Elements of Digital Storytelling ED 677

Storytelling and story have been a part of the human experience before even Homo sapiens were the dominant species. Stories were found in the caves of Cro-Magnon in the form of cave paintings. Histories have been passed down through time by many cultures through stories. Professor Brian Sturm UNC Chapel Hill (2007), in his lecture Storytelling Theory and Practice says that stories are a way to think about information and how to organize it. He continues by saying that information can be organized using characters and a sequence of events that are all tied together to convey emotion and develop community. The information is the thread and the story is the fabric. The story then makes the information accessible. Stories are everywhere and part of everything we do. Stories connect us to each other and can build connections between teacher and student. As I sat through in-service the past couple of days I found storytelling deeply ingrained in our sessions. On Friday morning we were even asked to create a digital story using iPads and the iMovie app for creating a movie trailer on Bristol Bay School District’s vision now and in the future. Our story grows, changes, and continually has to be retold as administration and teachers come and go. There we were beginning our morning another day of in-service and off we went to create a digital story, coincidence I think not.

To me the essential definition of digital storytelling is a story that is told through the use of technology. In a lecture by Carolyn Handler Miller called Digital Storytelling: Something Old, Something New she compares digital storytelling with traditional stories and defines digital storytelling as follows:

           In this lecture, I’m going to be examining the roots of today’s interactive narratives,        tracing them back to ancient times, and discussing what we can learn from these early forms of human expression that we can apply to contemporary forms of interactive storytelling. I call this new form of writing digital storytelling. By that I mean stories that use interactive digital media to tell new kinds of narratives – ones that are highly involving and immersive, and over which the user has some amount of control.  These narratives are supported by various digital platforms, such as the Internet, video game consoles, mobile devices, and so on — at least eleven different technologies and platforms in all. I even include such things as “smart toys” and virtual reality in this category.

A story is a constructed work that depicts characters caught up in a series of dramatic events, depicting these events from their inception to their conclusion. Stories can be conveyed through printed or spoken words, by actors on a stage, or by moving images on a screen, but they always contain a plot and characters, have a structure, and involve conflict of one kind or another. Stories are not necessarily works of fiction. They can also be about true events and real people. For the purposes of this lecture, I am defining “narrative” as the telling of a story. Thus, “narrative” and “story” are virtually interchangeable.

In a digital story there are seven elements:

  • point of view this will define your story
  • a dramatic question this will be the hook to capture the attention of your audience
  • emotional content provides the connection to your audience and can be felt through images, tone, music…
  • voice in a digital story it is more than likely your own voice recorded in the story
  • soundtrack the music and sounds that contribute to your story
  • economy the use of only the elements necessary or less is more
  • pacing that provides the rhythm or timing of the story                                                          (Barrett 2011, Strum 2007, Miller 2008).

In its simplest form a story has a beginning, middle, and an end. Many of these features are common to both traditional and digital storytelling.

The things that make digital storytelling unique were highlighted by Jenkins (2010) he says storytelling is changing stories with the ability of creating digital stories and their availability. The multimedia world is changing the experience of storytelling with the world web interconnection enriching the experience of storytelling. Storytelling is now available over every available media platform. Traditional stories that were built around a sequence of events is now built around characters in the online story. The online story is a new space for storytelling changes the orality and linear perspective of the story. There is now an open space for even more independent film makers to create and have the exposure they need. Even social media is providing a platform for digital storytelling as individuals with smartphones share their experiences in real time. You can now share the things you like to do or collections to the public. There is a new audience for learning and teaching connecting communities. Even political events that once were held secret in countries like Iran, Syria, China are being exposed to the world. In one of the videos in Jenkins series this was compared to Harry putting together Dumbledore’s army to stop he who shall not be named. Another uniqueness to digital storytelling still in the experimental stage is the participatory or as Jenkins calls it the collective storytelling. Even we are experimenting with it in our class. I really never thought about collective storytelling and it took me a bit by surprise. When I first thought of a digital story it was something that was broadcast and watched not changed. The digital story today then ever before is more interactive and many can contribute to it or even edit it.


