Throughout the school year, we have many opportunities to engage students in digital storytelling. At the beginning of the school year, I find that by asking students to share their stories — either by creating an About Me or participating in some icebreakers — it helps build the essential relationships in our classrooms.
During the summer and throughout the school year, I spend time exploring new ideas and reflecting on the tools that I am using and the choices that I offer for my students to tell their stories and create something that is more meaningful to them what they have learned. With each project that is completed, I learn more about the students themselves, and students get to learn more about each other, which promotes the development of a supportive classroom learning community.
Years ago, I would assign the exact same projects to my students and leave little room for their own choices for how to show what they had learned. Not much was available for them to be creative, to choose something that was interesting to them, or that met their specific interests, needs, or comfort. However, over the past few years, as I have explored new methods and tools, I have been able to better understand my students and provide more authentic opportunities for them to engage with the content they are learning.
Part of the change was based on my own reflections, and part of it was because students changed the project requirements on their own and I enjoyed seeing their creations. I realized that I needed to make some changes in my teaching practices to allow for more student-driven choices, and because of this, I have noticed a big difference in my classroom.
6 Digital storytelling tools for hybrid learning environments
As many educators are teaching remotely or in hybrid environments, we need to have multiple options for our students to be able to create and express what they are learning. We should offer some options that promote creativity, student engagement, and student choice.
Asking students to retell a story they have read or to create a story using the content material they are learning promotes more independence in learning. It also helps students to develop essential skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving and depending on the choices available to students, it also promotes the development of technology skills.
For students who may want to draw, use pictures, create a podcast, or make a video, there are many options out there to choose from. Many options also enable students to work together in the virtual space. With transitions during the school year, having a few options available for students to collaborate with peers will also help build social-emotional learning skills, which are essential for their future and now.
Read more: Teaching SEL skills in online education
Some of the tools my students have used for digital storytelling are great for creating short videos, newsletters, animations, and even augmented reality experiences. Here are some options to explore:
With a tool like Buncee, students and teachers have thousands of options for telling a story or creating a specific type of presentation to use in the classroom. There are many templates available for students to choose from, or they can start from scratch and add in audio and video. With all of the options in one platform, it is an excellent way for students to be able to express themselves and have fun while creating something that is more meaningful to them.
Another idea is to have students create their own newsletter to talk about what they are learning, even include a video and choose from all of the options in the media library to add to their story. With Immersive Reader, it also promotes accessibility by providing more than 100 languages, which help to meet the language needs of students and families.
Flipgrid provides a space for students to be creative and make a video that tells a story. It is a social learning network where educators can record videos, screenrecord, add additional content with tools such as Adobe Spark, Buncee, Nearpod, Newsela, Wakelet, or Wonderopolis. Students can use Flipgrid to post reflections, create a video lesson, or do a skit even. Teachers can choose from more than 10,000 ready-to-launch topics to get students started.
We have used Animoto in all of my classes for creating short videos that include music and background themes. In my eighth grade STEAM course, I’ve had students make videos to introduce themselves to classmates. Other ideas could be to use some of the templates available and have students design a video newsletter or create a video book report. It is also fun to create our own videos to welcome students into our classrooms, to talk about our classes, or introduce ourselves and our classes to families. There are free classroom accounts available for educators through Animoto.
With this platform, students can learn more about visual coding, and teachers can bring STEM-related content into the classroom. Elementari is a great option for having students create an interactive story by remixing the stories available. The illustrations have been created by professionals and the stories can also include animations and background sounds and other effects. Elementari has lessons available for teachers to get started within their classrooms by exploring the curriculum available on their website. Elementari does not require any downloads or the installation of software to use it with students.
For several years, my students have enjoyed creating their own books with Storybird. There are options to download the book as a PDF or have it printed as a soft or hardcover book, which are great for adding to your classroom library. For many years, my students have written their own stories, and I have had many of their books printed for use in my classroom. Artists submit their illustrations for use in the books, and there are thousands of options to explore for finding the perfect background or theme for your story. There are also books available to explore and read for students to build their skills and gather some new ideas!
Sketchnoting is a fun way for students to create and tell a story using drawings and text. For visual learners, sketchnoting has been quite helpful for my students as they practice Spanish and also learn about topics like digital citizenship in my STEAM class. Sketchnoting has even been a good option for students who may not be too fond of drawing because they enjoy the opportunity to try something that is fun and a different way to show what they have learned. We can use digital tools to create sketchnotes, or students can draw by hand and then simply share their sketchnote in a virtual space like on Padlet!
All in all
These are just a few of the many options available to provide students with more choices in how to show what they are learning in our classrooms. With some of these tools, we can promote collaboration and help students develop essential SEL skills in virtual learning environments. Using these options also helps with any transitions we may need to make during the year, as these can be used while in our physical classroom spaces as well as virtual learning spaces.
Rachelle Dene Poth is a Foreign Language and STEAM Teacher at Riverview Junior/Senior High in Oakmont, PA. She is also an Attorney, Edtech Consultant and the Author of In Other Words: Quotes that Push Our Thinking, The Future is Now, and Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU. Follow her on Twitter at @Rdene915