Digital Storytelling Support for Teachers

Scene from DASH from the The Game’s Afoot Challenge

WHY this is so Essential to You and Your Students

Quake Inspired Short FilmWelcome! That you are even on this page suggests that you are getting pretty close to integrating Digital Storytelling into your classroom. Let’s start with reasons WHY, to push you over the line!

Digital Storytelling is the layered process of using imagery, text, sound, and music to express complex thoughts.

Digital Storytelling is about allowing kids to explore curricular content inside of the technology in which they exist; in which much of the world exists; in which much of the future exists. The Digital World

Digital Storytelling organically delivers on key 21st century skills, including Collaboration, Creativity, Time Management, Problem Solving, Digital Literacy, and Presentational and Organizational Skillsets.

Digital Storytelling – the practice thereof — is as important as Textual Writing in the education of today’s students. It is the ‘writing’ side of this infinitely expanding digital universe of content.

Students, for the first time in history, have a variety of media platforms to amplify their voices. It’s our job as educators to teach our students to tell meaningful and impactful stories that can become significant contributions to this fast and furious communicative space.

In the end, the digital realm is their library. It’s their communication platform. It’s their social life. It’s their source of knowledge. It’s their language. It’s a full-blown communication spectrum the breadth and depth of which is unprecedented in history. And this communication spectrum requires literacy: the ability to ‘read’ it and ‘write’ for it. Integrating Digital Storytelling into the curriculum is about teaching students to ‘write’ — to be productive contributors — in this enveloping space.

The Teacher’s Role

Can I Teach this without Media and Technology Training?

Searching for StatisticsDigital Storytelling may involve skill sets that you, the educator, may not have. There’s video production and sound editing; rules about use of existing imagery and ‘creative common licenses,’ in which you may hardly be an expert. There are apps that you may not know about or use, and there’s ‘uploads’ and ‘downloads’ that, well, never seem to work without bringing in the IT specialist. In short, for some of you, Digital Storytelling puts you at a huge disadvantage, forcing you to yield classroom control and exposing your contemporary societal weaknesses.

There actually is a simple answer to this: you don’t need to know any of that stuff. All you need to know is what you know: the content. The answer to any question from the students about digital production and IT-related questions is this: “You figure it out.” Here’s the reality. In traditional text-based literacy, you, the educator, know the rules and you teach those rules to your students…whether you are teaching science, math, history, or literature. Text-based literacy is powered by rules of syntax and grammar, word choices and punctuation. Digital Literacy is not about rules as much as it about mechanics. Digital Literacy is about knowing 1) the individual operations of the different digital parts (imagery, music, sound, editing, zooms, etc.); and 2) how those different digital parts all synchronize with each other. For the students, discovering these digital mechanics — including cool apps that let letters fly or distort an image to comic effect — is like letting them loose in a playground designed just for them. Except it’s digital.

So, if students are unclear about how to turn off the “Ken Burns Effect” in imovie, it is best that they learn to use the help menu in imovie, research the question on the internet or share information with each other, so that they may develop skills to solve problems in the future. Part of the experience is how the students problem solve their way through the media and technology challenges. And because technology constantly changes, it is even more important for students to develop a problem-solving approach to these issues than focus on mastering specific software.

It can be frustrating, difficult and time consuming to find the solutions to technical problems. Because these challenges ultimately help students to become better problem solvers and to collaborate more effectively, teachers need to remain confident that the solutions are out there and encourage students to be persistent. And this leaves you the time and space and energy to do what you do best — teach the content.

Let the kids own it, wholly and fully.

What does it mean to be an American?The expectation is that you will guide the content, as you would with a written paper. You will advise, prod, suggest, re-direct and comment upon their understanding of the content. You will teach them the content.

But let them re-imagine and re-interpret that content in the various media on their own. Please do not give them a single creative idea.

In this creative gray zone, you can push them by asking questions such as: Do you believe that this is the best idea that you can come up with? Do you think that maybe some other teams will come up with a similar idea? Ask questions that will encourage them to delve deeper into the material and push their ideas further, while inspiring confidence in their own abilities to invent and pursue creative ideas. Help them to realize that their ideas will evolve as they proceed and encourage them to seek more information as their ideas change. Push them…but please don’t give them any creative ideas.

In terms of production, you cannot help out. If media production is your strength, you can teach them about how to frame a shot or how to create sound effects…but you can’t help them with their shoot. If theatre is your strength, you can teach them the elements of a good scene, but you can’t fix their script.

Michael Nakkula, an expert on adolescence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes about “how the work of teachers who work with adolescents is in many ways about ‘creating possibility’—helping young people develop ideas about themselves, their abilities, and their futures that they otherwise might not be able to imagine.”

