How Digital Storytelling Improves Learning

Eric Braun Blog

Check out our popular Digital Storytelling product for iPads, 30hands Storyteller Pro, and our new browser-based version for laptops and Chromebooks, 30hands Storyteller Web.

CoSN Ad_2016-0815There’s been growing talk about Digital Storytelling lately. iPads, Chromebooks and laptops are everywhere, and educators want to take full advantage of their capabilities. With the landscape the way it is, I’m sure many wonder if this trend is more about the technology or the story.

Everyone would agree that tech for tech sake is not the way to go. Using computers and the Internet do teach kids how to use devices and infrastructure that have become fixtures in the world around us, but… “Is that all there is?” I hope not, and I think not!

Why does a story matter?

It’s all about the process. Let’s look at what it takes to create a story. We all know what a story is and that it has a slew of parts (beginning, middle, end, characters, conflict, etc.), but what happens when we create a story? What process do we go through? The truth is that it’s a highly iterative and active process. Here’s an example:


Tell a story that shows you know about the planets in our solar system. Show you know what order they are in. Show you know at least 2 facts about each planet and about the Sun. Include Pluto if you’d like. Make sure you tell a story rather than just providing the facts and information. Make it fun and memorable.

Sample Process for non-digital story could be:

  1. Think of a story concept that interests you. Be creative! Think outside the box!
  2. Think about how to include the solar system, the planets and the information in the story.
  3. Define at least 1 character, at least 1 scene, some action and a conflict or problem to resolve.
  4. Write a first draft of a script for your story. At this point, don’t worry about including all the concepts and details of the planets, but keep them in mind. Write it as a narrative using paragraphs.
  5. Review your script and find ways to incorporate the different planets and their details without just spitting them out. How can you make them subtle and interesting?
  6. Re-write your script to include the ideas from the previous step.
  7. Think about where you can include some dialogue and add it.

Making It Digital:

  1. Break the script into lines. Each line should be a single idea or statement. This is generally only a single sentence or  piece of dialog.
  2. For each line of the script, think about what you can use to visually depict it. This can be a photo, an open source image, a drawing or a short video clip.
  3. Create a storyboard on paper or in an app like like 30hands Storyteller Pro, Storyteller Web (the new browser version) or Google Slides (which can be imported into 30hands later). There are many ways to do storyboarding, which we will not discuss here. Storyboarding generally takes a little practice to get comfortable with the process.
  4. Review and revise your story and storyboard as needed based on the time you have and the quality you want to achieve.
  5. Narrate your story over the storyboard. Use good intonation, enunciation, character voices and sound effects where you can to make it more interesting.
  6. Review and revise your story narration as needed to make it better.
  7. Create a Video of your digital story to share with the teacher, your parents and your friends.

Iterative Creativity graphicThink about the active components to this process. Making it a digital story adds more components and more opportunities to gain experience with real world skills like analytical thinking, visual thinking, effective communication techniques (think Marketing), presenting and more iteration. If you make this a team activity, students will learn even more valuable skills.

This process makes digital storytelling an amazing learning tool, because it forces the learner (as storyteller) to spend more time with the content and to look at it from different angles. And that’s just for a single version (note that each version contains multiple drafts, too). Creating a better story often takes iteration through multiple versions, which takes the learner through the process multiple times. Each pass through the process reinforces the material and often provides additional ways to look at it.

This sort of in-depth, active process helps us better internalize details, variations, and unique aspects of a concept. It helps us better understand something and burn it into our memory.

How does this compare to taking a test? How does it compare to just explaining the facts? Where do learning standards and outcomes fit into the process? Try mapping them out — or give us a call to help you out 😉

So, the next time you want to give your students an assignment about some important material, make it a storytelling project, where they are sure to have a lot of fun and learn much more. You can even incorporate Digital Storytelling into your Project-Based Learning to document the process or create the final presentation.

Call 781-982-9555 or email to learn more about 30hands Storyteller or to purchase it for your classroom, school or district.

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