One of the most time tested and enjoyable ways to learn is through stories. Sadik (2008) writes that storytelling constitutes the original form of teaching allowing students to bring into understanding the complex and often unordered world we all experience together. One of the most exciting new approaches to telling stories is through digital storytelling. Shelby-Caffey, Ubeda, & Jenkins (2014) describe digital storytelling as a practice that combines a specific narrative with digital content. This may include video or picture images as well as sound. Often there is a strong emotional component involved as well.
I recently created my own digital story using an application available online called Sway. The topic I chose for my digital story was trees. The title of my digital story is The Secrets of Trees and it can be viewed on Sway.com at this link. Please note that as you view this presentation you’ll want to spend about 5 seconds on each slide, optimally.
The reason I selected this topic was because I’ve always had a personal love of trees and I wanted to display the beauty I see in trees in hopes the thoughts and images I incorporated into my digital story might resonate with others. I think my digital story might appeal to older students who might have had some exposure to the outdoors as well as anyone else who has an appreciation for the beauty of the natural world.
Digital storytelling is an exciting and engaging way to meet the criteria for ISTE NETS Standard 1 for teachers, which calls for use of digital media to achieve creativity and innovation. More specifically, digital storytelling allows a student to utilize their knowledge of contemporary digital tools to explore and communicate information and ideas to others within their own class or even to an audience on a global scale.
I thought this digital storytelling project was a great experience and I think it could be utilized well in either a formal or informal educational setting. After considering a variety of software applications I settled on using Microsoft’s Sway because it had a great set of helpful tutorials and an easy-to-use interface. Sway could be used for creating a presentation of facts and information such as what might be produced in a formal setting, and it could be also be easily applied to creating a more informal arts-based emotionally motivated production such as what formed the framework for my piece.
I had originally planned on using iMovie to produce my digital storytelling project, but after watching a two-minute tutorial about Sway on YouTube.com I changed my mind. One roadblock I ran into involved transfer of images into my Sway presentation. Before initializing my Sway presentation online, I’d already spent a considerable block of time researching and downloading images off Creative Commons on the Internet and also from within my own digital home library. Later, I found that uploading of these images to my Sway presentation took a lot of time and often the upload failed. However, once I initialized my presentation I found that Sway has its own image search engine that also accounts for Creative Commons licenses for which transfer of the images is almost instantaneous. I could have saved a lot of time if I’d simply initialized my presentation, at which point I would have discovered this excellent image searching feature on Sway, and I could have avoided all the time I spent searching for and downloading images from other places on the Internet.
There were three more challenges I found with using Sway. First, there is no audio option for Sway, which meant I could not add any music or even my own voice to the presentation (Thus I’ve removed the need for audio from the rubric for this assignment). Secondly, in order to view the presentation one must manually click an arrow to progress through each slide. I’d hoped there would be an option for an “auto-play” to avoid having to instruct your audience to click through each slide. Thirdly, I should mention it pays to have a good Internet connection because with a slower connection each slide takes a moment or two longer to load, which can affect the flow of the presentation.
The most significant thing I learned through this process of creating my first digital story is that I truly have a lot to say about the things that are important to me, such as trees. Now, with a digital tool such as Sway, I have a mechanism that will allow me to express myself informally or formally about a variety of topics. And as a teacher I plan on passing on the idea of digital storytelling to my students.
Stories were first delivered by oral tradition being passed down generationally, until the advent of writing. With writing, stories were able to be recorded and passed on in written language. Now, in the digital era, we have yet another more exciting way to deliver our stories: through the art and practice of digital storytelling.
Sadik, A. (2008). Digital storytelling: a meaningful technology-integrated approach for engaged student learning. Educational Technology Research and Development.
Shelby-Caffey, C., Ubeda, E., & Jenkins, B. (2014). Digital storytelling revisited: An educator’s use of an innovative literacy practice. The Reading Teacher, 68, 191-199.