Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fathers and Sons

I hope to add to the CDS collection of Fathers and Sons digital stories this weekend. After a year of assisting others with their stories, I'm turning the tables and starting the year off by attending Joe Lambert's standard session in NYC.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Original 55

Digital Storytelling Teachers Group at ECOO 2010
Creative Commons Photo Credit: Andrew Forgrave 
As I prepare for my latest digital storytelling session at the end of the month with teachers at a school-based professional learning group, I've been looking back to the many sessions and resources collected over the years.

In 2009 I was alerted via a blog post by my friend and fellow digital storytelling influencer Gareth Morlais about a book that was ground-breaking at the time. Story Circle: Digital Storytelling Around the World. The book claimed "the world's first comprehensive account of personal digital storytelling in several countries".

Imagine my surprise when I saw listed on page 41 my very first large-scale school project. A project that took a group of 4 or 5 digital storytelling teacher facilitators to 8 different schools over a period of 6 months to introduce digital storytelling to student writers' groups. This was back in 2005 and 2006. There is an explanation in the book on page 45 that only 55 digital storytelling projects were completed in elementary schools at the time of writing. Our target group was grade 4, 5 and 6 students.

Fast forward eight years and although the names and the faces of participants have changed the storytelling has not. You see, the particular brand of storytelling I help people with is personal storytelling. You know the ones, where you tell the story from something in your life. It could be a memory of someone close to you, a first meeting, a special place. Participants often arrive at the session with a completely different story in mind. As participants open up and start talking about their stories, folks often adjust their story or completely switch to something more personal. Oh, there is often safety in telling a story that is not too personal. I started that way. But the stories that go straight to the heart are the ones that move us and sometimes make us cry.

So I look forward to the end of the month because I never know what type of stories I'll have the honour of listening to. I do know that I'm always moved by personal stories. And always have been. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Fish Stories

Creative Commons 2.0 Flickr Photo by: CaliforniaDFG
We've all heard our share of fish stories. Recently I had the pleasure of listening on two separate occasions to two different fish stories told by two different men in their '80s.

The first was on the plane back from Vancouver a couple of weeks ago. I had the pleasure of sitting next to an octogenarian whose adventures made me tired just listening. He'd flown an hour and a half north of Vancouver to fish with his sons and grandsons for Chinook Salmon. The way he described the fishing outings was detailed and he was quite proud that his fishing gang brought in the most fish for the week. The thing I noticed most was he was quite content and happy in his retirement at 80 years young. He said, "I don't do shuffleboard or any other of the retirement crowd things, I just do what I want and go where I want, when I want."

The second conversation was just this past Saturday at our local landfill. I was adding to the pile when a smiling gentlemen walked up to me and after the requisite jokes about the dump and landfills in general, we started to "talk story". I had mentioned I'd spoken with someone about salmon fishing and he said, well I have a story for you. He told the story of being flown by float plane to a remote fishing camp with guys from work on the west coast near Alaska. By the time the story was at its mid-point he was using his hands and body to describe the 132 pound halibut he'd caught. He'd been fishing for Chinook salmon in the morning and the guide took him up-river to fish for halibut in the afternoon. As he told the story I could visualize the situations he was describing. At the end of the story he said that while he shared his catch with his fellow fishermen, he didn't get to have any because his freezer had a power outage and he lost the entire portion of his catch! He smiled at the end of the story and said, "Oh well, at least my fishing buddies got to have theirs."

It donned on me this morning that both of these stories would make terrific digital stories. Lasting memories for the grandchildren to enjoy perhaps and illustrated by photos and voice.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Choosing Your Story - Turning Points

It can be difficult choosing a topic for your very first digital story.

It helps to see a few examples ahead of time to get the feel for how a digital story is structured. But still, it can be difficult. Especially if you have several stories to tell.

Narrowing down a topic that lends itself well to the digital storytelling format can be a challenge. It helps to choose an event or a particular situation and write about it.

We tried an exercise this week called "Turning Points" -- a variation of Joe Lambert's exercise he talks about in his book. For 5 minutes or so, participants write about turning points in their lives.

Many stories this week took shape as personal narratives that included a specific turing point. I have to admit, this is the part of the story I listen for. As much as I like the build up to a turning point because it provides the viewer with valuable background, it is the turning point and the story after that where you find out the details of the rest of the story that pleases me most.

Twice in my session this week I was pleasantly surprised by how authors crafted their turning point and shaped their story. One completely took me off guard as it was not the way I thought the story might go. I think this is what makes the stories very listenable. Just when you think the story is going in a particular direction, wham, it changes and you are "let in" on the rest of the story.

I'm also in awe and have great respect for participant storytellers who let their audience in on very personal stories. We talked this week about stories that may be 'not too personal'. I know the feeling. We try and write what we are comfortable writing but there is always a story to tell that may be just too personal for public consumption.

Life is story with many turning points. I'll never tire of hearing stories. Now, if I could just muster up the gumption to write my next digital story.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Digital Storytelling on iPad

It shouldn't make a difference but it does.  

I had been providing digital storytelling workshops for several years to teachers and students before I treated myself to my first Centre for Digital Storytelling workshop in Denver three years ago this summer. I remember starting with the story circle, writing my narrative and then we were all given white MacBooks and had an hour or two instruction on a particular video editing software. We were all using the same technology to assist us in telling our stories. 

