Powerful Tools for Teaching and Learning: Digital Storytelling

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Course Date: 08 September 2014 to 13 October 2014 (5 weeks)

Price: free

Course Summary

Learn the digital storytelling process and use the skills learned from the course to create a digital story for use in a K-12 classroom, composed of still images, audio narration, music and text.

Estimated Workload: 3-4 hours/week

Course Instructors

Bernard Robin

Bernard Robin, Associate Professor of Learning, Design and Technology at the University of Houston, teaches traditional and online courses on the integration of technology into the curriculum, educational uses of multimedia and the design and development of community-based websites. Dr. Robin's courses focus on educational uses of a variety of multimedia tools including, digital storytelling, digital video, and digital photography and in 2010, he won the University of Houston Teaching Excellence Award for Innovation in Instructional Technology.

Dr. Robin is an internationally recognized leader in the educational uses of digital storytelling and has been teaching courses, conducting workshops, writing articles, and supervising graduate student research on the educational uses of digital storytelling for more than a decade. He has created The Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling (EUODS) website (http://digitalstorytelling.coe.uh.edu/), which serves as a resource for educators and students interested in how digital storytelling can be integrated into educational activities. The EUODS website presents digital stories on a wide range of subjects and provides detailed information about tools and techniques for creating digital stories to support teaching and learning, as well as descriptions and links to other digital storytelling websites, published articles, research studies, e-books and more. The EUODS website was the 2009 recipient of the MERLOT Faculty Development Award for Exemplary Online Materials, a peer-reviewed award for exemplary online materials and learning resources. The website consistently ranks at the top of Google searches on the term: "digital storytelling."

Sara Mcneil

Sara McNeil is an Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of the Learning, Design and Technology graduate program at the University of Houston. She teaches courses in instructional design, the collaborative design and development of multimedia and the visual representation of information. She has won numerous teaching awards, including three University of Houston awards for Distinguished Leadership in Teaching, Distance Education Teaching, and Teaching Excellence. She was also named the Outstanding Faculty Member in a Distance Education program, a national teaching award from the University Continuing Education Association.

Dr. McNeil is the Managing Editor of the Technology, Instruction, Cognition and Learning Journal and a past Special Interest Group chair of the American Education Research Association. Her multimedia projects include the design and development of Digital History (http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu), a comprehensive resource that provides teachers and students with a wealth of high quality, historical resources at no charge.  Digital History represents an effort to reinvent history teaching by giving teachers and students the resources and tools they need to interpret the past for themselves using over 5,000 primary sources in film, art, and music as well as a complete United States history textbook. Digital History has been named one of the Top 5 resources in U.S. history and has been selected for the National Endowment for the Humanities EdSITEment list of exemplary online resources.

Dr. McNeil also researches, publishes and presents internationally about emerging technologies in educational environments. She and her graduate students have created a website for K-16 teachers to help them select an appropriate web 2.0 tool for a specific task such as communication, collaboration, or problem-solving (http://newtech.coe.uh.edu). She also teaches graduate courses about using and evaluating emerging technologies in educational environments and is a consultant to schools concerning 21st century learning and technology.

Course Description

Powerful Tools for Teaching and Learning: Digital Storytelling introduces teachers to digital storytelling and explores ways to use digital stories to enhance students’ learning experience. The course is designed to be comprehensive yet fundamental. By comprehensive we mean that the course provides a solid foundation to all of the components of a digital story and illustrates these components with tutorials, example stories and links to additional readings. The course also provides a hands-on opportunity for learners to create their own digital stories. The course is fundamental because it covers the basic process of creating a digital story starting with just a simple script and as little as one still image. This course is intended for K-12 teachers in all disciplines. Course participants will use WeVideo, a free web-based video editing program to create a digital story that could be shared with students in the classroom. Teachers in the state of Texas may receive Continuing Education Units if they complete the major requirements of the course.


