The definition of “Digital Storytelling” has expanded over the last couple years. It used to refer almost entirely to projects from a first person point of view created in IMovie. These could be either simple skits and dialogues done with a camera or a series of still images with a soundtrack. IMovie has very simple functions for transitions and has an effect called the “Ken Burns effect” that adds motion to still images. The Center for Digital Storytelling is a good place to find examples.
Although IMovie is quite easy, Web 2.0 applications have entered this space as well to offer even easier alternatives. VoiceThread is probably the most popular. Users can upload images and organize them into a slideshow. It’s also possible to record an audio track for each image in the show. Visitors to the voicethread can then leave voice comments as well. This is a good example from an English class in Brazil who created a voicethread about 5 of their most important cities then sent their presentation to a class in California for comments.
Digital storytelling fits nicely with a learner centered language classroom as they are by their nature collaborative works that focus on the creator’s life and interests. The technological skills required have also become very minimal. I’d be happy to show a class at Dickinson how to use either IMovie or Voicethread. An IMovie training would take most of a class hour depending on whether students would use still images or record with a video camera. A Voicethread tutorial would take 20 minutes or less with questions.
Although the stories are very easy to create, it’s still important to do some planning. Be clear about your expectations to the students. Provide them with examples to set expectations and to generate ideas. Let them see the grading rubric you’ll use for assessment. Finally, break the assignment up into parts to avoid having students spend a great deal of time on the assignment but finishing with a poor project. A common suggestion is to have students submit their project in three parts: a storyboard, a script, and finally the finished project in IMovie or on VoiceThread.