The problem  

As President of our school’s elementary, my daughter has been tasked to make an introductory video for an upcoming assembly. Simple enough…for me, a somewhat tech-savvy adult, but my daughter is 9: she has only had her school supplied slate for 2 weeks, she has never used MovieMaker, iMovie (or any other video editing software) before, and she has brainstormed story sequences for writing but never for a video. I don’t know how the whole thing played out and why she was given this job, and I don’t really care. All I know is my kiddo was distraught because she felt as if the weight of the world was upon her and she didn’t know how to accomplish her assignment.

A solution

Despite the fact that I was up to my eyeballs learning about digital storytelling (see “Progression,” a heartwarming digital story about dyslexia by Nick Damato), she and I got in to a bit of a debate about the type, quality, and message of the video she was going to create. After listening to what she and her Vice President had come up with, I had a few questions for her:

  • What is message in the story you are trying to tell?
  • How will you make it memorable/meaningful?
  • In what way will you include your peers?
brainstorm shot list & notebook

brainstorm shot list & notebook

After some discussion, I guided her through some of the 8 Steps of Great Digital Storytelling.  She started by brainstorming an idea. From there, I helped her storyboard  which she used to craft a script. She had come up with an order (beginning, middle, and end) for her story, a cast list (who would say what and when), picked an audio/video quote from Obama that had influenced her, and decided what text she’d use on the screen. Though it wasn’t the traditional digital storytelling model, it was a video that told a story!

She shared the plan with her dad (@rlanglands) and brother. After receiving feedback, she went back to the drawing board to make changes. This part of the process was key (particularly for students). Most students want to rush the process and complete their project so they can move on. But don’t let them! Getting and giving constructive feedback improves the overall quality of learning, understanding, and application of knowledge. For my daughter… the feedback she received led to an even better story and the invention of Peggy Partridge. After two hours and some step-by-step guidance about iMovie, she had the foundation of a good digital story. Though she has to go to school and interview the rest of her team throughout the week, she has come quite far and she has offered her draft project for your perusal:


Having coached my daughter through the digital storytelling process, I realize how hard and complicated it is especially with the age group that I teach. Brainstorming a digital story is hard. Visualizing a digital story can be even harder. Add all the skills required (story boarding, filming, uploading, editing, transitioning, sharing, and…) and you have a HUGE task! But no matter how much time this process takes away from “ordinary learning”–it is an important one. Even if the product is absolute junk, there are valuable skills learned throughout the process: brainstorming, planning, revising, story telling, problem solving, and receiving feedback to name a few.

Don’t wimp out teachers! Coaching our students through the process of digital storytelling will reap deeper and more brilliant rewards.