the built in microphone, or any 3rd party microphone to create audio recordings with photos and videos. You have the option to upload to Youtube or send it through e-mail. If it’s in their e-mail, then the parents can easily e-mail their child’s production to their friends! You don’t need an Internet connection to create the stories, but you do to send them! Available on the iPad and iPod.
Splice- Best video editing app for the iPhone, iPod, and iPad that is free. Add audio, transitions, images, and more.
Fotobabble- It’s incredibly easy for children and adults to create audio/visual stories on the iPhone and iPod Touch using this app. Use the built in microphone, or any 3rd party microphone to create audio recordings with photos.
Sock Puppets- If you enjoy playing with sock puppets, you’ll love this app that allows students to create a sock puppet show. Choose the sock puppet characters, personalize the characters by adding your voice, select the scene and props, and record a video. Send this by email or upload to Youtube. Watch this great example. Available on the iPad and iPod.
Puppet Pals- IChoose the western characters, personalize the characters by adding your voice, select the scene and props, and record a video. Send this by email or upload to Youtube. Available on the iPad and iPod.
StoryKit- Create an electronic storybook by drawing on the screen, uploading images, recording sound effects and voice, laying out the elements of the story (text boxes, images, paint, and sound clips) freely by dragging them or pinching to resize, reordering pages, and uploading to the StoryKit web server. Email a link to the story. The application includes four public domain children’s books to rewrite and rearrange into a new story. Available on the iPad and iPod.
Animoto- Upload up to 10 images, choose a soundtrack from the library (many nice holiday tunes to choose from, and click a button to make a 30-second video. Sync your videos with your Animoto.com account, download videos for offline viewing, and make longer ones with an All-Access Pass. Available on the iPad and iPod.
Videolicious- video creation in 3 easy steps
Create A Comic App- free comic creation app for Android and i-devices.

Free ebooks

Digital Storytelling Tools by Silvia Tolisano
Effective Mobile Learning: 50+ Tips & Resources by Shelly Terrell
Digital Storytelling in the Classroom by MicroSoft

Check out my Pinterests with these bookmarks and more!


Try a digital storytelling project with your students this year.

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