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3 Inspiring Digital Storytelling Projects

Foster creativity, problem-solving, adaptability, and acceptance with creative choice.

Julie York | April 11, 2016

Some students are terrified of sitting down and writing a story. We also know that these same students can turn around and produce incredible stories if offered the opportunity to do so differently. So, let’s think outside the box!

What happens when the same story is told in 20 formats? Allowing students choice in their formatting helps to foster creativity, problem-solving, adaptability, and acceptance that not everything needs to be formatted in a specific way. Luckily, technology offers students various tools that can help break them out of the rut of strict formatting and traditional storytelling.

Storytelling: Three Ways

1. Comics

The beauty of comics as a storytelling medium is the ability to adapt the assignment based on skills and interests. Students can learn how to express a complete story in a single-panel comic or to create a story that carries through several pages. Comics can be a great way to teach dialogue and design; even those students who struggle with drawing are not left out, as many apps have built-in clip art.

Try it. Comic Master is a free app I have successfully used in my classroom for various projects. For example, when I introduce animation to students, I always start with focusing on art and the concept of telling a story through images. Comic Master allows my students to focus on the story without having to spend too much time on formatting.

For a fun project, have students write a comic about their morning –- with a twist. The twist could be any mood they want to express, ranging from comical to dramatic. Have students draw each panel separately in an art app of their choice and then import it into Comic Master and add text or other comic elements. Encourage students who do not want to draw to use the supplied clip-art libraries instead or use photos that they take.

2. Scripts

One of the most daunting aspects of script writing is the formatting. The indents, capitalization, and other formatting can be terrifying to someone sitting down in front of a word processor. However, students love seeing their work when it's done -- a script looks very professional and clean when formatting is handled for them. Since students have a passion for media and an understanding of how it's structured, creating scripts becomes a fun way to tell a story and facilitates students turning that script into a video.

Try it. Celtx is one of the apps I use when I have my video students write a script. Celtx is amazing because it’s free, has a sister storyboarding app, and can be accessed from any device, including an online Web portal into which students can type directly using a computer.

To implement script writing in your class, task students with telling the story of a class moment that went weirdly (since my class is a video course, I ask them to write it as if it were a movie of a particular genre). Encourage students to use their imaginations, and you may get stories like I did -- examples of zombies attacking, a student falling ill, and a dramatic breakup. Script writing does not have to be something only students who enjoy drama or movies can participate in -- it's a great way to abridge a story concept into dialogue, setting, and characters.

3. Animations

With so many ways of incorporating animation into storytelling -– from illustrations to stop-motion with Legos –- there's no reason students can't find success in some medium. However, before your students dive into completing an animated short, it's a good idea to start with a scene or simple story, or have a group write a story together and have each student animate a separate part.

Try it. This year I had students in one class break up into groups and tell me stories about "first meetings" in animation using one of three methods. One group of students put together stories using Lego Movie Maker with Legos and Play-Doh, while another group created drawings using Animator Free. Finally, the third group completed their task using the supplied art in Toontastic (Editor's Note: This product is no longer available). After the assignment was completed and all projects turned in, we discussed the different materials and processes and how they were similar and different.