But what if you don't know what to expect  technology-wise when invited to facilitate a session for a particular group? You can have the most engaging session where stories are told that would make you cry, but the technology can make or break a session for some participants. Imagine getting your story out and then not being able to follow through because the technology is a barrier. 

Could a mobile device be the answer? After all it is a device that most people are familiar with in the form of a phone. Joe Lambert has started using iPhones in his DS sessions. And in a couple of weeks the session I'll be guiding will have all participants using iPads and iMovie. Will it be the answer? Perhaps. At least we'll have a set of common problems to solve. 

Most of the sessions I conduct are for first time digital storytelling participants. I find they are amazed at the power of story. In fact the sessions are quite transformative for many. With the help of iPad at my next session I hope all will be successful. 

After all, the technology shouldn't make a difference, but it does. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Digital Storytelling - Pixie for iPad

I'm always experimenting with new applications that will give me the opportunity to provide the participants in my digital storytelling sessions a chance to stitch together their stories.

Tech4Learning's new iPad app., Pixie, may just be my next good find.

If you are a reader of this blog you know that I favour personal narratives. There is nothing more satisfying than guiding students and adults through the process of creating their own digital stories.

With Pixie for iPad the task of stitching a story together is very easy.

1. Importing Images

Pixie for iPad allows access to your camera roll. Right away, if you are taking photographs or have access to scanned images, you're in business. As well, since all your images are available to you through your camera roll, the process of importing them into your story is a snap.

2. Stickers for Photographs

It took a little searching in the stickers panel of the app. but I was able to find photographs. Depending on the story you are telling these photos may come in handy if your participants have difficulty finding suitable photos for their stories. Also, I'll have to check with the folks at Tech4Learning about copyright.

3. Voice Recording

If you click on the Options panel, you are able to record your voice on a slide by slide basis. I'm impressed with the recording quality. I did have a little trouble with a scratchy sound coming through if I was handling the iPad. But I solved this by placing the iPad flat on the table in front of me and I was able to record a clean track. I'm not sure yet whether voice can be recorded over multiple slides. I'll keep trying to see if I can do this. Oh, and there was a gym class going on two doors over and the sounds of children playing did not come through in my voiceover recording.

4. Transitions and Timing

This is something that may be a challenge for some. You can set the timing for each slide by the second and there is a short list of transitions. I picked fade as the less 'transition distraction' is the way to go, so as not to distract from the story.

5. Background Music

Still reading? Good. This feature is a beauty. There are about 20 to 25 sound tracks to choose from! I selected 'Gentle Guitar' and had a soothing guitar playing in the background while my voice told the story. Lovely! While I could not find a way to adjust the duration of the background music, just not having to find music is great. Pick the mood you need to set and you're off.

6. Exporting Video

Pixie for iPad has a number of options to export your story. The Export Video option provides three ways to export: Camera Roll, App., or Email. Camera Roll is likely the best bet, although I haven't tried it yet, I will when I get finished the sample you see above. In a school, it may be difficult to get video from the Camera Roll from an individual device but we have solved this by using a cloud service.

I'll be using Pixie for iPad and other solutions for the months of May and June this school year. I find the end of the year is a perfect time for students to write digital stories. They have an entire school year to look back on and their writing skills have matured.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Writing About Moments

I had a special experience with the lower school teachers at Collegiate School on Friday this week.

It was one of those workshops where barriers come down, trust and honesty are evident and when 30 minutes after the session ends, 80% of the participants are still enjoying the showcase and celebration of their stories.

They wrote about relationships and places, triumphs and natural disasters. But mostly they wrote about moments in their lives.  There's a deep sense of feeling and knowing as the listener is transported into a particular moment.

There is something special about hearing a person's digital story spoken aloud for the first time in a group setting. Applause, tears, heads nodding knowingly and sometimes silence, a 'knowing silence' - - that time when the only thing to do is sit there and soak in what you have just heard. And then realize you just had the privilege of being in that moment with the writer.

Thank you Collegiate teachers for writing about your moments and sharing them with me.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Animation Storytelling

I'm conducting a month long blitz on using various forms of animation with my dozen or so classes.

Part of my teaching assignment is to introduce new ways to "show what you know". And from my days 5 years ago taking photographs with a tripod and using Windows Movie Maker to try to animate the photos we have come a long way since then.  I continue to find this type of storytelling interesting, innovative and a very good way to motivate students.

I have collected a number of resources along the way and tried to find ways to bring animation closer to the students. In the photo above, you'll see my 6 year old Mac Mini, a 5 year old school owned Canon Mini DV camera and a school owned monitor. I used this set-up this week as a demonstration animation station. I have it on a metal cart on wheels which allows me to move from classroom to classroom.

National Film Board - Canada (NFB) Resources

StopMo - Great site. 18 minute segmented step-by-step process for animation. Includes a detailed series of lesson plans which can be adapted to different grade levels.


We're very fortunate to have an agreement with Tech4Learning to have Frames animation software installed on each academic image among publicly funded schools in Ontario.

