Posted by: | 8th Jul, 2009

Digital Story

Why was this the right tool for you to use to tell your story? Explain how you purposefully selected your tool. (5)

The decision to use Animoto as my story-telling tool was made after great consideration. When one is selecting from a list of over 50 story-telling tools, he/she needs to apply some sort of framework to make sure the tool selected is the best fit for the job. Since learning to make informed decisions about the technologies used in teaching practices is one of the key objectives of ETEC 565, I knew I could refer to one of my favorite readings from earlier in the course to guide me. The SECTIONS framework (Bates & Poole, 2003) is still my favorite and I thought that several components of the model apply to the selection of technology to be used in this activity. Here are some highlights:

  • Ease of use: Following a standard registration process, Animoto will create an account for you and users will be ready to start creating projects within minutes. At the core of my digital story were the photos I took while traveling in Norway. I was looking for a tool that makes uploading images simple. Animoto made this process easy and clear. From there, the user-friendly interface allowed me to organize my photos, and add small amount of text. I was also aiming for a fresh and dynamic story that incorporates cool audio, but I didn’t feel like spending a great deal of time hunting down music that didn’t break copyright law. Animoto allowed me to select a tune from its existing library and even automatically added the credit to the musician within my video-awesome. Transitions are taken care of by Animoto and while some might argue that they’d prefer more control over their project, I loved leaving the editing duties up to the software. In conclusion then, Animoto makes the grade in terms of ease of use.
  • Costs: Animoto is free to use, but standard accounts do come with some restrictions. For example, an upgrade is required if users want to create a video lasting more than 30 seconds. I did, however, find a way around this. Animoto offers special accounts to educators looking to test-drive the tool in an educational setting. As I understand the trial lasts six months, and students are given a special access code so they can overcome some of the restrictions of a standard account. I had to apply for this type of account and it took Animoto about a week to approve my application. This is something to consider if you need quick access to the service.
  • Interactivity: Simply put, in order to tell my story, I needed to be able to use my own images, add some text, add some music, and host on the web a creative and dynamic production that other could view. Telling a story using images and audio does not exactly qualify as traditional story-telling formats. Animoto made it possible to represent knowledge and tell my story in new ways. It enabled creativity, interactivity with content, and the ability to publish my product to an audience- an authentic story-telling experience.

I want to mention that Animoto was not the first tool I tried during this activity. I gave serious consideration to Bubbleshare, Joggle, and Rock You. All three of these tools had many positive features, but, in the end, each had a shortcoming that hindered the goals of my project. For example, Bubbleshare, although advertised that it allows audio to be included in  slide shows seemingly does not have an audio feature anymore. We all know how important audio is to setting the overall mood of a multimedia presentation; this I could not overlook.

Selecting appropriate technologies is becoming easier for me as the course goes along. I am also gaining a solid appreciation for the importance that Bates and Poole (2003) put toward educators learning to effectively evaluate the vast array of technologies available to them. Selecting the right tool for digital story was crucial for this activity and a decision like this has the potential to make or break an excellent learning activity.

Describe how a story-telling approach would work within a course you teach or would like to teach. Use sound pedagogical arguments (10)


As part of the grade eight social studies curriculum, Culture is a core unit of study. Traditionally, like many other teachers, I’ve assigned each student a culture to research. Students are to use a variety of research materials, but the task is to submit a final written report for evaluation. Engaging students in this activity is difficult at best and, to be perfectly honest, even I’m bored of reading the written reports. How can I design a new learning activity that will engage learners and still immerses them in the research process? Perhaps using a digital storytelling approach is appropriate given the learning context. Here’s how I see the approach working:


* My students would still need to research their assigned cultures based on the criteria I establish. What changes is the product they will work to develop. Students will choose from a short list of digital storytelling tools in order to produce their own multimedia presentation that shows a typical day of life for a person within their assigned culture.
* Digital stories will be 3-5 minutes in length.
* Digital stories will include audio and visuals.
* Digital stories will not break copyright law.
* Students will create several drafts/iterations of their story. As part of the editing process, they will share their drafts with their peers and teacher to receive qualitative feedback. The final iteration of their digital story will be hosted on the web as part of a class culture wiki.
* An evaluation rubric will be used to assess the stories. The rubric will be provided to students before they begin the activity.


