A digital story can be anything
that uses digital technology to construct narrative. However, in its
current usage, “digital story” often
refers to two-to-four minute presentations created with personal digital
technology that combine a number
of media into a coherent narrative.
Digital stories come in many
forms, including short movies and
documentaries, using still images,
voice-over narration, and music.
They can be academic, abstract, or
Opportunities and Challenges
Digital storytelling offers unprecedented educational opportunities
for the following reasons:
• It mirrors real-world work by
requiring developers to integrate a
number of intelligences and skills,
as well as traditional and emerging
literacies, into a single project.
• It provides a powerful media literacy opportunity, as students
are required to understand the art
and technique of successful media
communication and persuasion.
• It depends on creativity, innovation, collaboration, design, critical
thinking and other twenty-first-century partnership skills that
have become key in the digital
From an assessment perspective, a
digital story is literally a portfolio
unto itself. The story on the screen
is just the tip of the iceberg. Beneath
it are scripts, planning and research
documents, art and media components, and other artifacts that can
play a key role in the world of standards, assessment, and No Child
Digital storytelling also presents
a challenge. Stories are inherently
hypnotizing, and depend on the
listener’s “willing suspension of
disbelief” (Coleridge) in order to be
successful. Critical thinking is the
opposite of this, demanding that
students employ disbelief in the pursuit of understanding what is true,
accurate and relevant.
This begs the question: what is
the role of critical thinking in the
process of creating and listening to
stories? Indeed, integrating critical thinking and storytelling into a
holistic approach to lesson plan and
project development is one of the
most important pedagogical challenges that awaits educators.
In an age in which students carry
personal digital technology that
plays media they have selected, produced, or created, we are reminded
that only one thing is for certain
about the technologies that await us
in the future: we will find ways to
tell stories with them.
It is up to us to help students
become the artists and storytellers
that the technology encourages and
that the workplace demands. It is
up to us to help them tell effective
stories with a sense of community,
artistry, and wisdom.
Jason Ohler is the president’s professor of
educational technology and distance learning
at the University of Alaska. He is the author
of Digital Storytelling in the Classroom: New
Media Pathways to Literacy, Learning, and
Creativity ( www.jasonohler.com/books).
During December 2006, a dedicated team of teachers and fourth grade students from
Nome Elementary School (Nome, Alaska) undertook a digital storytelling project.