Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What Tool Should We Use to Tell a Tale?

+Andrea Needer asked our ECI 831 Community, what tool teachers like to use for Digital Storytelling. I too had been pondering that exact question, especially since there are so many tools to choose from. During our discussion with Alan Levine @CogDog, I wondered what would the "Master Digital Storytelling Guru" recommend for telling a tale? Aside from suggesting that perhaps I check out his site and take a look at what's available, he didn't offer any outright recommendations to his favorites. And now I can see why....

Photo Credit: EAWB via Compfightcc
Interestingly enough just prior to our discussion with Alan, I had a teacher inquire about sharing a retelling project that she had been working on with the story, The Waltz of the Scarecrows. In her project she had the students create a retelling/ re-enactment of the tale, by having the students dress up and portray the events and the emotions of the story. Her project centered around the question, "How did scarecrows come to be?" or "Why do we have scarecrows?" After taking several photos, of the grade one students retelling and acting out tableaus for the story, she had asked how could she share this project with parents. She was familiar with using digital tools but wasn't sure what would be the best to produce this story prior to reportcards... Yes, she wanted to do a digital story prior to reportcards and conferences and still be sane enough to teach her busy grade one students!

Prior to our discussion, I told her that I needed to know what devices and programs she was able to access, and how much work was she willing to put into to learning the project. At first she wanted tons of "wow factor", which made me wonder if we were going to be creating a blockbuster digital story - and how much time did she think that we really had? Finally, I pondered, if we went with lots of flash, would the story be lost in the digital tools? Hmmm...

Danielle Degelman pointed out in her post, "Once Upon a Digital Story", that "Digital storytelling presents an exciting opportunity for students to share personal stories and create fictional stories that respond to various genres." That was it. Giving the students the opportunity to share their story or retelling. Was there a danger of losing the students' voice and their retelling of the Waltz of the Scarecrows with the tools, or was I coping out? Was it best to go with a tool that we knew and  could use well, or go for something that would allow us to hyper-edit and produce the story into something "shiny"? I had questions that needed to be answered.

So, last Tuesday, I attentively listened to Cogdog's wise words on how student voices can be unleashed with digital stories. The potential became evident in how digital stories can fully engage students in all aspects of the strands in English Language Arts through activities like the improvised Pecha Kucha or Pecha Flickr. Eagerly I waited to hear what tool he thought it would best for a digital storytelling project, allowing me to then share this wisdom with my friend. Maybe our question regarding what was the BEST TOOL for her scarecrow story would be answered... Yayyyyy! And... fist... System Overload.... My brain melted.  He provided not just one answer but  a blog, a wiki,  and another wiki's worth. Sigh... Thanks. Back to square one, and now I'm left with a puddle of a brain...and tons of resources to explore.

Photo Credit: Spamily via Compfightcc
Today, my friend and I discussed what tools would be best... again. We came to conclusion that it's not the tool, it's the story you want to share... (It's funny how I keep coming to this conclusion). We revisited her outcomes and what she hoped to achieve in the project. These outcomes were to explore the "big" or essential question, re-tell a story from a student's perspective and to act out these events. So what did we decide to do? What was easy and accessible for her? We decided to use Animoto to create a "trailer" for the project, using photos and video that she had captured with her phone incorporating questions and student retellings in simple form. I showed her how to use Animoto, which by the way was with my upgraded personal account (worth the price by the way). After I showed my friend how to navigate through Animoto, she was on her way. The next question was how to share the video. I suggested uploading it to Youtube, but keep the privacy settings on non-searchable and private, so only those of whom she shares the link will be able to access the video.

We later started to build her story in Photostory, which again is very easy to use. She will be able to later share these stories with parents when she compresses the story to a video file so that it can be seen with a Windows Video File... I think... This might be something that I need to explore, does anyone have more experience with Photostory regarding sharing?? I suppose that will require more research on my part.

If you are still not sure whether or not you should upgrade your Animoto account and if it's worth the price, check out Krista Gates blog post, "What's the story?", where she also promotes using Animoto.


  1. There are so many tools that one can use. I believe that, like you say, "We came to conclusion that it's not the tool, it's the story you want to share... (It's funny how these conclusions keep repeating themselves)" because it isn't the tools but what we want to do with them that guides our searches and helps us to sort out where to go. I believe you should be able to use something like VLC to play the videos - http://www.videolan.org/vlc/index.html which is an open source video player. It plays most types of video. I use it on my mac to play windows media player videos and it works well. I like Animoto too - it's a great tool to use. You could use WeVideo, which has a Chrome extension that I'm looking at, or iMovie to create the movie - trailer - http://youtu.be/FP9OPjA5eZ0. I also did a few quick videos using a few different tools like Magisto to create a simple video - http://www.magisto.com/video/NgMYOVIVFzVhB01pYw?c=e&l=mmr1&o=i&trydeeplink - just some options to add if you haven't already done so!

  2. Thanks for the pingpack - glad I could help. :-) To be honest, I have never used digital storytelling before, but would like to try it this year. Sorry I'm not much help when it comes to tool selection, but I did discuss pechaflickr and Animoto in my latest post. However, like you say, it's the story that's most important!

  3. Jenn - Your posts are looking great - pingbacks, images, good title. Everything looks to be on the right track! I like how you bring the speakers into your classroom experience, and vice versa. Keep reading widely so you can site an even wider array of articles/posts!