Mobile Animation Apps. for iOS

For iPhone and iPod Touch I have had success with (free) LEGO® Super Heroes Movie Maker
And just last week a student in grade 8 showed me a terrific app. for iPhone and iPod Touch called iMotion HD. Unlike the LEGO® app., which saves to the Camera Roll, iMotion HD does not save unless you purchase the full version for $1.99. We also use the animation instructional videos included with NFB's free (in Canada) PixStop Animation App. for iOS.  Three short tutorial films are included with the app. and are very good: "Three Principles of Animation",  "Flipbook" , and "Storyboarding".

Steps in the Process

I encouraged students to keep a few things in mind when creating their animations:

a) Create a 3 panel storyboard which shows: beginning, middle, and end.
b) Write next to your sketch the Action Sequence in each panel.
b) Select no more than 3 characters to be the 'talent' in the animation.
c) Tell your story in 10 seconds or less.
d) Decide ahead of time whether you'll be creating your animation as a Pixilation with classmates, with toy characters, or with clay.

Note: There are other animation options but these are three good ones with which to start.

Teacher Created Resources:

York Region teacher Dan Grant uses animation in his junior classroom and penned an article a while back for ETFO's Voice magazine on Stop Motion in the classroom. The best collection of templates and instructional videos around is by teacher Kevin Hodgson. His animation website is terrific.

Update: This week we started storyboarding and creating backgrounds. A trip to No-Frills was necessary. Came back with about 40 cardboard boxes!

Friday, December 07, 2012

NFB - Digital Storytelling

I was encouraged to read that NFB Montreal opened a new digital playground this week offering animation workshops and digital storytelling sessions for students.

Also offered are professional development workshop opportunities for teachers.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

National Day of Listening - Friday November 27th


As an antidote to Black Friday, which follows the American Thanksgiving, is suggesting that Friday November 27th, 2009 be a "National Day of Listening".

Here are a couple of guides if you decide this event would be a worthwhile part of your life:

1. Educator's Guide
2. Community Guide

And here is a more kids friendly guide on how to record stories.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Story Prompts - Going Deeper

One the most satisfying segments at yesterday's full day digital storytelling session, was during our initial sharing time.

Joe Lambert calls it a writing prompt. He has had success with it so I thought I'd try it. What happened was just short of amazing. 7 people shared personal, heartfelt moments in their lives.

You see, digital storytelling is all about going deeper. When we engage in a story circle with thoughts and moments from our lives that are decisive. When we talk about our major achievements, our setbacks, meeting a special person, the birth of a child, or the end of a relationship. These decisive moments make for deeper discussion and writing.

So that's what happened yesterday. The group spent about 30 minutes or so talking and sharing personal moments in their lives. There was something about the stories and the listening going on. Deeper, thoughtful, heartfelt. Real digital storytelling.

The participants then spent about 90 minutes crafting their narratives. This was difficult. Pacing, economy, depth, they're not easy to do in such a sort time span. But there they were: meaningful stories, ready for the storyboard and voiceover process.

I don't think I'll ever tire of full day digital storytelling sessions because they are about people's stories. How could anyone tire of hearing life stories? So many stories to tell. So many stories to hear.

The next session can't come soon enough.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Delicious and Twitter - digitalstoryca is now using the social networking sites Delicious and Twitter.

I've used Delicious tagging to assist in finding a resource you may be looking for.

Hopefully, your search time will be minimized. I've tagged with the following headings: Books, Exemplars, Guides, Readings, Rubrics, Storyboards and Websites.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Digital Storytelling - Bibliography

Here's a short list of books about story and digital storytelling.

This list contains books I have read. I'm sure there are many more. Also, the books here are mostly about writing personal, compelling, nonfiction narratives.

I've added suggested chapters beneath each title which, in my humble opinion, are the gems of each book.

One book I'd like to add is Joe Lambert's book. The third edition is almost ready to be published. I'll update this list when it arrives. If you have any book title suggestions please let me know in the comments.

Hartley and McWilliam. Story Circle, Digital Storytelling Around the World. West Sussex, U.K. Blackwell, 2009.

Suggested: Chapter 18, page 252. Digital Storytelling in Education, An Emerging Institutional Technology? by Patrick Lowenthal

2. Pink, Daniel. A Whole New Mind, Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. New York, Penguin Group, 2005

Suggested: Chapter 5, page 98. Story

3. Porter, Bernajean. DigiTales, The Art of Telling Digital Stories. Colorado, 2004.

Suggested: Chapter 5, page 107. Stepping Through Making a Digital Story

4. Field, Billy. Make a Movie That Tells a Story. Alabama, 2000.

Suggested: Chapter 2, page 5. Story & Screenplay

5. Sheridan, Sherri. Developing Digital Short Films. Pearson, 2004

Suggested: Part 1, page 18. Digital Storytelling, Beginning the Story Concept Process

6. Ohler, Jason. Digital Storytelling in the Classroom. Corwin, 2008.

Suggested: Chapter 8, page 107. Transformation Formations. How We, and the Characters in Our Stories, Change

7. McClean, Shilo T. Digital Storytelling. The Power of Visual Effects in Film. MIT Press, 2007.

Suggested: Chapter 2, page 15. Once upon a Time: Story and Storycraft

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Digital Storytelling - 2nd and 3rd Grade

Last week I conducted a digital storytelling afternoon session with three teachers.