According to Warlick (2008), what it means to be literate has been redefined in the 21st Century. To Warlick, our concept of literacy can longer be centered upon reading, writing, and arithmetic, but rather on the “3Es- expose what is true, employ the information, and express ideas compellingly ” (2008). My social studies will indeed need to utilize these skills as they gather information about their culture and decide how best to convey that information to an audience. Students will no doubt discover that not all of their research sources provide factual, verifiable information and they’ll need to learn new skills in determining what qualifies as a reliable source. My students will also learn that there exists no one correct way to express ideas.

For those who argue that there still needs to be an emphasis on reading and writing, there is research that shows that digital storytelling improves traditional literacy skills in addition to digital, and media literacy (Ohler, 2008). This makes perfect sense when you think about it. After all, how can my learners conduct research without reading and writing? The difference here I guess is allowing students to tell their stories in a language they know and understand: electronic media. With the monstrous amounts of digital content available to my learners, partaking in remixing and reusing, or the ‘Mashup’ (Lamb, 2007), should appeal to my grade eight students. As a teacher, it’s exciting to imagine what kind of dynamic storytelling will take place.

The switch from a traditional research assignment to a digital story also makes for a more authentic learning experience. One reason is that students have been charged with telling a story from someone else’s point of view. How can one begin to do so without a strong understanding of what it is like to walk a mile in their shoes so to speak? Authenticity is also achieved through the creation of a digital story that will be shared with an audience. Here students are playing the roles of researcher,anthropologist, screenwriter, director, editor, etc. Hopefully they will gain an appreciation of what it might be like to work in one of these fields. Lastly, we should not ignore that publishing to an outside audience makes the learning process very meaningful. All too often students arrive at school, hand in their assignments to a teacher for evaluation, and then leave for the day. There is little excitement or sense of accomplishment when you are merely creating for your teacher alone. Engagement, in my opinion, is too often gauged on the common student question, “So, who will be seeing our assignments?”

Earlier in the ETEC 565 course, we learned about the importance of interactions in effective learning designs (Anderson, 2008). Additionally, within the 565 discussion forums, we see first-hand how interactions among a community can enhance the overall quality of the learning experience. The digital storytelling approach I want to implement in my social studies course calls for students to support one another with their assignments. My vision is that students will serve as an editing circle, providing feedback on the story drafts. I’ve used this approach in my writing courses, yet I have difficulty having students buy into the concept. The reason for this is likely because students don’t want to spend long periods of time reading peer-written essays. Essays simply do not interest the 21st Century learner as much as multimedia assignments do. Students these days seem to require a visual and audio dimension in nearly media source they consume.


Implementing a digital storytelling approach in my social studies course will:

* Help students develop both traditional literacy skills and digital literacy skills

* Make the learning experience more authentic and engaging

* Immerse students in ‘Mashup’ culture

* Foster meaningful interaction among a community of learners

* Make learning social studies FUN!


Anderson, T. (2008). Towards a Theory of Online Learning. In: Anderson, T. & Elloumi, F. Theory and Practice of Online Learning. Athabasca University. Accessed online 8 July 2009

Bates, A.W. & Poole, G. (2003). Chapter 4: a Framework for Selecting and Using Technology. In Effective Teaching with Technology in Higher Education: Foundations for Success. (pp. 77-105). San Francisco: Jossey Bass Publishers.

Lamb, B. (2007). Dr. Mashup; or, Why Educators Should Learn to Stop Worrying and Love the Remix. EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 42, no. 4 (July/August 2007): 12–25.  Accessed online July 8 2009

Ohler, J. (2008). Digital storytelling in the classroom: New media pathways to literacy, learning, and creativity. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Warlick, D. (2008). Redefining literacy 2.0. Worthington, OH: Linworth Books.

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