This is Digital Storytelling

Last week I introduced myself to the #ETMOOC course with a rather whimsical poster of me enjoying a snack and a few tid bits of information. This week? I thought I’d tackle a few of the thoughts and ideas that came out of the Elluminate Live session last night. One of the ideas that seemed to be at the forefront of the conversation was digital storytelling, and how to define it. I didn’t participate in that session, as I was attending to much more important duties; playdoh play time with my kids. I actually created a video of our play time last night, not only because I needed an excuse to use the Frameograph App on my iPhone (I’ve been neglecting it), but I wanted to kick off this post about what digital storytelling “is” with a simple, but fun, example.


The video wasn’t as interesting as I thought it would be after one view, but then again my only goal was to just have some fun with my kids and see what would happen. The magic for me came after repeated viewings; small little moments became gems of captured memories (my son and I pretending we had giant playdoh boogers, or my daughter and I making playdoh cupcakes). This is digital storytelling; capturing emotions through video. Music is optional, though like gravy, it usually makes things better.



Last week was unseasonably warm here in Michigan. We had temperatures in the mid 50s during January, and while it wasn’t quite a record, it was still depressing; snow fell, but melted instantly, children were running through a muddy yard rather then a snowy one, and the skies were grey. I used the opportunity to chop a lot of firewood as I prepared for what I hope will be a Winter filled with many more colder days. It was only a small pile, but for a good while I spent some time in my backyard splitting wood in a nice regular rhythm, humming the “Whistle While We Work” tune from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (what can I say, I’m pretty simple minded). On a lark, I grabbed an old Flipcam, captured a few seconds of video, and imported it into photoshop and turned in into an animated GIF, the  cadence of the ax-fall producing a rather cathartic experience for my chore. This is digital storytelling; capturing a singular moment of video and looping it in an act of “scholarly scrutiny“.

As I said earlier, I missed the “face to face” connection for the #ETMOOC course last night, but I’ve been following the Twitter stream, and while most of it has been the usual acclamation of “this is awesome” (it’s still early in the course, energy is high), there’s been some thoughtful nuggets of affirmation that speak to me. The tweet above is one such thought, and one that I’ve been taking more to heart lately. We make mistakes as we learn, and regardless of whether we share them or not, the learning process is messy. The process should be focused on helping identify “good” messes, and separate them from the “bad” messes. This is digital storytelling; Tweeting, liking, commenting are all ways of sending small “pings” of text out into the ether for others to consider. It’s a domino, looking for some others to knock over.


I thought finding some audio introductions to #ETMOOC would produce more results, but I found one, just one. Thankfully, the one I did find was a nicely done little audio introduction by Rod. I’m always slightly hypnotized by SoundCloud, the way the playhead follows along the waveform of the audio piece, listening with anticipation for the moment that will catch my interest and give me an excuse to fill the comment box with some response to the story. There isn’t any “whizz bang” digital work going on with most audio, or the construction of textual metaphors and idioms. This is digital storytelling; Using audio to capture simple, raw, quick stories told through the oral tradition that human beings have always done naturally.


Digital Storytelling 2011 welcome screen

I could go on for paragraphs about what Digital Storytelling is, as there’s isn’t very much that it’s not. There are several resources out there that help explain how digital storytelling is simply a way to convey a point of view through media to masses beyond your immediate physical audience. It can be as complex or as simplistic as you want it to be, and my hope is that this post would serve as a means for others in the #ETMOOC course to share what digital storytelling is for them. I’ve missed a number of other tools for creating digital stories, but this post wasn’t meant to highlight the particular tools you can use to create them, rather the product you produce using them. I’m eager to see what other stories my fellow participants create, and share, as a part of this course; I’m eager for something to comment on.


  1. I liked your variations on a theme – yeah, the musical metaphor worked for me, and I’m intrigued by what you did with the wood-chopping loop – I’m thinking I may do something with that in the spring (if this isn’t it), when the sap runs. Syrup-making is something my own kids have used photostory to capture, and with a new sugar shack this year, it’s going to be time to do some digital storytelling around that. Thanks for the thoughts.

    1. It’s funny, but I didn’t even notice some of the metaphors I was using until you mentioned it, too funny!

      I’m a fan of finding small patterns of repetition, and while it might just be the elementary teacher in me, there’s something calming about knowing what’s going to happen next, and again, and again…… least for a few moments. I love your idea of capturing some media for the trip to the sugar shack! Some nice audio perhaps of the fire and the boiling sap in the background with kids laughing or talking about making syrup. Maybe even a nice metaphor between education and the slow growth of the trees, the taping at just the right time as the sap starts to run, and finally the long pay off in the end after collecting so much liquid. It’s like the slow but steady growth our students make, the taping of their minds when they’re finally ready to start working with mastered concepts, and the reward at the end of a long year.

      1. Now you have me really thinking….I’m a knitter and spinner, and I often talk about starting out spinning with a batch of fibre, and I think I know where it’s going, but the fibre has it’s own ideas, and takes me in a new direction – like my students do, all the time. So….the maple syrup metaphor….hmmmm – my kids are the 7th generation to be making syrup on family land, so it’s kind of a big deal. I was thinking about the rhythm of the syrup arriving in the pan, and that you have to consolidate, and consolidate, and consolidate to get to what’s really important at the end – but the payoff is ever so sweet! Thanks for the thinking prompt!

  2. I’m really glad I got you thinking, Lisa! I like that you could take an intimately personal experience and find new ways to connect through new metaphors. As an aside, my wife is also a spinner and a knitter, so I’m quite familiar with the idea that you’ll never quite know where the fibre will take you when you sit down to start creating.

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