The Art of Digital Storytelling in the Classroom
There is a process to learning how to teach the art of digital storytelling. First, you must be curious, because crafting a digital story takes time. Second, you will be using reading, writing, and speaking skills. Planning this cross-curricular project can be lots of fun…but also a daunting task. Students take away so much from something like this. I would say it’s well worth the time and effort if you have lots of help.
I explain in this introduction how I started with digital storytelling.
Omicron Oscar Night Idea
Once I decided on an awards ceremony format for the culminating event to showcase the students’ digital stories, we decided on a title…and the Omicron Oscar Night was born.
This was a time when technology was really starting to seep into school buildings, but my classroom was one that didn’t benefit from the new technology yet. (I had one chalkboard that I couldn’t write on, and one overhead projector that I relied on for everything!) Luckily, we had some access to a computer lab across the hallway.
This was an end of the year project, so we focused on reading and writing skills like summarizing, compare/contrast, etc. Our team worked hard to encourage creative thought and problem solving throughout the year. We viewed samples of other digital stories.
We brainstormed all the topics we covered in classes (ex. estimation in math, Ancient Egypt in SS, genres in ELA, ecology in Science, Family History Stories, etc.) Then, we created a list of the different types of writing. The students chose something from the content areas and a type of writing. And they wrote. First, on white lined paper, then transferred that into a story board. The storyboard were checked and revised before the kids could have access to the computer/program to create a digital story.
We collaborated with the building/district technology teacher at the time (Mike Rehbaum) who came into our rooms to show our kids how to use MovieMaker. Once the technology tool was taught, we could move forward with their writing pieces and change them into movies.
Student Run Event
The teachers on the team selected two students who demonstrated proficiency in collaboration, problem solving, and organization skills as the Directors. They created application forms and “hired” additional committee members to organize the culminating event- Omicron Oscar Night.
A theme was chosen and everything else was planned around that theme. (the first year was a Tropical theme, the next year was New York City – a “big city” theme, and the last year the kids chose a CandyLand theme.)
Directors (in the 3rd year) used a Wiki to plan and organize all the tasks for the committee members. There were In Class Tasks, After School Tasks, and of course all the tasks to prepare the actual Omicron Oscar Night Event. Committee members applied for tasks that matched their talents. Artists designed the program cover and the T-shirts, writers worked on the OON Script, others auditioned for singing and dancing, just like in the real Oscar Night format. The Directors were in charge of everything, I just coached them on the next steps.
The Evening Event
On the night of the evening event, I sat in the background to supervise, but the Directors and the rest of the committee members ran the entire awards show. They practiced in rehearsals, making mistakes and correcting them..so they could get the show’s length to one hour. The kids were amazing, the parents were so proud, and I had great satisfaction in what they accomplished as a team.
20 To Watch Award
After the first year’s show 2008-2009, I was nominated for and was awarded the “20 To Watch” Award presented by the National School Board Association. I was so surprised because I had no idea someone nominated me. Really, the award goes to all who participated.
One of the questions the NSBA leaders asked was, “How will your share this idea with others?” I struggled to answer that question, because of the lack of technology available to us at the time. I had actually met someone from a tech company at the NSBA conference, who wanted to help. But when I returned back to school, I found out our district wouldn’t be able to work with that particular brand of technology. (remember, this was way back when…) I never had a chance to explain that to the two women who offered to help. I was very appreciative of their offer. It’s unfortunate it didn’t work out.
I coached the project for 3 years. After that, our team was split up, the CCSS came into play, and everything changed. I had always hoped to get back to this project, but I wasn’t sure how to include it in our already packed curriculum. This year, I’m rolling out more blended learning ideas in my classroom. We’ll see if I can squeeze some form of digital storytelling into the day. Wish me luck!