Digital storytelling is a short form of media to tell simple, direct personal accounts, with pictures, short video clips, music, and simple voice-over audio. British photographer Daniel Meadows has described digital stories as, ‘short, personal multimedia tales told from the heart.’
Digital storytelling takes advantage of new technology and communication tools to allow people to share their own stories directly, democratising the digital tools available for broadcast communication. Digital storytelling requires some access to specialised software to assemble the story, but most computer systems have these resources available; technology access increasingly is not a barrier to sharing digital stories.
The process of producing digital stories is fairly simple – although it can become quite complicated artistically, the goal of the enterprise is to be able to produce a digital presentation without much training. The exercise may seem daunting to first-time users, but veterans of story writing and assembly workshops often report great experiences, with significant gains in confidence around digital media, writing, and self-presentation.
This exercise helps storytellers to learn more about combining words and imagery, writing effectively, and presenting their memories in efficient, powerful ways. The reason that our team recommends digital storytelling as an exercise is that it can be a fairly quick and practical way to become familiar with how to use media production techniques and learn to craft more effective narrative. The real power of a digital story is not technical polish, but integrity, a clear narrative arc, and a lesson to share.
If you want to attempt digital storytelling, in pre-departure before setting off, students need to be encouraged to take photos. Most already will be given the wide accessibility of digital photography, but you might turn to our photography pre-departure activity to get students thinking about taking better, ethical, effective photographs. In contrast, digital storytelling as an activity is best done as a re-entry exercise.
A note to instructors:
Digital storytelling starts off slow and manageable, but it can become a complex and sophisticated craft – in some cases, it rises to a new multimedia art form! Please don’t be surprised if you feel at first like you’re in over your head. Certainly, the members of our team did at times. But each time you do a digital story, you will learn more.
The storytellers you work with, even if they’re your students or international collaborators, will teach you a tremendous amount. Even a poorly-done or technically amateurish digital story can turn out to be quite moving. Viewers are sophisticated, so they can tolerate poor editing, not-so-great images, even very little action or change of images, especially if a narrative is strong or a tale compelling. The love of oral storytelling is old, and this activity seeks to harness that engagement in new ways.
The best stories are not always the ones that are the most refined, or even spoken by people who have ‘good voices’: they are the stories that connect with us as humans, share something that is intimate and very personal, and yet that we share or understand on an emotional level.
When working with students, try to push them away from overly-pat story arcs with clichéd lessons like, ‘We are so lucky to be born in a rich country,’ or ‘You can be happy anywhere, even if you’re poor.’ One of the downsides of the focus on ‘personal stories’ in the media is that they often serve up overly simplistic narratives, like how ‘grit’ will make a person triumph over adversity. A digital story can be ambivalent, even unsettling, as long as it has some kind of concluding thought or lesson. Some of the most powerful digital stories are precisely those that present insoluble conflicts, terrible dilemmas, or painful insights, not those that confirm, yet again, conventional wisdom.
In addition, digital story telling can really improve people’s writing. One of the first lessons we learned when working on digital media was that students who were not very good at editing their own writing were very good at knowing when a video had a strong voice-over narration or not. In fact, for many of them, hearing their story in their own voice, especially with writing problems that they had suffered from for a long time, was a revelation. Working through their scripts together, coming up with really concise, clear, powerful ways of saying what they wanted to share, was a great exercise for helping them to communicate in a much broader range of ways.
We found that our international collaborators were very interested in digital storytelling (even if they did not call it by that name). One dimension of the co-creation process was deciding that we needed to make the skills that we taught in our PACE International units available to the partners, and not just to the students. For this reason, this module is designed with partners in mind as well. Unlike many of the other modules, where the partner voice is strong, this module is written more from the perspective of a veteran digital storytelling workshop leader, in part to facilitate more contribution by our partners, on their own terms, by helping them to share their own stories.
If you become interested in digital storytelling, supporting materials are widely available online. One of the great things about so many of the leaders in the field is that they are committed to democratising digital communication, so they share advice, how-to guides, and a range of resources. You can find many links at the end of this activity.