Barrett, H. (2011, June 3). Digital Storytelling. Dr. Helen Barrett’s Electronic Portfolios.  Retrieved February 11, 2013, from http://electronicportfolios.org/digistory/

Handler-Miller, C. (2008, June). Digital Storytelling: Something Old, Something New         ELMCIP. ELMCIP | Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice. Retrieved February 7, 2013, from http ://elmcip.net/critical-writing/digital-storytelling-something-old-something-new

Jenkins, H. (2010, August 23). How new media are transforming storytelling in four minutes [Web log message]. Retrieved Aug 20, 2011 from http://henryjenkins.org/2010/08/how_new_media_is_transforming.html

Strum, B. (2007). Storytelling Theory and Practice [Video File]. Retrieved Feb 2, 2013
from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFC-URW6wkU


About jdoster17

I am a teacher in bush Alaska. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Limnology and a Master’s Degree in Biology from the University of Central Florida (UCF). My Master’s Thesis was Analysis of Reproductive and Spatial Nesting Patterns of a Wading Bird Colony at Gatorland, Orange County, Florida. This research was an integrated approach including reproductive ecology, ornithology, landscape ecology, wetland ecology, and statistics. I also attended the University of Memphis and earned 12 credits towards a Ph.D. in Biology. I will graduate from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in May, 2012 with a Masters in Education. I received my three year teaching certificate for the state of Alaska in October 2005 and my five year Professional certificate for the school year 2008/2009. I am highly qualified in accordance with NCLB to teach biology, chemistry and art through college credits and degrees. I have completed and passed PRAXIS II for Earth Science and Physical Science. At present I am highly qualified to teach art, biology, chemistry, earth science, life science, and physical science.
This entry was posted in ED 677 Digital Storytelling. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Elements of Digital Storytelling ED 677

  1. Larry Mitchell says:

    Nicely done … really like the insightfulness of your statement “when I thought of a digital story it was something that was broadcast and watched not changed.” I hadn’t really engaged the idea of change once published but in fact it is quite so. I think about how I change blog entries on the fly so that idea of a traditional rough draft 1, rough draft 2 now is not relevant. I further reflect on the process where I watch my student submit a piece of writing, come up for my thoughts, and simply go back and change it without publishing it until they are done. Intriguing …

    The more I read from the various unseen, but contributing, authors of this class the more it encapsulates the digital story.

  2. Gwandaii says:

    I liked the pace of the piece and how it went from ancient to modern. I also liked the last paragraph where you seem to kind of take off into the multi-faceted nature of digital storytelling. I did stumble on this section though, and I had to re-read it several times:
    “There are seven elements of storytelling which are point of view this will define your story, a dramatic question this will be the hook to capture the attention of your audience, emotional content provides the connection to your audience and can be felt through images, tone, music…” this section, whether it was a quote or your own words, needs some work on the punctuation to make it flow a bit better.
    I thought the cave drawing metaphor was a cool way to start your blog, but then you switched into talking about how stories are a tapestry, which, when I read it, I thought to myself “what happened to the cave?” The mixed metaphor was a bit of a curve ball. I liked the piece though, and in a lot of ways you were very clear and forthright about your thoughts. The strong parts of this, to me anyway, are the parts where you really delve into your thinking, rather than reflect on your source materials.

  3. Skip Via says:

    Some very nice thoughts about digital storytelling. I like the way you brought current and past experiences with DS into the discussion. Sturm’s definition incorporating threads and fabric is a compelling one–I’m going to have to spend some time with that link.

    Like Ed, I had a difficult time with your ‘elements of digital storytelling’ paragraph. I think it would be much clearer if you used a list format; something like this:

    There are seven elements of storytelling:
    • Point of view: this will define your story;
    • Dramatic question: …

    Good ideas, but difficult to follow as it is written and punctuated.

    Regarding your pull quote from Miller: Stylistically, it should be in quotes and you should probably leave out the “she goes on to say” element between the two paragraphs. You should also include the date of the work cited in the body of the text, like this: In a lecture by Carolyn Handler Miller (2008), … Picky, but that’s APA for you.

  4. Kelly Gebauer says:

    I liked your introduction with the visuals it created with the cave and the tapestry. I think it would be nice to use the tapestry metaphor again in your conclusion or somehow tie it into your explanation of the elements of digital storytelling. Maybe even use it to describe how digital storytelling is an art form. This statement, “I really never thought about it and it took me a bit by surprise because when I thought of a digital story it was something that was broadcast and watched not changed. The digital story though is more interactive and many can contribute to it or even edit it.” I think this is an essential part of the growing definition of digital storytelling.

    As for the technical aspects I agree with the previous comments. Double check how to do in text APA citations. Also maybe add some transition words or phrases to connect the sections a bit more.

    Overall good thoughts and I like the historical approach. Hope this helps.

    Happy Blogging 🙂

  5. Sarah Finnell says:

    Hi Jodi,
    I enjoyed reading your post and agreed with your analysis- I particularly liked: “Even political events that once were held secret in countries like Iran, Syria, China are being exposed to the world.” I love that you bring up this part of digital storytelling today. It’s something that came up in my own exploration and discussing the topic with my husband, though I didn’t find room to fit it in. This is certainly one way that digital storytelling is able to make a huge difference in connecting our world. The only suggestion I have for you is to re-think how you incorporate the ideas of others. I couldn’t tell if I was reading one long citation or your paraphrasing of one or more authors.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s