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What is Digital Storytelling and How to Use it in the Most Powerful Way

Kyla Ball

Throughout the history of mankind we have been telling stories – both our own stories and those passed down from others. But the way that we do this now in the 21st century digital world is very different – and a new expression has grown up, known as digital storytelling. But what do we mean by this and what are some examples?

What is meant by digital storytelling?

Digital storytelling is the practice of using digital media tools to tell stories. It combines visuals, music, voiceover and other audio recordings, video clips, images, text, animation, and interactive elements that are all combined together to create a powerful narrative multimedia experience that can engage and educate audiences. Digital storytelling can be used in education, healthcare, museums, and other fields to help people learn more about a subject or better understand an event. There are even qualifications to be gained in digital storytelling, such as the certifications studied at the non-profit StoryCenter in California, formerly the Center for Digital Storytelling.

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The Benefits of Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling has many benefits over traditional forms of storytelling. For one thing, it allows the storyteller to control all aspects of the presentation—from the pacing and timing of the narrative to the visuals used—to create a powerful experience for the audience. It allows personal stories to be told from personal experience and a particular point of view that may be unfamiliar to the audience.

Additionally, digital stories can be shared with others easily through social media platforms or websites such as YouTube or Vimeo. This makes it easier for people to access information about a subject without having to attend an event or make a physical visit to a museum or gallery space. Finally, digital stories can often be updated quickly if new information becomes available or if there are changes in perspective on an issue that need addressing.

Educational uses of digital storytelling

Schools at all grade levels are increasingly using digital storytelling as a method to create and share unique stories.

It allows students to express themselves creatively and to explore their own narrative with the help of technology, whilst learning new presentation, design and technology skills in the process.

Benefits Of Digital Storytelling for Students

There are many benefits associated with using digital storytelling in the classroom.
• Students are able to express themselves more freely when creating stories digitally than when writing them down on paper.

• Students learn communication skills by creating stories with multimedia elements such as video, audio, images and text.

• Students can work collaboratively on projects and share ideas more easily than if they were working alone on paper-based assignments.

• Digital storytellers can create stories that are visually engaging and emotionally compelling, which helps keep students engaged in learning.

• Digital stories can be shared easily online with other classrooms or even other countries, making it easy for students to connect with each other and learn from one another’s experiences.

• Students gain technical skills by using applications such as video editing software or programs.

• Educators have access to a variety of tools that allow them to assess student progress more efficiently than if they were relying solely on paper-based assignments.

What are some examples of digital storytelling?

This storytelling project from Hungary below combined stories written by primary school learners all over the country. They composed stories about a folk hero and presented these in a joint virtual exhibition in ThingLink. You can read more about how they created it at this blog post.

In the example below, students from the University of Central Lancashire collated the visual stories they had authored into a virtual exhibition with ThingLink. You can read more at this case study.

How To Use Digital Storytelling Effectively

Effectively using a digital storytelling process requires careful planning ahead of time so that all elements complement each other properly and create an engaging story experience for your audience. Start by outlining what you want your story to accomplish—what do you want your audience to learn? Then decide how you want your story structured—should it be linear with a clear beginning-middle-end structure? Or should it take on more of an open-ended approach?

At this stage it’s usually a good idea to start a storyboard that takes you through each element step by step. This can be as simple as line drawings. Next decide what media elements will best serve your story—what visuals will add emphasis? Should there be sound effects incorporated? Once you have planned out all these details ahead of time then you’re ready to begin creating your digital story.
What apps or platforms can be used as digital storytelling tools?

There are a wide range of web-based apps and platforms that can be used, the best of which allow for collaborative creation. You can carry out video editing and add a wide range of effects and soundtracks using cloud-based, accessibly-priced software such as WeVideo. Microsoft PowerPoint or Google Slides could even be used to create simple digital stories. They have many templates which can be adapted to this end.

NEW! The easy way to create 360 images: Pano to 360

Creating virtual tours, exhibitions and other immersive content just got even easier. ThingLink has now launched Pano to 360 by ThingLink: an easy way to create a 360 photosphere from a panoramic image using any smartphone. For more information, including step-by-step instructions see this helpful support article. 

Try the free Pano to 360 converter

The Pano to 360 photosphere converter is free to use for anyone, no ThingLink account required! Upload a panoramic image to see it in action.

How can digital stories be shared in the most powerful way?

In the two examples provided, each story is showcased in a virtual exhibition which puts it in context. The whole entity in ThingLink can then be shared publicly – either by direct link, via an embed in emails or on websites or landing pages, via social media, or even via QR code. It can be viewed on any device, anywhere and at any time.

Many schools are now utilizing virtual reality (VR) technology as part of their digital story-telling initiatives. VR provides a unique opportunity for students to immerse themselves in a story or environment in ways that aren’t possible with other forms of media. With VR technology being integrated into classrooms around the world it’s clear that this form of storytelling is here to stay – so why not use it?

Digital stories are powerful tools for communicating complex ideas in ways that engage audiences both emotionally and intellectually. Now that there is no need to use or understand expensive or complex editing software to create these stories, it is an approach open to everyone, everywhere. When crafted well they can provide meaningful insights into difficult topics while also making them enjoyable experiences for viewers.

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If you’d like to learn more about how to use ThingLink to create digital stories, schedule an online meeting with one of our product experts below.

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