Students and partners alike can, working in collaboration or separately, use digital storytelling to prepare their own accounts of key events, insights, and principles. Within an organisation, digital storytelling can be used to supplement teaching, provide material for reflection, celebrate achievements, or build awareness of individual’s experiences and achievements.
By producing our stories or reflections in digital format, this material can reach a wider audience, to link back with international partners and share with future outbound students or friends, family and colleagues back home.
The aim is to:
- Produce insights about writing, presenting ideas, advocacy, and media production, especially about the necessity of tight, efficient writing and using image in conjunction with the story.
- Generate a share-able record of key ideas, narratives, and lessons learned, made available in a viewer-friendly format. This record is especially important as it may be recycled into a range of lessons as part of the ongoing co-creation process for curriculum.
- Improve student visual awareness and ability to self-edit as well as produce more effective images through photography and other means.
- Offer a genuine learning experience, where students can invest their energy and effort in presenting a message that they care about deeply, increasing their motivation to develop their skills.
- Help students to crystalize their experience-based insights to integrate them better into their learning.
- Establish a channel through which one generation of students can share key insights with future students who will participate in similar outbound service learning or work-integrated learning programs.
3 sessions x 60 minutes with time to complete tasks independently
Although the workshop can be condensed if necessary, the ideal format is three sessions with time in between to complete the assigned tasks. This allows the session time to be spent discussing the task, reviewing the initial drafts of the script, storyboards, and digital story, and discussing each other’s work. Time between sessions can be spent preparing the materials.
First session: orientation to digital storytelling task. This usually includes some attempt to do steps 1-3 below (but part of homework will be to go back over drafts and collect items for the storyboard, which may need to be changed).
First assignment completed alone or as small groups: drafting story, assembling images, choosing music (if appropriate). Students will review steps 1 to 3 on their own (if necessary) and do steps 4 and 5.
Second session: review of script and images. Finalise storyboarding and music (step 6, but also review step 4 and 5 with writing partners). This review stage is also a chance to talk about how the overall story will work.
Second assignment: Recording of story and assembling of digital story using movie-editing software (see chart for suggested software, including free or low-cost options). Steps 7 and 8.
Third session: review of digital stories including final feedback before possibly sharing the story more widely. Review before step 9, sharing the digital story.
- Notebook, pencil and paper, or computer for writing the script.
- Photographs from international experience (at least 12-20 images that can be used) or other visual images.
- Computer with movie-making software, video-editing software, or slideshow software that allows the recording of a
Examples of digital stories:
- Backstage Pass (by Matt Moyer)
- Margarita’s Tale (by Doug Reilly) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DV9yPRthcM
- Many examples can be found at the Storycenter website: http://www.storycenter.org/stories/
- Examples of digital stories for Education from the University of Houston’s website: http://digitalstorytelling.coe.uh.edu/example_stories.cfm
Aesthetically, some of the most powerful and moving digital stories are those that do not hit the audience over the head with the interpretation. If storytellers use a lot of emotive language, talk about their own reactions, or use extremely strong descriptions, a viewer can sometimes turn off or feel that she or he is being pushed to one conclusion. In general, viewers tend to resist this kind of narrative coercion.
Often students feel compelled to use really strong language because, over time or through their research, they have come to have very strong opinions. The problem is that, for the viewer, the digital story may be the first time that he or she encounters the problem or learns about the situation. If the completely unfamiliar viewer runs headlong into the fully developed emotional reaction of the storyteller, the result can be too intense or the storyteller can seem to be over-reacting (because the viewer does not have this history or awareness of the situation).
Talk to students about which stories were most effective at provoking different reactions. We tend to coach students to describe for the viewer the situation, focus especially on the events that happened, but don’t share their own reactions so much: this leaves space for the viewer to have a reaction. For example, if a situation is tragic or outrageous, a story is more likely to make the viewer feel the tragedy or outrage by describing what caused that feeling in the first place, not be telling the viewer about the storyteller’s own outrage or sense of irony.