The session came about as a result of school learning team meetings back in June where "a sequence of photos that tells a story" was identified as the writing topic. You'll see the description of the writing task in this framework listed under the Media/Graphical heading. The category is Electronic.

Here are the steps we followed during our afternoon session.

1. I provided a laptop and a headset [microphone equipped] for each of the three teachers.

2. We worked in a teacher work area which minimized the sound distractions when recording the narratives.

3. We started with the written narrative. The group wrote mentor texts at the beginning of the session. They used personal photos as the visual to spur the writing. Three separate paragraphs were written with the following headings:

a) Infant/Baby
b) Pre School
c) School Age

The personal narratives described what may have been happening in the photo at the time it was taken, the other people in the photos and a number of different personal reflections.

4. After the narratives were written we printed hard copies. I've found that having the printed copy in your hand is a good way to go. The reader can read the story to get comfortable with the text before recording.

5. Once the teachers were comfortable reading the text we recorded each narrative using Audacity software and "Exported to .wav" to save the file. I like using Audacity to record the narrative. Audacity gives a clean and clear voice file. As well, we can use audacity to edit out any other sounds during the recording, like when the bell rings or when announcements are read on the P.A. system. With this voice file we can then import it later into the "movie making" program.

6. After we recorded our voice files, we headed over to the library where there was a computer and a scanner hooked up. We then scanned the three photos which had been brought to the session. I like to scan directly into Adobe Photoshop 7.0 because then you can edit and resize or crop the photo so it is not too big. One rule of thumb I use is adjust the photo to 640 x 480 as this is the size Windows Movie Maker likes.

7. With our voice files and photos ready we placed them in the correct folders to get started. This is important as Windows Movie Maker works best with the component parts or raw materials (the audio files and digital still files) in the right place. Here is the path for best results:

i. Photos: My Documents > My Pictures
ii. Audio Voice Narratives: My Documents> My Music

For some reason when you use Movie Maker to import these files, the default folder is always in My Documents.

8. We then opened Windows Movie Maker and saved the project. Again, the "save default" is My Videos. So you'll need to navigate to the correct folder to save if it doesn't point to My Videos when you click Save Project.

9. In Movie Maker we imported the digital still images and the voice files then dragged all the component parts down to the timeline.

10. The most interesting part of the process is matching the voice narrative with the images on the screen. This can be challenging. The trick is to adjust the amount of time the image stays on the screen. Movie Maker has a numbered timeline to make this easier.

11. We added a title at the beginning of the story and a few "fade" transitions along the way, and our digital stories were complete. Note: It is a good idea to do this along the way because when you add the transitions and titles at the end of the process it alters the voice/image sequence.

12. The final step is to "Save as Movie" During this process all the digital artifacts, voice, images, transitions and titles are rendered into one .wmv file which can then be played in Windows Media Player.

Next steps: Now that the teachers have the hang of it, we'll be conducting computer lab sessions with the students next week to give them the opportunity to create their own digital stories.

I'm looking forward to the next step in the process, working with teachers and students.

Photo Credit: Torres21 ; Creative Commons

Friday, September 11, 2009

Minds on Media - Digital Storytelling Day

Mark your calendars Ontario Teachers.
Wednesday November 11th, 2009

As a part of this fall's 3 day Educational Computing Organization of Ontario conference, a special day of Digital Storytelling and Multimedia Presentations has been arranged by Peter Skillen.

This BYOL (Bring Your Own Laptop) workshop will offer "a variety of learning centres focusing on planning, production, post-production, and exhibition of final media works to audiences - local or global"

The day will be in bricolage format. The several disciplines will include explorations of Podcasting, Comic Life, Inspiration, Youth Voices and of course Digital Storytelling with an emphasis on boys writing, offered by yours truly.

Here's the flyer for more information. Minds on Media Day

Why not join us for the day and we'll learn together!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Digital Stories - Marco Style

Once again Marco Torres and his Alas Media crew has introduced teachers to the use of storytelling, visuals and personal narrative during a two day pre-conference session at Building Learning Communites 2009 in Boston last month.

What I like about Marco's brand of digital storytelling is how he has his participants select one of their passions as their topic and then write about it -- or visually display the passion with music and no words in some cases.

This is not an easy task to accomplish in two days. Not only do participants need to "bring along" raw materials [or search for them], but they need to write a narrative that makes sense, match it with music, then stitch it all together in short order.

Notice how the topic titles are usually one word titles which give a hint to the viewer about what the story will be about. Then, it is up to the author to tell the story. Empty, Afraid, Family, Passion, Drama, and Baseball are just a few of the titles. Simple and clear.

I'd really like to be in the classrooms of these 13 teachers this school year to be a part of the excitement as they share their new-found digital storytelling skills with their students. Wouldn't you?

View the latest batch. Best viewed in Safari or Firefox.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Search and Rescue - A Digital Speech


Our local Canadian Forces Base Anniversary Celebration was this past weekend.

