Wednesday, March 4, 2015

HippoBytes HB243: Digital Storytelling

A digital story about digital storytelling. Whoa, so meta. Note that this
digital story uses film rather still images, which won't be a good idea
if you have limited bandwidth.
Continuing on our theme of visual literacy, this session focused on how you can use video to practice research and citation skills, narrative or informational storytelling, and to provide students with an alternative, media-rich way to demonstrate knowledge of content standards. The vehicle for doing these things is digital storytelling, which strictly speaking is using a combination of images and voiceover to tell an aspect of your life story, but can be more loosely thought of as using images and audio to communicate an important message to an audience.

The story is the most important thing; teaching the art of storytelling is beyond the scope of this session, but suffice it to say that you should follow a scaffolded process to make sure that students have a compelling message supported by specific, vivid examples.

In this script example, you can see very clearly
what images the student will use and the point
at which they will appear.
Once you have your story - and you should go through a feedback and assessment process before you go on to the next step - you should reformat the story into a script format. I decided where in the story I'll show each image, and add a blank line at each point. Then I type of a description of the image I'll put in at the point, putting the text in [brackets]. These images can be photos you've taken yourself, or Creative Commons-licensed images you find through repositories like Wikimedia Commons. You won't have students actually find the images yet.

Then, record your script. Using the Audio Recorder Chrome app will work on Macs, PCs, and Chromebooks. You may be able to use tablets and smartphones; quality will vary. This will involve sending kids out of the room to find some place quiet to record; I recommend setting a time limit and identifying specific places where they're allowed to go record to minimized the potential for mischief.

Only after the students have scripts like these should you allow them to go online to find images. While they are searching, be sure they keep a works cited record of the images they choose. It will save a bit of time in the editing process later if you instruct the students to save the images with filenames that exactly match the description in the script.

Getting to Timeline mode in WeVideo
Use WeVideo to put your audio and images together. WeVideo is better than iMovie if you're not in a 1:1 environment since students can work from different computers as well as from home. Note that WeVideo does allow you to record the audio directly in its interface, but the feature may not work properly in low-bandwidth environments; it's more reliable to record in a separate program and then upload that file. When editing, you'll need to use the Timeline mode so that you can add your voiceover track. Then, drag the edges of each image to make them display for longer or shorter.

When you're done, students can publish the track to Google Drive and share it with you so that you can download it at your leisure. Do not have the students publish to YouTube; student accounts at AISB don't have access to publish videos there.
Use the waveforms (squiggly lines) of the audio tracks to see where to transition your images. Drag on the edges
of each frame to lengthen or shorten how long it displays for.

Asking students to embed their videos on their blogs is a good way to give them an authentic audience; you can invite their peers or their parents to watch and comment on the stories.

Useful Links

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