Or, to put it another way– and to paraphrase George Siemens – stories are not intended to fill minds; they are intended to open them…
The bottom line is that digital storytelling is a growing medium for people to share their own tales, one way that the internet and computer technology are making the means of communicating more accessible. At the same time, the genre makes use of very old skills for weaving words into stories, drawing in a listener, and conveying lessons in narrative, not in overt pedagogy. Though the activity is a commitment of time and energy – and the person running the activity may have to up-skill her- or himself in order to lead it – the outcome can be a very powerful product that students will be excited to share and that might help the program and partners communicate more about their identities and aspirations.
Gothard, Janice, Greg Downey, and Tonia Gray. 2012. ‘Bringing the learning home: programs to enhance study abroad outcomes in Australian universities.’ Australian Learning and Teaching Council, Australian Government.
Communication (Instructor’s manual) available for download at: http://www.tlc.murdoch.edu.au/project/btlh/Resources.html .
Lasica, J. D., ‘Digital storytelling: A tutorial in 10 easy steps’ (on the weblog Socialbrite: Social Solutions for Non-profits).
Lundby, Knut. 2008. Digital Storytelling, Mediatized Stories: Self-Representations in New Media. Peter Lang.
Robin, Bernard. 2008. Digital Storytelling: A Powerful Technology Tool for the 21st Century Classroom. Theory into Practice 47(3): 220-228.
Links for teaching:
Storycenter: founded in 1993, one of the first advocates for digital storytelling. Their site provides a host of great examples of digital stories. See especially:
See especially the examples in the Social Justice, Human Rights, and Youth Voices categories.
‘Digital storytelling — changing people, perceptions, and lives.’ TED talk: Jim Jorstad at TEDxUWLaCrosse.
Center for Digital Storytelling http://www.storycenter.org/
The Center for Digital Storytelling also has its own YouTube channel: http:// www.youtube.com/user/CenterOfTheStory
Telling Lives, the BBC (the site has been shut down, but the tutorial can still be downloaded as a pdf) http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/raw/pdf/tutormanual.pdf
Information Age Education, website on Digital Storytelling http://i-a-e.org/articles/46-feature-articles/50-digital-storytelling.html
Examples of digital stories from study abroad, Beloit College (USA): http://www.beloit.edu/oie/off_campus/admitted/photofilms/
The Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling, University of Houston http://digitalstorytelling.coe.uh.edu/
Jason Ohler, ‘Art, Storytelling, Technology, and Education.’
50+ Web 2.0 ways to tell a story created by Alan Levine http://50ways.wikispaces.com/Home
A great resource with many suggestions about how students might use new technologies and different internet-based platforms to create stories about their overseas experience.
Crossing Borders, Creating Stories: An introduction to Digital Stories
A Prezi about digital storytelling by Doug Reilly and Tom D’Agostino at Hobart and William Smith College (for the 2012 Forum on Education Abroad conference).
Brian Grenier, ‘Digital Storytelling’ (slideshow): http://www.slideshare.net/briangrenier/digital-storytelling-89190
The process described below is adapted from the excellent work of J. D. Lasica in his article, ‘Digital storytelling: A tutorial in 10 easy steps’ (on the weblog Socialbrite: Social Solutions for Non-profits).
The ‘Process’ instructions are written out as though they are addressed directly to the student/storytellers, so feel free to share the instructions with them. What often happens is that people will need to go back to the instructions as, during the process of putting the digital story together, if participants have not done this before, they will slowly build their proficiency and encounter new issues.
1. Decide what story to tell
This step may be harder than you think. Think about why you want to tell a story, what you hope to accomplish, and what was the most important lesson you’ve learned from your international experience. What is an event from your overseas sojourn or work placement that sticks with you, especially one about which you’ve had a shifting set of emotions. Often, stories about which we’ve had a profound change in interpretation are moments when we can see our understanding really shifted.
The problem is that, if you just tell what you’ve learned, it may sound preachy or overly distant, so you will need to go back and write the story so that it can be heard by someone who does not know what you have learned (but might develop a similar insight from what you share). You also don’t need to write the epic of your entire experience; you’re aiming for a three- to five-minute story that captures something really crucial from your international experience.