This story is one of about 8 stories from a group of students I worked with this year in a 4th and 5th grade class. I was contacted by a teacher who thought that adding original digital stills and voiceover narration to the speeches her students were writing would add to the experience. Boy, did it ever!

I had the parents of these students tell me what an exciting time their children had creating their "digital speeches".

In this story, the student describes a scene in the Arctic. He didn't have to search creative commons for the photos. His dad was the pilot of the plane and provided the photos from one of his search and rescue missions.

As the student and I were finishing the story, his dad happened to stop by the school. We showed him the story. A very powerful and engaging 2 minutes of listening and watching followed. The look on the dad's face told it all.

Patrick Lowenthal's research on Digital Storytelling in the classroom, on page 252, Chapter 18 of "Story Circle, Digital Storytellling Around the world" supports this "digital speeches" project. Here is what he found:

Amplify Students' Voice

"Perhaps one of the greatest benefits is digital storytelling's ability to reach the many "unheard and unseen students" in our classrooms (Bull and Kajder 2004). Storytelling gives students voice (Burk 2000). However, digital storytelling can give students voice "in ways that are not possible without the technology" (Hofer and Swan 2006: 680) because it can amplify a students voice. Further, it can help give voice to struggling readers and writers. (Bull and Kajder 2004)

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Digital Storytelling at NECC 2009

Digital Storytelling networking was a focus for me at NECC 2009 this year in Washington D.C.

During a delightful lunch with Bernajean [that's me in the middle] in the Second Life gathering spot, we talked about how folks are looking to write and experience stories which go deeper or higher. I mentioned that in a recent ETFO ICT mini-conference the DST sessions were the ones that were filled to capacity and had wait lists. Could it be that during these challenging economic times, people are longing to tell their story?

At Bernajean's poster session I bumped into Stevie Kline, a Technology Integrator and Teacher Trainer in Pennsylvania. She told me [with tears flowing] how attending Bernajean's digital storytelling camp in Colorado had changed her life and how creating a digital story about her father, was such a moving experience.

I also had a chance to speak with Jon Orech, a digital storyteller from Illinois. Jon talked about how he got started in DST and that he was fortunate to have a session with Joe Lambert at Berkeley. Jon talked about the first three characteristics of Joe Lambert's method; Point of View, Dramatic Question and Emotional Content and gave masterful explanations of how to skillfully get students and adults to write using these concepts.

I attended the DST "Birds of a Feather"session and was able to get first hand glimpse of the Video Nation, Frontline PBS connection to DST. This is a collection of stories on how technology has changed the lives of our youth. Rachel Dretzin was at the session and explained the PBS involvement and that they will be collecting stories along the way and producing a PBS Special in January of 2010 which will be a follow-up to the popular Growing Up On-line special.

All in all, a very rewarding experience on the digital storytelling front at NECC 2009. Now, time to reflect on all the great DST learning before my next session.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Story or Storytelling?

Bernajean Porter tweeted a link yesterday to an article she wrote about digital storytelling. Here's why this is not just another article to read. Let me explain.

WebQuests and Digital Storytelling have been two of my interests for many years.

Americans Bernie Dodge and Tom March, from San Diego State, created the WebQuest method in 1995 and Dana Atchley has been credited for starting the Digital Storytelling movement back in 1993 which was later adapted and refined by Joe Lambert in the late '90s.

Why these two examples?

Well, as many of us who work with teachers and students do as early adopters, we try the latest method with the hopes of engaging and motivating teachers and students to go deeper in their daily school work and have a meaningful learning experience. But do we really get it? [read me]

I remember my first WebQuest attempt back in 1999 being no more than an electronic scavenger hunt. Bernie Dodge's method requires higher order thinking and transformation of knowledge. I remember my first digital story was really just a retell of a story about my Grandfather. Bernajean talks about living in your story and lessons learned.

So what do Bernie Dodge and Bernajean Porter have in common?

Well, they articulate in various ways, through websites, podcasts, articles and books, just what it takes to create a WebQuest or Digital Story. They talk about what is required to go deeper. These two methods of communication require a deeper understanding that, for me, didn't happen right away. After all, I was trying to make sense of it from books, podcasts, articles and the exemplars offered having not sat in on a session by Bernajean or Bernie.

Bernajean explains the elements of digital storytelling very well in the article above. For me, this is good timing as I prepare another resource for the provincial level. For many of us who will be attending NECC in D.C. this is also good timing before our "Birds of a Feather" meetup with Bernajean next Tuesday.

So, if you want to "go deeper" when you create a digital story, I suggest you read Bernajean's article or better yet, listen as she explains the process . Bernajean explains the difference between stories and storytelling.

If you are like me, you'll need it repeated over and over again to get it just right.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Digital Storytelling - Gr. 7 to 9 History

"..they had students produce a series of digital images to visually communicate meaning and provide a narration for the video.."

Source: M.D. Roblyer, 4th edition, 2006, page 298.

Many of us have either read an edition of M.D. Roblyer's Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching, or purchased our own copy.

Back in May of 2000 the 2nd edition of this book was my very first purchase. Back then, there were no mentions of digital storytelling.

I am happy to note that digital storytelling, and some various morphs of the original craft, is mentioned on the following pages of the 4th edition:

Pages 297 - 298: Producing series of digital images.
Pages 253 and 354: As a top 10 strategy for technology in social studies.
Pages 358 - 359: As a strategy during the study of history.