Your role in this endeavor is to help ‘create possibilities’ for your students.

Meridian Stories Testimonials

Don’t take our word for it — see what teachers are saying about Meridian Stories.

Messalonskee Middle School

I must say, beyond the actual product, student engagement fostered so much more than academic learning. More importantly, students learned, practiced, and learned some more the art of listening to each other, negotiation, time management / scheduling, and praise and edification. These are skills that will carry our students far and enable them to set goals, reach their dreams and make positive, life changing impacts on our world. This project embodies the affirmation, “It’s all about the journey, not the destination.”

China Middle School

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this competition. All of my 10 groups are looking forward to the challenges next year. They have already discussed organizational, planning, team dynamic changes that they fell will make them more successful! Meridian Stories provided a platform for authentic discussions in the areas of communication, life skills, and team work. I look forward to sharing with the teams the comments from the esteemed panel of judges.

Brunswick High School

This project helped creatively synthesize some key elements within our curriculum pertaining to issues surrounding poverty and community health. In an educational world that is becoming more and more standardized, this provided a refreshing opportunity to work as a team to create a final product involving different levels of media and technology.

Cape Elizabeth Middle School

I must say, this challenge has brought out the best in my students who don’t usually get to shine. Thank you for creating the opportunity for their voices to be heard and for the room to share them.

Searsport District High School

Overall, I feel it was a really positive addition to our American Dream/World Dream unit (a joint project-based unit with World History and Junior English). NO ONE opted out, and everyone made the deadline — usually there is someone who doesn’t get a project done on time. One of the big challenges was with the technology, so the kids helped each other a lot. Thanks again for this opportunity — it was a highlight of my students’ year!

Lyman Moore Middle School

As a 6th grade Language Arts teacher, I am always looking for authentic experiences for student writing, so when I heard of the “Down the Road” project, I recognized an opportunity for students to practice persuasive writing with a digital component. I offered the project to teams of students and our experience was 100% positive. The Meridian Stories website was most helpful. The “Down the Road” project moved learning outside the school walls, giving them an opportunity to share their emerging voices.

From a Parent at Winner’s Reception

A note of thanks for such a fabulous day yesterday! Meridian Stories did an excellent job in promoting a “stickier” method for learning. Probably the most important lesson he learned was that the stretching of one’s abilities is often more important than the end result. That being said, we also had the pleasure to meet with Commissioner Woodcock, my son’s “future” 10 years down the road. If not for the contest he never would have been able to experience such a unique opportunity — we can’t thank you enough!

Durham Community School

Thank you for your wonderful initiative and for lighting the way for Maine’s Youth for a brighter tomorrow.

Bath Middle School

We are off and running and I’ve got to tell you, the kids are just fired up about this! I have 10 7th grade teams working on Carpe Theorems right now. Thanks for creating Meridian Stories. I can’t tell you how much the students are enjoying it (and how much I am enjoying watching them).

Bath Middle School (later that year)

My 8th graders working on their Dystopian Dramas are SO INTO IT! I am waiting with bated breath to see the final products. This is seriously a hoot! This first session has been a great success and we have all learned a lot from it. The information you provide in your breakdown of the phases is invaluable.

Thornton Academy (HS)

I felt it went well. It was really cool just giving them the assignment and stepping back to let them create. The only involvement I had was in the analysis phase when I provided them with time to analyze/discuss the poems in class. Also, their mentor had the same feedback that I would have given them if I was allowed to be involved during the process, so that was neat.

Sauk Rapids-Rice Public Schools

Using my district gifted coordinator perspective, I appreciate the format offered by Meridian Stories to enrich class objectives while incorporating authentic use of technology to enhance 21st century thinking skills.

Wiscasset Middle School

Meridian Stories was a very effective & engaging learning tool. It galvanized students to cooperate as a team like no other collaborative project I’ve tried before. The challenge aspect was a unifying factor: no one’s ideas or efforts were dispensable. Given the difficulties they had to face and overcome together, satisfaction in their shared accomplishment was all the more genuine. In fact, they seemed to value the process as much as, if not more than, the product.

Check Out the Book

Brett Pierce, the Founder and Executive Director of Meridian Stories, puts digital storytelling into your hands in his new book from Heinemann, Expanding Literacy: Bringing Digital Storytelling into Your Classroom.

How can we make meaningful, thoughtful digital storytelling a standard, best practice in schools? Expanding Literacy offers a specific project-based learning angle that can be meshed with any traditional and non-traditional curricular topic and is flexible enough to be applied to almost any content area.

Expanding Literacy book cover