Most workshops on digital storytelling encourage first-time authors to focus on their own personal experience, to tell the story strongly in a first-person voice (‘I saw… I felt…’). But some of the most important and powerful experiences we have in international settings are other people’s stories. For this reason, students should be encouraged to find their strongest story, whether it’s their own story or someone else’s. Think of the story that presents the issue or issues that are really important, not just to you, but also to your partners. A story doesn’t have to be overly dramatic or have a ton of action to work either.
In general, the best story to tell is the one that sticks with the student, even if it’s not the easiest story to tell. The goal of a digital story is not to reach a simple conclusion or have everything resolved – a story that is open to interpretation can be quite powerful and moving for the audience.
In the first workshop, it’s good to talk about our stories and start to put down notes, but don’t be surprised if it feels sketchy and incomplete at the earliest stage.
2. Write your story
Start jotting down ideas for your script. The script will be spoken, so the language should be as natural and direct as possible. Make sure you read it out loud so that it comes naturally to you. Don’t edit as you go. If you think of a couple of different ways to say something, keep them all and see which one works better when you read it out loud or share it with someone else.
For a two- to five-minute digital story, you will need about 150 to 500 words (at most). For most of us, this kind of writing is very tight. For students used to writing essays, a digital story script needs to be unusually spare and direct. Cut out all unnecessary words. Don’t describe things that are better shown through images.
Also realise that, if you’re sharing this online, many viewers will turn off and click through to the next link if you do not provide them with a hook to keep them there right out of the starting gate. So try to start off with something strong: write something intriguing rather than a long set-up before you start talking about what happened.
Don’t hold back, J. D. Lasica advises, when you write for a digital story (and we recommend you check out J.D.’s page on digital storytelling). Honesty does not require dressing up in complicated language.
You’ll need to look for the arc of the story: the beginning, middle and end. You need to find a good set-up that quickly draws the listener in. The middle will develop tensions, questions, a central problem, or a sense of what happened. And the end will bring the story to a close, offering some kind of revelation, insight or lesson. Often, a good story arc will go back to the images or elements present at the start, but present them in a new light. Finding the arc of a story is not always obvious, and it may become clearer when you present your story to other people (see step 6, below).
The writing stage is absolutely crucial, and as some research has found, turning to the software and computer questions too early can stop storytellers from focusing enough on getting the story right. Once novice digital storytellers move to the video editing software, they can focus too much on special effects or snazzy transitions, and not enough on the story itself. For this reason, consider writing the story longhand, in notebooks or on paper, rather than having students move to computers at the start of the process.
For more advice on story writing, see the University of Houston’s website on digital storytelling: http://digitalstorytelling.coe.uh.edu/page.cfm?id=23&cid=23&sublinkid=36
3. Storyboard your story
‘Storyboarding’ is a process that movie directors, scriptwriters and even comic book artists go through as they break down a story into scenes and then compose those different scenes. The ‘storyboard’ is usually a series of rectangles in which the composition of a scene or shot is worked out, aligned with the elements from the script or story in which they will appear. When it’s finished, a storyboard – either on paper or even spread out on a table top or hung on a wall – will look like a very long sequence of images, like a giant comic, that helps the director, cinematographer, and everyone associated with the production understand how each element will be composed and their sequence.
Storyboarding for digital storytelling needs not be this elaborate, but it basically involves taking the story, breaking it down into segments, and thinking about what image goes with each section. In some cases, the students may know immediately that they have a photo that they want to use, or they may have an object that they would like to photograph or film to put with a particular part of their story. In some cases, storyboarding is very straightforward: I want to talk about a particular temple, and I have a number of images of the temple. I’ll start with the shots from out far and then use some of the more close-up images of the features of that temple and the people inside as I talk about my visit.
Storyboarding is more of a challenge when the storyteller does not have an obvious image or object to go with part of the story. Then, the person putting the digital story together has to get more creative with the storyboarding. Ask the storyteller what other sorts of photos or objects they have that, although perhaps not directly referenced in the story, capture the mood of the story or the overall atmosphere of that experience.