On page 358 of the 4th edition digital storytelling is defined as:

"..the process of using images and audio to tell the stories of lives, events, or eras. With this technique, students use personal narrative to explore community-based history, politics, economics, and geography. These projects offer students the opportunity to make their own lives a part of their scholarly research."

This quote is listed as part of a technology integration idea for the study of Anne Frank in 7th to 9th grade history.

The possibilities are many!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Story Circle - Digital Storytelling Around the World

Update: I was very surprised to find my very first digital storytelling project listed in this book on page 40. It is the one run in 2006 in Belleville, Ontario.

Gareth Morlais
talked about this book on his blog a while back and after trying to find the least expensive price, it has arrived today. I think this may be the book I've been waiting for.

As I've mentioned before, I got hooked on digital storytelling back in 2004 when I discovered the Scott County digital stories. Just a year later during the winter of 2004-2005, I brought digital storytelling to our school district after putting together a digital storytelling proposal which ended up to be a digital storytelling writers' workshop, day long session in 8 different locations for enrichment writers. In all we taught about 128 children how to tell a compelling digital story about their lives.

Fast forward to 2009 and Story Circle, Digital Storytelling Around the World, edited by J. Hartley and K. McWilliam has been published.

After having read the 5 page list of contributors, which reads like a Who's Who of digital storytellers, I really can't wait to get started reading this one. Here are the names of two contributors from the list.

Joe Lambert Co-Founder and Executive Director, Center for Digtial Storytelling.
Daniel Meadows, Creative Director, Capture Wales 2001 to 2006.

Usually I flick to the chapter I think will interest me most - - not this time. For me this will be a cover-to-cover read. That way I can prolong the fun!

So, if you decide to check this book out of your local library or purchase it, I'd like the opportunity to have a conversation with you about anything from the book. We could start here in the comments section or create a wiki or a book-blog.

There are a couple of good quotes on the back cover, but I won't spoil your fun and write them here just in case you decide to read this one!

Note: Go ahead and use any of the ideas from my digital storytelling proposal if you wish.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

CBC Digital Archives - Primary Sources

"The most powerful way to immerse students in critical thinking using digital video is to engage them in student authorship - - that is, creating video. As students compose a documentary using historical artifacts, they learn the content, develop their research and primary-source analysis skills, and even come to understand the interpretive nature of historical accounts."

Quote by T.C. Hammond and J. Lee

With the 65 anniversary of D Day just a couple of days away - "The sun was just coming up over the Normandy coast at about 5 a.m. on June 6, 1944 – D-Day." there is no better way to introduce our students to this event than by using our historical archives.

The CBC Digital Archives has 13 television clips and 14 radio clips on the topic. Primary sources at hand for our young people. Why not have our students create a special video using materials from the archives.

Developing Digital Short Films

One of my favourite reference guides in my digital storytelling library is a book by Sherri Sheridan: Developing Digital Short Films.

The book is divided into 4 parts with part 1 devoted to Digital Storytelling. This section is packed with ideas, quotes, graphics, charts, notes, and suggestions.

Here are a couple of quotes from page 18:

  • The first and primary goal of a filmmaker is to evoke a series of strong emotional responses from the audience throughout the entire story.
  • You engage the audience when you tell the truth emotionally based on your own experiences and original insights about life in your film.
On page 27 there are some well written questions on "Being a Filmmaker".
"It's a great responsibility to be a filmmaker....

1. How do you want people to feel when they see your film?
2. What emotional responses are you trying to evoke?
3. What are the new themes for the 21st century that you are passionate about developing in your own stories?"

Page 36 speaks to how people often choose films based on what type of emotional ride or world they are craving to experience. The author calls this segment: "Story Flavors: 37 Varieties" - - Many topics are defined including historical, personal, societal, biographical.

So, I recommend this book to you. Perhaps your local library has a copy. Well worth reading.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Telling Stories with Video

I was very encouraged to see the June/July 2009 Learning & Leading with Technology magazine's Learning Connections segment.

This month's segment devotes a full 10 pages to using video in the classroom. Here's the link to my favourite of the lot.

Telling Stories with Video

by Carl A. Young and Sara Kajder

Professors Young and Kajder write about how important video is as a part of students' multimodal learning. Here's a quote from the article.

"integrating visual images with written text, as done in most digital stories and multimodal compositions, enhances and accelerates comprehension. Meaning here is more layered, interactive and complex. Text and pictures often convey more meaning when juxtaposed. This effect is further intensified with digital video, where motion, design, and interactivity are added to the mix."

Friday, May 29, 2009

Presenters on the Road

Digital Storytelling Workshops - E.T.F.O. Provincial

I've been accepted as an E.T.F.O. Presenter on the Road for the 2009-2010 school year. What this means is that if your school or district would like to conduct a digital storytelling workshop then all you would need to do is download and complete this workshop request form.

My original proposal was to conduct day long workshops. During my conversation yesterday with E.T.F.O. provincial, there was some interest in after school sessions.

Hope to see you at one of the sessions!

