Slice of Life: When Stories Go Digital

(This is part of the Slice of Life project)

Yesterday, my classes began their Digital Story project in earnest and it was a bit hectic, but wonderful to watch them so engaged. In a nutshell, they have written a personal narrative paragraph about an object that holds special memories and now they are merging the image, the audio of their writing, and music into a short video with PhotoStory3 (a free download from Microsoft, folks, and well worth the effort).

There are stories about pets, about blankets, about gifts from long-lost relatives, about stuffed animals, about awards, and more. Wonderful, rich topics.

This is my first time with this project, so it is worth reflecting a bit, right? Here are a few things that cross my mind:

  • We’re building off prior knowledge. They have been working on writing paragraphs for a week or two and we have used technology plenty this year. The leap to a new software platform, which might cause adults to stumble, is no big deal for them. They get it, quick.
  • Writing is at the heart of the story. It may be digital, but the writing comes first. Today, I explained that the writing is the center of this piece and that they should see themselves as “composers” — drawing the pieces of music, audio and image together in one coherent piece of work. I think most of them got it.
  • Make the story personal. These narratives are rich for them because they chose the object, and they have the memories. The subject matter really comes from their heart and they are invested in telling a good tale.
  • Show a sample. I showed them the Grandmother’s Tea Cup story last week and then shared another paragraph sample that I wrote about the first saxophone I ever got and how it moved me into music in a way that remains with me to this day. They need to know that we are writing with them, exploring the same terrain.
  • Give them time to play. Last week, I showed them the software and let them go at it. I gave them some photos and told them that they were to play, tinker, experiment and have fun. Get it out of the system. Explore. Then, when we began the project, they could focus.
  • Share the scoring rubric. It’s not all fun and games. To help focus their learning, I shared out the rubric that I created so they will know exactly what I am hoping for. The rubric’s areas include writing, voice, and production (as in, just because you can do something cool and snazzy doesn’t mean you should do it — make sure the music and the production “fits” the story and complements it, not takes away from it.) I never want the grading to be a secret to them.
  • Time to work. I allocated plenty of time this week, I think, knowing that technology takes longer than we suspect. But, I was surprised at how much progress was made in one single class period. Some of them will be done sooner than I anticipated, I can tell.
  • Alternative Activities. I need to come up with this one. No doubt, I will. Let’s see now …

Peace (in stories),

  1. You noticed I continued to write comments with your question. Good to see your work here. I think I will steal a bit. It would be good to keep comparing notes as we move along

  2. Thanks for the reminder to give the students time to play; you’re totally right that it will save time in the long run.

  3. I just printed out this post. This list is really great and will help me as I plan the science project my students are going to be working on next month. Thanks for articulating the process so well!

    (As you can see, I’m finally trying to squeeze in some time to comment as well as post for the month’s challenge, trying to catch up with all the slicers I’ve been missing. Hope you don’t mind being bombarded by my comments today.)

  4. Pingback: The Best Digital Storytelling Resources | Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day...

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