In some cases, the most abstract images work the best, so storyboarding can be quite creative. An image might serve as a kind of metaphor. Handled deftly, an abstract image used well can create a powerful impression. For example, when talking about someone, instead of showing a photo from a typical angle and distance, consider a photo that focuses on their hands, on their clothes, or shows them at a distance, in an environment which is characteristic of them.
Technically, one way to easily storyboard is to use Powerpoint or another slideshow program. The script can be broken up in the ‘presenter notes,’ and then the storyteller can even do a run-through at the editing stage with the slideshow to see how the story will match up with the images. Obviously, don’t spend a lot of time on the slideshow because it’s just a working document – no need to worry about fonts or titles or stylistic elements like transitions.
4. Gather your materials
Find the images that you want to use for your story. For even a short digital story, you’re likely to need twelve to twenty images (although some powerful digital stories have used less if one of those images is particular compelling or the story reveals its layers of symbolism). These may be photographs, but they may also be photos of objects or items from your experience. You can scan or photograph objects, old photos, postcards, ticket stubs, brochures, everyday objects, or virtually anything that reminds you of your overseas experience and story.
If digital storytelling is part of your placement, and you have a powerful story, think about taking some additional photos, including small details of the setting. Or take short video clips using your phone, camera, tablet or other medium. (If an instructor knows in advance that digital storytelling is going to be part of a placement, either during the sojourn or in the re-entry, make sure to give students the advice for getting better photos.)
If you do not have your own photos, you may be able to find public domain or Creative Commons licensed photos on websites like Pixabay (https://pixabay.com/), Public Domain Pictures (http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/), Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page), FreeImages (http://www.freeimages.com/), Flickr’s ‘Commons’ site (https://www.flickr.com/commons), a custom search on Flickr for Creative Commons photos, or using an advanced search on Google Images (pull down the ‘Search Tools’ and screen by ‘Usage Rights’ to only locate images that are marked as resusable). Be careful with stock images though as they may not have the same power to evoke either the storyteller’s memories or strong reactions in the audience.
Images need to be at least 720 x 540 pixels, with a horizontal or landscape orientation (or that can be cropped into a horizontal configuration). In general, the more digital storytelling and video production you do, the less likely you are to take vertical or ‘portrait’ photos. If possible, get larger images, as you may want to crop them or zoom in on them during the digital story. If you have smaller images, they will appear grainy or pixelated. Although High Definition (HD) video requires larger images still, most online viewing is done at 720 resolution rather than in HD.
5. Consider adding music or a soundtrack:
Your digital story may need music or some other sort of soundtrack. You can make this yourself, if you like. For example, you can use your phone or laptop to record the ambient sound in a space that is evocative for you of your story: the sound of waves, a busy market, traffic in the capital, the sounds of your village waking up. Try to get more time on your tape than you think you might need – when you play it back, you may find that there are parts you cannot use because of intrusive sound, such as a truck reversing or someone shouting for a friend.
You can also find free music in a number of places; often, instrumental music works the best because lyrics can compete with the storyteller’s voice for the viewer’s attention. Although some students want to use their ‘favourite song’ or a very popular song, one reason that we review storytellers’ choices in the second session is that the choice can sometimes be jarring or clichéd. Talking about the choice with other people can help storytellers to get a soundtrack that does not overwhelm their story or clash with it in terms of tone and meaning.
If the music is public domain, you can use it without any issue. If the recording is made available through a Creative Commons license, you can use it as long as you adhere to the restrictions on that license. For example, with a Creative Commons ‘By’ license, you need to make sure to credit the artist, usually in a slide at the end of the digital story or in a subtitle at the start. Most recordings that are Creative Commons licensed will have a link to the language of the license that will tell you about whether you are allowed to use that music and how you must treat it. If your music has a requirement of ‘Attribution,’ that you name the artist, you will need to note this and make sure to put it in the digital story. In general, it’s a good idea to be generous with acknowledging these artists; it costs you nothing, and it’s a good way to encourage people to share their work.