E.T.F.O. = Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario

Thursday, May 28, 2009

One in 8 Million


Source: New York Times
Interviewer: J. David Goodman
Photography : Todd Heisler

Martin Jorgensen, who hosts the digital narrative , alerted his twitter followers today about the terrific "One in 8 Million" digital storytelling website from the New York Times. These are timeless stories which, in my humble opinion, are the true definition of digital storytelling.

In this story we are introduced to a teenager from New York. During the almost 3 minutes we get an up-close-and- personal-story told to us in a voice that allows the viewer to listen in a way that is quite personal. We hear that she is a very busy person. She does not have much time in her life where she is not doing something.

If I was starting a digital storytelling workshop with students right now, I'd start with this example and then I would have the students voice their story. I may write a number of questions the students could answer just to get them started, then sit with them, start the digital recorder, press record and see what comes of it.

Notice her "voice" in the story is natural. It is as if she is "just telling" her story to an Aunt or Grandmother over tea at the kitchen table. You come away from hearing/seeing this story with just what this person's life is like on a typical day.

Very engaging.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Graphica - Telling Stories from the Gutter

My latest read arrived yesterday.

ADVENTURES IN GRAPHICA: Using Comics and Graphic Novels to Teach Comprehension, 2-6
Terry Thompson

I found out about the book during a conversation with my favourite Principal and one of his amazing teachers. I learned more about the power of "Graphica" - reading and writing comics, in our 15 minute discussion than I had learned in the past year. Here's the gist:

I listened to how a particular group of boys, one in particular, had really not "cottoned on" to writing non-fiction until they began reading comics and creating panels for their own comics. As a part of a three week block, two teachers in our district have enthusiastically orchestrated an amazing non-fiction writing, content driven unit of study.

From an analysis of the components of comics which include layout, panels, speech bubbles, narrative boxes, lettering, directionality, importance of pictures and the gutter, students are creating their own comic stories. [Pages 28, 29 and 30]

The gutter?

Yes, I didn't know what gutters were either [in comics] until I had it explained to me. A gutter is the space "in between" comic panels where things happen "out of site" of the reader. One has to infer what is happening. The example from Graphica is when Spiderman is heading home one day after a day of crime-fighting. In one panel he is in full costume then he tumbles into a bush and by the next panel, he has transformed into Peter Parker. No changeroom, no phonebooth, just wham, he is now Peter Parker. Students and readers must figure out for themselves what is happening along the way. They do this in many ways, by visual clues, background knowledge, re-reading previous panels, etc.

I had a boy approach me yesterday and ask if I would look at "read" his panels for his comic. There was no text yet. He was able to describe to me what was happening. Background knowledge and gutter inference was needed by me to follow the story. Amazing!

Oh, my part in all of this was to conduct a train-the-trainer model to scan the original art work for the comics into Photoshop so the students could pop their story panels into Comic Life software. A mundane task really, compared to the lessons the students [and me] learned on how to create an amazing story - - from the gutter!

So, next time a teacher says to me, "I'm teaching about gutters", I'll know what she is talking about!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Digital Storytelling - Story Universals

I've been reading S.T. McClean's Digital Storytelling book.

Although the focus of the book is about digital storytelling and visual effects, Ms. McClean has probably the best chapter I've ever read on Story and Storycraft [Chapter 2]
Her definitions of story are spot on. She provides background from some of the greats including Socrates and Aristotle. Her descripton of the 6 elements of tragedy on page 17 are particularly well done.

She devotes one of the chapters to one of my favourite story tellers: Steven Spielberg. [Chapter 9]

Actually, the chapter speaks to the works of Spielberg, George Lucas and James Cameron [a fellow Canadian]. There is a terrific quote by Mr. Lucas. It goes like this:

"My films deal with...
  1. the need for humans to have friendships
  2. to be compassionate
  3. to band together
  4. to help one another
  5. and to join together against what is negative
Source: Digital Storytelling - by S.T. McClean - Page 187

Call up in your mind some George Lucas films and it won't be very difficult to connect the universals he speaks about in this list.

Enclosure: The enclosure in this post is one of my favourite G.L. clips. "Communication"

Monday, April 20, 2009

Capture Wales - Everyone has a story to tell.

If you haven't happened upon Capture Wales, now is your chance.

Capture Wales was one of the first digital storytelling sites I found to help me on my dst journey.

Many years ago they started with only a few categories. They were family, passions, etc. Now I see they have expanded and have categories from A to Z.

The story here is about a young woman and the memories she has of her Grandfather.

This type of digital story is called a Memorial Story. Memorial stories deal with memories of people who are no longer with us. These stories are often difficult to produce and to watch but are emotionally powerful and can help with a person's grieving process.

A Memorial Story is just one type of Personal Reflection Story.

Note: Capture Wales encodes all their digital stories using Real Player.
Download: BBC Capture Wales - Guide to Digital Storytelling

Here's the text of "Someone is Watching Over Me" by Rhian Williams

"Ever since I was little me and my Granddad have been close. Unfortunately not long ago he became a very ill man but, although he was very ill, he was the strongest man I knew. He had struggled through a heart transplant and lung cancer, each time coming out stronger than ever.

