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Become a Storymaker: Creating Engaging Digital Tales

by Miguel Guhlin

When I first participated in Joe Lambert’s digital storytelling workshop, my father had just passed away. Creating a digital story, Garbed in Silver, a combination of narrative and images, helped me cope with the grief of his death. It also helped me reconnect with some of my best memories, allowing me to create a remembrance for my young son that endures today on YouTube and Teachercast video hosting sites. Digital storytelling can be a powerful way to connect with others. In this blog entry, we explore digital storytelling resources and tips.

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1) Finding Digital Storytelling Resources

Looking for digital storytelling resources? There are quite a few available online. Here are my top three favorites:

Each of these contains digital stories that connect at a visceral level. And some, like We Are StoryMakers, invites the work of writers, actors, and media enthusiasts to create with a simple directive: you have five minutes to create a narrative and then record it.

2) Storytelling Keys

“In oral culture,” shares Joe Lambert, “we humans learned to retain stories as epigrams, or little tales that had a meaningful proverb at the end. In our current culture, many of us have not developed an epigrammatic learning equivalent to these processes.” Yet it’s not just about creating stories that are entertaining; it is about creating stories that transform us. As Vyasa says, “If you listen carefully, at the end, you’ll be someone else.” To accomplish that, I like to think that stories engage both our experience and beliefs, as Gretchen Bernabei demonstrates in this image, and helps us reflect and transform our perception of what has happened in our lives.

digital storytellingThere are various approaches to storytelling. The oral storytelling approach focuses on a beginning event, a middle with multiple events, each summarized by an image that captures our attention, until it reaches a turning point, moves to falling action, and ends. This story structure can be used for a lot more than just oral storytelling, of course. To prepare for this type of approach, Joe Lambert suggests creating a “memory box.”

Of course, it is easier to collect images, videos, and sound in one virtual space (e.g. Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox) than ever before. A few tools I recommend for creating a digital memory box include the following:

  • OneNote + Office Lens: These two free apps, which work on a multitude of mobile devices, allow you to store text, audio, images, and embed videos, and could easily be used to collect information. The Office Lens app lets you digitize content, snap a picture of paper items or photos, and save them to OneNote, a digital notebook. With OneNote’s built-in digital ink, students can easily fill in the chart and storyboard their digital story. The teacher can take those student creations, combine them with the final products, and publish them on Docs.com as a OneNote Notebook (which is free for everyone and works great on iPads, Chromebooks, Windows/Mac computers, and Android).
  • Google Photos + Google Drive:  With these two apps, you can save photos or videos taken with your device to Google Photos, saving content online. Google Drive offers unlimited hosting for GoogleApps for Education (GAFE) users, so you can easily drop videos and images there.
  • Collecting images can be straightforward with mobile apps like Camera Awesome (iOS and Android), Camera MX (Android), and Google Camera. Image annotation becomes easy with Annotate (iOS), Photo Editor by Aviary (Android and iOS), SnapSeed (iOS and Android), as well as EyeEm Camera and Photo Filter (iOS and Android). Don’t be afraid to take advantage of green screen apps (DoInk for iOS and Green Screen Pro for Android) to further enhance photos, making your own greenscreen with a $1.00 Dollar Tree store green plastic tablecover.


3) Find Photos That Make You Care

“Is that your son?” asked a friend when I showed him the digital story I had made of my Dad. The picture showed my son, perched like a king, in my Dad’s lap. Both were grinning, the picture such an attention grabber that even now I find it hard to look away. If you are looking for examples of photos that hold your gaze, check out the IPPAwards.com site. You can also find a wealth of images in free, public domain, or available for re-use online.

Note: Want to learn more about becoming a story maker? Be sure to join Miguel Guhlin at TCEA’s Tots and Technology Conference taking place this summer in both Galveston and Frisco, Tx!

4) Combine Images and Audio into a Digital Story

“Little strokes” said Benmin Franklin “fell great oaks.” Epigrams like this one powerfully send the message that you have achieved something, overcome adversity if it comes at the end of your digital story. If you can’t make one up, find the right epigram to borrow, properly cited, of course. Practice telling your story aloud, using the pictures as your guideposts; keep your wisdom brief.

Apps like Shadow Puppet EDU, Adobe Voice, and Storymaker 2, as well as MS Office Mix (Windows/Mac) enable you to combine content in powerful ways. The process is straightforward, but the key lies in creating epigrams that will stick in people’s minds. Include music only if it enhances your story; otherwise let your voice, or silence, and images make the message clear.


All of us are carrying countless stories in our mobile devices, in the moments that we felt compelled to capture with a camera. And those moments call to our spirit, seeking to liberate words that lay afraid in our minds. Digital stories can set you free.

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