If you want to find sound, try the following sites:
Or see the directory of free music sources at SocialBrite: http://www.socialbrite.org/sharing-center/free-music-directory/
Or a similar directory on the University of Houston’s digital storytelling website:
6. Edit and rehearse your story
Before the storyteller commits the story to a recording, we suggest that you share it, if possible in a session dedicated to editing and rehearsing, as well as preparing students to record their stories. Editing is likely to take some time as hearing a story spoken out loud is a distinct experience to reading one on a screen.
Editing in collaboration with other people, especially after reading the story to them, out loud, can improve the quality of the story significantly. Digital storytelling is not like essay writing; you want your true voice to come through authentically, not to mimic an academic style that is unnatural or overly stilted. Reading the story to someone else is a great way to make sure that it reads truly.
If you are listening to another storyteller’s script, think about the arc of the story:
- How does it work?
- Is the opening intriguing?
- Does the middle build the tension or elaborate on the key problems or challenges?
- Is the end satisfying in a narrative sense?
Remember, a story may be tragic or incomplete, even frustrated, but the arc of the story is as much about the lesson or insight as it is about the events. A frustrated or even confusing series of events can lead to a successful narrative ending if there’s a pay-off for listening.
As you read your story, and listen to each other, try to pare away what is unnecessary and focus in on the essential elements, letting the listener do a lot of the work. For example, don’t try to prescribe or tell people how to feel with a lot of adjectives; instead, get them to feel things by talking directly about events. Help each other to get the pacing right – slowing down and breathing when the listener needs a pause to think about what you’ve just said.
7. Record your story
There are many ways to record your story, but you will need to get it into a digital file that you can edit. Most mobile phones have a digital memo application that can be directly downloaded onto a computer. Many laptops have a built-in microphone. In rare occasions, storytellers can get access to better quality recording facilities. We often use fairly simple microphones attached to a mobile phone (microphones we’ve bought for less than $30), or just the mobile phone, to create sound files.
Although the sound quality does not need to be brilliant, getting a strong audio file requires a bit of planning. Ironically, the key to getting a good place to record is to listen well. While our ears are very good at filtering out competing sound, microphones are not, so make sure that you get away from other sound sources; for example, air conditioning and wind noise, which we routinely ignore, seem inordinately loud on recordings. Cafés are simply impossible to record in because the sound of metal utensils clinking on ceramic plates and the cacophony of coffee grinders and espresso machines — sounds that many people love when sitting in a café — are outrageously intrusive in a recording.
Make sure to slow down a bit when you talk. The genre is quite intimate, so the tone can be reflective and measured. Especially if the images are rich or challenging, you want to pace yourself — the key to storytelling — to give the listener time to imagine what you’re saying. If you listen to the samples, you can hear how a spare script, read at a measured pace, interacts with the visual images in powerful ways. If you don’t like what you sound like, you can always re-record it, but also recognise that virtually everyone thinks that they sound weird in a recording (unless you’ve done voice work or recorded yourself before).
If you want to go the extra step with the quality of your audio, consider using a program like Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/), a free multi-track audio recorder and editor. Although it is not essential (and we do not usually use it), being able to really control the levels of the story narration and music might be something that allows a digital story to be edited to a higher production level in situations where the digital story will be widely circulated or used.
8. Bring together your story and images
When you’re ready to edit the entire digital story load all of the materials you are going to use — audio, music, photos, any video clips — into the program if you are using a movie editing software package like Apple’s iMovie or Windows MovieMaker, or an online video editing package like WeVideo.com. What package you will use is really up to you; the principles are similar although the practicalities (and some of the capabilities) differ between programs. Try to use whatever technology you have access to: the key to digital storytelling is not to have the right equipment, but rather to make do with whatever is at hand, focusing more on story than special effects or technical refinement.
You will generally build your digital story using the audio recording as the spine of the presentation, so put the audio file into the program’s timeline first. Then put in the images or visuals that you’ve decided go with each section, in order, from your storyboard. You may want to put in your music before you start to adjust the length of each part, because that way you can see how long the whole thing will run.
