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5 Ways to use digital storytelling in class

A major buzzword over the last few years, digital storytelling has emerged as a new way to communicate, specifically to communicate personal stories. It is defined by its use of computer-based technology to enhance the old art of storytelling.

Typically digital storytelling is not associated with media such as Hollywood movies, as it is characterized as a personal expression, rather than a commercial exercise.

Other terms you may hear in relation to digital storytelling include: digital documentaries, computer-based narratives, digital essays, electronic memoirs and interactive storytelling.

Mavens of digital storytelling such as Joe Lambert, John Seely Brown and Daniel Meadows see digital stories not just as a novel means of connecting and interacting with others but as interconnected strands of an ever-growing web of personal histories, forever preserved in the ether of the internet, that stand as a vast and varied testament to the human experience.

5 Ways to use digital storytelling in class

Teachers have been encouraging children to not only listen to and read stories, but to tell their own stories, for generations. The unavoidable “My Holiday” oral at the beginning of almost every term being a standard at my particular school.

Adding and formalizing digital storytelling techniques will not just allow your students to utilize varied technologies (thereby learning about them) but also to use narrative tools and forms of expression that are becoming ever-more natural and obvious to children that are digital natives.

5 Ways to use digital storytelling in class

“I think...”

Ask students to research a particular topic, social issues make for interesting starting points, and then ask them to create a digital story profiling and promoting their point of view. Padlet and HitFilm would be great places to create these types of stories.

“I wrote...”

Composition, creativity and writing all get a boost with a project that involves developing a fictional short story. Once the story is written, students need to find creative ways to illustrate that story using digital tools. Commaful is a great short content sharing website, that illustrates how beautifully even the simplest stories can be rendered and shared with others. For a more formal book format try Steller, where students can create beautiful online books, with images and text.

“I discovered...”

Journalling and documenting are key skills not only for better self-realization, but also as a function of good research practices. Encourage your students to start a journey - be it physical (I took a bus to a new part of town), practical (I decided to lose 3 pounds) or emotional (I decided to find out more about my Grandmother). The objective of the project is not a stand-alone piece at the end, but rather a document of the process.

Sutori is a storytelling space that uses a timeline approach, Penzu is a great journalling app that can be private or shared, and Evernote is also a great way to track and journal, where students can save a number of digital info from websites and images, to notes and links.

“I created…”

For younger learners drawing a story is often a more interesting and fun way to tell their story. Toontastic is a great little app, with predefined characters and stories that students can manipulate to tell their peers a story. Interactive book and story creators are further digital tools for younger students; try a selection here.

“ I love…”

Creating “fan” stories about people students admire is a good way to get them comfortable with this form of narrative style, easing them into the process of telling their own stories. Celebrities, historical figures, family members and people in the news make great subjects for this type of digital storytelling project. Apps and programs that would work well here include Steller, Padlet and even creating, or try adding to or creating a Wikipedia page.


Digital storytelling is an immersive, vibrant world of enthusiasts, developers, designers, creators and, well, ordinary people with a perspective.

It’s a particularly wonderful place for students, because there is no right or wrong, simply a safe, dynamic space where they can express their ideas and feelings. I’d love to hear how your digital storytelling in class is going, so use the comments section below to interact with us at the NEO blog.

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