Will I receive a Statement of Accomplishment after completing the course?

Do I need to know anything about media arts?
No. The course is designed for the novice computer user who has an interest in using stories to make teaching and learning more engaging.

What resources will I need for this course?
For this course, all you need is a reliable internet connection, a device to record audio, access to a free account on WeVideo and the time to listen, read, watch, discuss, and practice the techniques you will learn in this course.

Are award credentials or reports given for my work in this course? 
Teachers in the state of Texas may receive Continuing Education Units if they complete the specific requirements of the course. Non-Texas teachers who complete the course will receive a certificate/statement of accomplishment.

How will the course be graded?
See Grading Policy under ASSESSMENT.

Will there be exam? What will I have to turn in?

Do I need to be a tech-savvy prior to this course? 
No, but fundamental computer and basic internet skills will help and are expected.

Which time zone is official used? 
All deadlines are based on CDT (Central Daylight Time).

How do I ask more questions?
Due to the number of students enrolled in the course, the best way to ask questions is to post your questions on the discussion forums.

Where should I seek help
Learners are encouraged to post their questions or concerns to the discussion forums.


Over the course of five weeks, we will cover the following topics:

Week 1: Choosing a topic and purpose
Week 1 introduces you to the basics of digital storytelling. You will learn to identify the fundamental elements of a good digital story and review examples used by educators across a varied curriculum. By the end of week 1, you will be able to choose a topic and define the purpose of the story you want to create for your classroom.

Week 2: Writing an effective script and creating a storyboard 
Week 2 will focus on scriptwriting as you learn the steps in developing and writing a script for a digital story. You will explore the basic elements of a script, such as introduction, character development, tension and resolution that are necessary in developing a useful script. By the end of this week, you will begin to understand the important steps and elements of scriptwriting. You will also learn to recognize the importance of selecting appropriate images and the value of creating a storyboard. During Week 2, you will also explore several useful ways to choose images for your digital story, including taking your own photos with a digital camera, using software applications to create charts, graphs and other images, and finding and downloading images from the web based on size, quality, type and usage rights. A step-by-step approach will be used to illustrate how these images will be used to support your script as a part of creating a digital story. By the end of this week you will be able to envision your story's script in a visually interesting and useful storyboard.

Week 3: Recording audio narration
In week 3, you will learn to record audio narration using digital devices so that your voice can be added to the digital story you will create. You will gain hands-on experience using some of the most common features of audio recording software to create high quality audio narration. In addition, you will explore ways to improve your audio recording with basic editing tools. You will also learn how to find and download appropriate music for your digital story that is in the public domain or is free of copyright restrictions. 

Week 4: Using technology to build a digital story 
In week 4, 
you will learn to use WeVideo, a free online video editing application to assemble all of the elements (text, images, narration, music) to create the full  version of your digital story. In addition, you will learn to use basic editing techniques to improve your digital story so that all of the components of your story fit together and look and sound good.

Week 5: Revising, publishing and sharing the final digital story for use in the classroom
In week 5, you will revise the final version of your digital story, publish it online and discuss how it might be used in the classroom to support teaching and learning. You will also have an opportunity to reflect on the digital storytelling process and discuss the challenges you faced, how you dealt with these challenges, the most significant things you learned during the course and how you think you might use digital storytelling in your classroom,


The content for this course includes videos, readings, discussion forums, and opportunities for peer-to-peer assessment.

Each of the five weeks includes video lectures with in-text quizzes, examples that reflect different aspects of creating a digital story, and tutorials. Finally, there will be weekly assignments for learners to try out the process on their own. Suggested resources will also be included for learners who want to explore the weekly topics in more depth. 

Suggested Reading

Many readings will come from the Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling website, at:

In addition, other publicly available articles and resources will be provided throughout the course. Learners will also be encouraged to explore various free, online technologies, tools, learning spaces, and resource repositories. 

Course Workload

3-4 hours/week

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