If the audio recording of the story and the music clash at some points, you may want to cut the audio and create a delay. Or you may want to simply adjust the volume level on the music to diminish any conflict or difficulty hearing. In general, keep the music low when you want the viewer’s attention focused on the story, but you can usually control the volume so that you can increase it at the end of the story, if that suits the way you’ve produced it.
Then adjust the length of time that each photo stays on the screen so that the transitions make sense. This is the rough cut of your digital story that you will want to watch and even show to other people, to make sure that it works. You may realise that you need to add additional images, or to create some type of effect to keep the visual interesting if a photo stays on screen for a while. For example, in iMovie, you can add the ‘Ken Burns’ effect to slowly zoon into one part of a photo to direct the viewer’s attention, or to pull back from a tight focus to a broader image to reveal the broader scene. Think about how you are directly the attention of the viewer, and how the change relates to the overall story. With a panorama shot, you can use the Ken Burns effect to pan across a photo to create a sense of movement.
If you have short video clips, make sure that you adjust down their volume so that the digital story is prominent, but it can be unnatural if there’s action on the video and no accompanying sound. We’ve found that we sometimes have to turn the sound on video clips close to 95% if there’s a lot of noise in order to keep them from interfering with the voice over. (To learn more, see the video production activity.)
You may want to add titles or transitions, or special effects that link one photo to the next. This should probably wait until you’ve shown the video to other people and you’re really comfortable with how the whole thing works as taking these transitions out can change the timing and mess with transitions later in a digital story. In general, digital stories don’t require overly complicated effects; some of the built-in effects can be jarring or seem inappropriate for the tone of a story. Every transition will not need a special effect (we generally discourage using them except, in some cases, a fade-to-black to signal the end of a part of the story or a major shift in focus).
Similarly with titles, keep it simple and fairly consistent. You will need to put a title, subtitle, or slide at the end if you are using music that requires attribution or need to acknowledge someone else’s contribution. In some of our digital storytelling workshops, where a group are doing stories, we create fairly standardised titles and credits so that people who see one video can easily find more of the same group’s work, but these are often at the end rather than the beginning (which also makes it easy to add them in toward the end of the editing process).
Expect to spend a couple of hours editing your digital story (this is why we assign the editing to homework, as it takes concentration). Don’t over-produce the story – part of the effect of a digital story comes from its directness and simplicity, so too many special effects can detract from the sense of unvarnished authenticity that a story has. But even simple, clean production will take some time.
9. Share your story
If you are constructing your story in a software package like iMovie or MovieMaker, you’ll just need to go to the ‘Share’ or ‘Export’ menu to create a final file version of the digital story. This process may take a while, as the program will need to build the compressed file, embedding the audio, transitions, and all other effects in the video. The ‘Share’ or ‘Export’ step will create a finished product that removes all the data that is not needed for the video and integrates all the resources together. These files still may be quite large, however, so don’t be surprised when the output is much larger than a typical document or other project.
You can choose whether you want the digital story to be high definition, which is useful if you plan to show it on a large screen. For online sharing, standard definition is generally good enough, unless you’re a videophile and really want high quality images. (If you do, you have to start with high quality images at the onset or there’s really no point in saving a digital story at HD settings if you’ve used small, low-resolution images to make it.)
That file can then be shared directly, by bringing it to class on a USB drive, or it can be shared online. The simplest way to share videos online is through YouTube, but this will require someone, whether the storyteller or a course convenor or teacher. Special sites for distributing educational contact, but usually for primary and secondary students, include TeacherTube and NextVista.org.
Video files are so large that some email systems will not allow a person to attach them to an email, or to submit them electronically through a learning management system (these barriers are set up by universities to prevent very large files from being sent around willy-nilly on their systems). To share videos, storytellers can send them using a large file transfer service like WeTransfer.com. These free services allow a person to upload a large file, store it for a short period of time, and then send a link with the location of the file so that someone else can download it.