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What's Your Story?

from Educators' eZine

Kids use digital storytelling as a dynamic new writing tool.

Imagine a classroom where every kid is excited about her next writing assignment, students come in on their free periods just to show off their science assignments, and math students think polynomials are way cool. Why? These kids have discovered the joy of digital storytelling.

With digital storytelling, students take their own personal narratives on subjects ranging from personal family history to Shakespeare, and turn this narrative into a multimedia experience. They combine music, video, still photos, and their creative voices to produce an original multimedia production. Here's a peek at how you can integrate this approach into a variety of curricula.

Making the Curriculum Connection

Good stories contain essential elements: a good hook; characters/locations/events the audience can identify with; conflicts, resolutions to those conflict, and closure. Stories are narratives that make facts more personal.

Your students can use digital storytelling to tell their stories—and link them to vital curriculum. Here are a few examples:

  • Social studies: Students tell their personal immigration stories using family photos, narrative, and other visual elements that relate to their personal family history.
  • Literature: Students make a movie "trailer" promoting a literary work, like Macbeth.
  • Math: Students make a video to demonstrate polynomials using their friends to form different formulas, like 2x2, 3x3, and so on.
  • Writing: Students write an original poem, then create a video to illustrate the imagery.
  • Science: Students make a video public service announcement about diseases that affect their specific community, like Tay-Sachs or sickle cell anemia.
  • Art: Students make a short documentary about a featured artist.
  • Foreign Language/ESL: Students learn pronunciation and expand vocabulary by working together on an ongoing soap opera featuring dialog in a foreign language.
  • Final Cut Pro: this video editing software is for those students ready to graduate to picture-in-picture, green screen effects, and more.
  • Adobe Premiere® Elements: Students can assemble videos by rearranging clips with drag-and-drop simplicity, and productions can be burned to DVD, complete with a menu and scene index.
  • Audacity: A free, open source software for recording and editing sounds in Linux, Mac OS X, and other operating systems.
  • Picasa: A free software download from Google, Picasa finds, edits, and shares all the pictures on your PC.
  • GIMP and/or GIMPSHOP: free graphics editor for Mac, Linux, and Windows for image-tinkering.
  • K-Lite Mega Codec Pack: a user-friendly solution for playing all your movie files.
  • VirtualDub: a free video capture/processing utility for 32-bit Windows platforms (95/98/ME/NT4/2000/XP). It lacks the editing power of a general-purpose editor such as Adobe Premiere, but is streamlined for fast linear operations over video.
  • Pinnacle (a division of Avid): Studio version 12 allows users to add titles, transitions, music and special effects like pan-and-zoom.
  • eZeScreen for iMovie PPC: For MacOSX, this plug-in allows users to add a movie over a DV clip and adjust the movie's size and position, as well as create blue/green screen effects.

Other Tools Needed

  • Digital video camera and accessories (Firewire/USB cables)
  • Digital camera
  • Storage media (flash cards, SD discs, CDs/DVDs)
  • CD/DVD duplicator
  • Headphone/microphone headset
  • Scanner
  • Expertise—Even though they're usually willing, teachers and students often lack the know-how to do what they want to do.
  • Time—Planning for, capturing, and editing digital content eats up a lot of time. Some teachers are reluctant to give up instructional time. Digital storytelling products also take time to render and duplicate.
  • Money—Good equipment, hardware with enough memory and processing capabilities, and some software can be costly.
  • Copyright issues—Students, teachers, administrators, and parents almost always want to use some media resources that are off limits.
  • Good PR with the community and parents.
  • An increase in the appropriate use of technology-based resources by students and educators.
  • Fewer discipline problems.
  • Increased student engagement.
  • Higher level thinking.
  • Digital artifacts/evidence of learning.
  • Perfect for 1:1 computing programs.
  • What's the story here? What's the untold or ignored story? What's the story that everyone knows and what's the story that behind that?
  • How is this content connected with anything that I really care about?
  • What's the human cost associated with the facts of this matter?
  • How has anything connected with this information made humanity any better or worse?
  • Why is it important to pass this information along to another human being?

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