Last November he developed a nasty cold and when he was admitted to hospital I remember thinking there's no need to worry, he's going to be fine. He always is, Granddad always gets better. But then it turned nasty, to pneumonia. Granddad suffered, gradually getting worse until he passed away on the 2nd January 2006. It was hard to get over such a big loss but I had to concentrate as I had my GCSEs later that year and Granddad has always pushed me to do my best in school. Thankfully I did well and wished he could have been with me to celebrate.

However, the following Christmas I lay restless in bed and that's when Granddad came to visit me. There he was standing at the bottom of my bed saying, "Congratulations on your exam results. I'm just sorry I wasn't there to congratulate you." This visit meant the world to me and my family and now I can be sure he's always there when I need someone watching over me. I just hope he pays another visit soon."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Make a Movie - That Tells a Story

I was shuffling through my collection of "storytelling" resources today and came across Billy Field's book: "Make a Movie That Tells a Story"

If you don't know Mr. Field's work that's O.K. You may have watched some of his television shows on some of the retro channels or if you are my age, when you were younger. He wrote for the television show "Fame" and was mentored by Beth Sullivan the creator of the television series "Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman".

What I like about Mr. Field's book is that he begins by writing about how to write a story and screenplay. He talks about having:

1. A strong main character.
2. A pivotal problem the character encounters.
3. A decision the main character has to make.
4. A goal the character has to achieve.
5. An obstacle the main character has to overcome.

With these 5 areas he describes the story basics. Really good stuff. Also, at the end of the book he describes his "Hero Next Door" film project. Heros next door have always been a topic that I think garner some of the best digital stories. There are sample project topics on the website he has had students create.

If you get a chance to see or attend one of Billy Field's workshops it will be well worth it. At the very least you can browse his website. I had the good fortune to be part of a day long "telling a story" session with Mr. Field in Toronto a number of years back and I continue to use his ideas in my video and digital storytelling sessions today.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Improve Your Stories - Find Your Character

Brent Foster directed "The Digital Journalist" our way today.

A couple of articles caught my eye. Both have to do with writing better stories. The first is a story written by Ken Kobré & Jerry Lazar. If you want to know how to write better stories their 10 Tips story is worth your time.

Midway in Ken and Jerry's article is a link to Kathy Krauss' article on developing the main character, or protagonist in your story. This was my find of the day. She has links to a couple of amazing stories which have a central character that not only holds the story but moves you as you get to know each character.

So if you have the time watch:

Part of the Family

Video and Photos by Susan L. Angstadt & Ben Hasty

A Day with Fransisco

Video and Editing by Michelle Cassel
Produced by Nicole Shea and Miranda Harple

Monday, March 09, 2009

Digital Storytelling - How to


Learn how to create an original digital story using Windows Movie Maker. Combine original compelling writing, an effective voice and interesting digital stills.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Personal Discovery Story


Here's a personal discovery story from one of my adult educator digital storytelling sessions.

In this story, Ruth uses an effective narrative, connecting images and a heartfelt story about an adventure with her son to bring home what digital storytelling is all about.

Monday, March 02, 2009

DigiTales - The Art of Telling Digital Stories

Bernajean Porter's book arrived this week.

I've followed Bernajean's stories and website for years, used her materials in my workshops and she has been one of my digital storytelling gurus but had never bought her book which was published in 2004. Am I ever glad I did. The magic of Bernajean's website translates to the written words in her book. It is not surprising as she began her career as a writer.

In a recent discussion with my Will Richardson PLN we were discussing teaching differently, even without computers. The discussion occured just as I was reading the introduction to Bernajean's book. Here's the quote:

On page 3 Bernajean writes: "Anyone crafting or leading a storytelling experience will need to focus their thinking on developing a story first rather than technology. No amount of technology will fix a poorly written or flat, impersonal story. When the digital storytelling is finished, you want your story to be remembered for its soul, not the bells and whistles."

All too often we may lean towards the bells and whistles but we know it is the story that drives the piece. Now I'm wondering why I waited 5 years to buy this book.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Lessons Learned - B.Porter

Listen to Bernajean Porter give a terrific definition of Digital Storytelling.

This interview
was recorded at NECC 2008 in San Antonio. Ms. Porter also talks about a new storytelling environment in Second Life.

The photo in this post is from "Creative Educator" where you will find the article.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Digital Stories from BLC '08

At Marco Torres' digital storytelling session, offered as a two day pre-conference hands-on workshop on July 14th and 15, 2008, Marco and his team of SFETTers, who now market themselves worldwide as Alas Media, have done it again.

Here are the finished results from the Marco & Crew Pre-Conference.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Rural Voices - Maine

iTunes U has started K-12 offerings available as of July 1st, 2008.

The best one I've discovered for D.S.T. is the Maine Writing Project. 7th and 8th graders, with their laptops are writing and creating digital stories about "Place". There are 10 topics for stories currently. In each segment students read their stories. An adult narrator sometimes accompanies the stories. All the stories make up an "electronic anthology" of rural Maine.

Subscribe in iTunes

Monday, July 07, 2008

Jason Ohler

Jason Ohler's new book arrived today via I discovered his 2004 electronic publication a while back and enjoyed it. The book looks like an extended and updated version of his digital book intended for the classroom.