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picture2.jpgDigital stories are ‘mini-movies’ that combine the age-old art of storytelling with the use of modern technology. They are created using a collection of images, voice, music and sometimes sound effects. They’re constructed easily on a computer and anyone who has a story to tell will be able to create these movies in a highly engaging process that merges story and creativity to make it come alive.

It originated in the US over ten years ago, leading to the establishment of the Centre for Digital Storytelling (CDS) [] at Berkley University in California. The Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne (ACMI) was trained by the CDS as Australia’s centre for excellence and has been developing digital storytelling as a major content production and exhibition program for the general community.

Our first introduction to the world of DST was through ‘Coach’ Carole McCulloch who is an eLearning Consultant and the moderator for the Digital Storytelling Network in Australia at:

Carole’s passion for Digital Stories led us to ACMI where we completed our training using Mac’s. We became DST disciples! Using the principles, we trained our staff using Microsoft Photo Story 3. Our students followed and they have taken to the technical side of the software like ducks to water!

The ‘Wow’ Factor!
Digital Story Telling has created a revolution at our school! A rich tapestry of stories has emerged about the lives of our students. We have learnt so much more about these kids – about what is happening in their lives and what is important to them. These children have real stories to tell – how often do we give them the voice to tell their stories?

The power of DST cannot be underestimated. We have been delighted by the student engagement and the noticeable improvement in literacy. Many boys who are normally reluctant to speak in front of an audience have produced some amazing pieces of work. One boy, who has a speech impediment, recorded his voice over and over again until it was word perfect – no stuttering, no hesitancy, no urging from the teacher.

Other boys who live for recess, lunchtime and home time and hate writing with a passion, have been knocking at the door during their breaks, begging to be allowed in to finish their scripts. Phrases such as these below, have become almost the ‘norm’ to our Year 4 boys.
‘I love my family and the world wouldn’t be the same without them.’
‘Just a little dot in the ocean, but what a beautiful country it is.’
‘From the most exquisite sunsets, to the amazing hand-woven batik…..’

Digital Story Telling has been a fantastic way of engaging our boys in Literacy. Our students – from those with special needs, to our most ‘gifted’ have been motivated to produce high quality work. Rich and deep learning has taken place.

‘Movie Night’
Once the students complete their stories, we hold a ‘movie’ night. We are blown away by the number of families who come to see their budding Steven/Stephanie Spielbergs make their directorial debuts. There is literally standing room only!

Boxes of tissues are provided free of charge! I’ll never forget the sight of one father as tears rolled down his face. He was watching the story his son had carefully and lovingly created about how much he adored his dad and how proud he felt to be his son.

You never know what impact a story can have!

Digital Story Telling and VELS
Digital Storytelling involves students in a highly engaging process which authentically integrates all three VELS domains. It inspires deep, relevant, interactive learning for all students and their needs, backgrounds, perspectives and interests are reflected. Learning connects strongly with communities and practice beyond the classroom (POLT!!).

The procedure of making a digital story involves creative and critical thinking, inquiry, multimodal literacy, writing, discussion, design, production, reflection, presentation and integrated use of ICT. It gives students opportunities to enhance the expression of their own stories, thoughts and ideas in creative and engaging ways, connecting learning across a broad range of learning situations.

The role and place of storytelling and listening is central to this program. The software and technology don’t become important tools until the script has been completed. Learning occurs most successfully at point of need and understanding and proficiency with the technology tools will follow naturally.

Digital stories can be used in the following ways:
• Preserving community and personal histories
• Engaging, inspiring and motivating all learners
• Creating ePortfolios
• Celebrating achievements or events
• Presenting factual information e.g. ‘The Great Wall of China’; ‘The Life Cycle of a Butterfly’
• Demonstrating different genres of writing
• To provide an explanation for a particular maths concept
• Creating visual learning materials for the autistic or learning disabled
• Creating learning materials
• Assessment and reporting

What you need!
• a ‘story’
• some form of script
• images to tell the story – anything that can be photographed or scanned
• music or sound effects if required. Photo Story has the benefit of customisable music to suit the mood of the story (lots of fun!!). Copyright and royalty free music is available from the web. Try:
• a storyboard or some form of plan to combine the above elements
• a computer with Windows XP
• software – Photo Story 3, Windows Media Player 11, Movie Maker (these are free downloads)
• adjustable headsets with microphones that have volume control on the cord are best.

• Brainstorm! The story is most powerful if it is personal. Students list ideas on paper or use mind mapping software while considering their images and music. These need to be used to enhance the story.
• Collect the images. The script will often write itself if you have photos ready to look at.
• Students begin first draft. This should be about 100 – 150 words. The narrative is perhaps the most important aspect. Certainly the most powerful are those capturing a story that has personal significance to the storyteller. The greatest difficulty is getting the students to write with a ‘personal voice’ rather than as a recount. ‘Ever since I can remember, I have always dreamed of getting a cat’ as opposed to ‘This is my cat Sam and I got him last year’.
• The story circle is very important! This gives the opportunity to listen to others, reinforces fluency and expression, a chance to practise before the voice recording and a chance for the students to offer positive feed back to one another. Use it with a group of 6 to 8 students at a time.

“As we are made of water, bone and biochemistry, we are made of stories. The students who share their stories in our circles recognize a metamorphosis of sorts, a changing, that makes them feel differently about their lives, their identities”.
– Joe Lambert, Director
Centre for Digital Storytelling

? Self-edit and then conference with teacher.
? Practise reading the drafts aloud to help eliminate wordiness and to get the pace and expression right.
? Manipulate images.
? Record voiceover.
? Add royalty-free music and/or create and record own music.
? Export finished digital story using Windows Media Player.
? Save finished product onto DVD, CD, blog, and intranet.

The Seven Elements of Digital Storytelling (

The point of the story – point of view
Dramatic Question
Emotional content
Gift of Voice
Sound track

The ‘Digital Storytelling Cookbook’ by Joe Lambert presents the Seven Elements of Digital Storytelling in greater detail and forms the basis for approaching digital storytelling in the classroom.

I believe that DST is a wonderful way for students to become truly engaged in ‘real’ literacy activities. Our own students have shown a heightened use of language, not only showing evidence of an increased awareness of ‘audience’ but they use the technical vocabulary as if they were Steven Spielberg himself. This is from 8 and 9 year olds!

View examples of Digital Stories.
Australian stories at ACMI: