Once Upon a Digital Time…

Flickr CC Image by Darren Kuropatwa


My Digital Storytelling Past…

Over the past 7 years I’ve been honing my movie-making skills and in my role as EdTech Coach am more focused on helping teachers realise the potential for digital storytelling and movie-making in the classroom.

I’ll never forget that very first iMovie I made, on an aging white MacBook (first generation) back in 2011. It was a competition for my G4 class based on Daniel Pink’s “What’s Your Sentence” competition:

This 2 minute video took me 6 hours. But practice made progress. And with time using iMovie became easier. I couldn’t wait to re-design assignments and tasks the following year. I wanted to provide opportunities for students to use this amazing tool to showcase their work.

The following year, I was in Beijing teaching a class of third graders. Needless to say they picked up this tool way faster than I did and were able to create a music video and dance using the Green Screen for our “How We Express Ourselves” Unit of Inquiry. Since this experience, I’ve led several workshops on using the Green Screen for different kinds of storytelling and showcasing. This Google Doc I created for teachers has some useful links and ‘How Tos’ for using the Green Screen and accompanying app:

Probably the most involved video I’ve ever created was using Final Cut Pro X in 2013 to showcase the G5 PYP Exhibition Journey for opening night. This took me several weeks as I needed to collect footage of students and edit their responses to fit within a reasonable timeframe. At the time I was aware of Copyright laws, and did ask permission from the original creator of the Rube Goldberg Vimeo, 2D House, if I could use some of his footage for my video. He was thrilled! It was a perfect example of the benefits of shared creative content and remixing for different purposes. In hindsight, I should have created my own music or used CC music for the video. At that time I wasn’t aware of accessible CC platforms like The Diner or Soundcloud.

Other forms of Digital Storytelling I’ve used are eBook Platforms such as Book Creator and My Story. As I’ve discussed and showcased in my professional blog Innovative Learning in the PYP Digital Storytelling tools allow students to document their learning and synthesise learning. Here is a movie I created using Animoto to showcase how eBooks promoted applied literacy skills and connected to the PYP Units of Inquiry.

The Future of Digital Storytelling…

Now that many students have had experience in movie-making, blogging and creating eBooks..what is the future for digital storytelling within a global network? DSJ writes:

“Networks for sharing and collaboration extend that voice; that voice can contribute to a conversation as a contributing member of a community.”

I decided to investigate and find that ‘perfect’ platform that encompasses many of the presentation tools I like to use, including banks of Creative Commons Images. After much searching through blogs, my PLN and various twitter feeds, I remembered that an EdTech Coach friend (and Coetail Grad) Sonya TerBorg (@TerSonya) had mentioned her love for different Adobe apps. I scrolled through the AppStore and  was thrilled when I discovered Adobe Slate as the perfect combination of all presentation platforms:

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Image: Screenshot of Adobe Slate App Icon


The App’s tagline is:

“Make a beautiful visual story. In minutes.”

From a teacher perspective, it enables students to combine a variety of features onto one slate:

Slideshow + Keynote + eBook + eMagazine + Blog/Website + Photo Collage

What excited me about this platform is the opportunity for publishing something in a unique way that also meets the CARP principles of good design. It addresses the modern way we look at images and text and stories…by scrolling through them, and accessing relevant links at the appropriate time. Even having a bank of CC images to complement any text you want to associate with your idea, helps to reinforce visual literacy skills. As the author writes in Towards a Framework for Visual Literacy, “Emotion, depicted through visual means, sells the message.” Furthermore, the features of Adobe Slate allow the creator to work in multiple mediums, adding links to videos/websites, images, text and the ability to share it easily with a wider audience helps to make the “content transportable” as DSJ also explains in his article.

Another Coetailer, @tracyblair, shared a fantastic example of an Adobe Slate Digital story example from the blog All Things Elementary. I love how this teacher transformed the journey of a Sunflower seed into something students of all ages, and languages, could draw meaning from.

Click here or the image below to view it.

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Screenshot from “All Things Elementary” Blog.


I see a lot of potential for upper primary students, especially the G5 PYP Exhibition Students who will be looking to create a platform for showcasing their learning journey. I’ve also shared this app on Twitter and look forward to hearing feedback from friends and colleagues across grade levels on how this modern platform could change the way we, and our students, showcase learning.

8 Replies to “Once Upon a Digital Time…”

  1. Thanks for sharing your DS journey – past and future. There’s definitely been a transformation in your skill set and such a variety of ways that you’ve used digital story telling over the years. I’m sure this took constant reflection and continual inquiry to broaden your own understanding of the use of DS in the classroom.

    Adobe Slate seems like a great tool, thanks for sharing all the information about this. I’d love to give it a go, but as an amateur user I wonder if first I should become more familiar with other tools. I decided to do a little more searching on this app and found a few great examples. Check out this teachers https://mikaelamargolis.edublogs.org/2015/04/15/digital-storytelling-with-adobe-slate/ use of Adobe Slate: https://slate.adobe.com/a/2qXBM/. I think this is a great tool for creating beautiful poetry products.

    I hope you get a lot of feedback from teachers, as I’m interested to know how they use it and how effective students find the use of it.

    1. Hi Tracy Thank you so much for sharing Mikaela’s blog…what a great example of use in the elementary classroom! I’m very excited to introduce it and I will definitely share some feedback from teachers once they’ve had a chance to investigate it for their own use. Thank you also for your comments about my DS journey…reflection (through blogging actually) has been the best way for me to grow as a teacher and integrator of tech in the classroom. Look forward to hearing/reading about what tools you use for DS!

  2. Hi Jocelyn,
    Thanks for sharing the process you went through on your digital storytelling journey. I’m very grateful you explained your difficulties and how you overcame them. You have so many inspiring ideas and resources here I can’t wait to look into them all. The Exhibition Journey is fantastic. My students are embarking on their exhibition journey this year so I’m now inspired to try a digital story to document it. Thanks!

  3. Hi there!

    Oh my goodness I am completely floored by the progress your videos show but amazed at what can be created!! I feel like such a beginner again looking at what is available and I have not explored any of those platforms. I will definitely be exploring some of these on my own and start to introduce them well before our PYP Exhibition as a way for students to share their ideas and put their research together.

    While watching your Grade 1’s working with eBooks it made me think of a collaboration between my G5 and our KG buddies where they created an “I Spy” eBook and now the G5’s can use this skill in their own work in class. However, one thing that still kind of surprises me anytime I introduce new technology projects in class is how I always assume students know more than they actually do- do you ever find that? I always assume that students know more than me when it comes to the availability of tech resources or their skills but even the other day I was shocked that I was doing a mini workshop on how to take a picture without it coming out blurry…!?

    I think I still struggle with the management of fitting it “all in”. Giving enough time for students to explore and practice their skills is almost more important and time consuming than working on the actual project I find! Thanks so much for sharing- I feel so inspired. NKS

    1. Hi @nkittoswitzer sorry for late reply…I believe this comment happened during our job search so responding to comments took a back seat for a while. Now that (I believe) you are partway through the Exhibition process, how have you utilised different storytelling platforms? What has been the most successful? I hope you choose to share and post these experiences on your own Coetail blog.

      As for trying to ‘fit it all in’, I completely empathise! I am constantly playing ‘catch up’ with launching wonderful platforms/projects, and realising the students are lacking a basic skill (such as taking good photos, typing, design elements) for the process to be efficient and meaningful. Still, I think it’s better to TRY something new, and improve upon it, rather than not try anything at all simply because it may ‘fail’ or take longer than you hoped. Also, we are always learning better ways to teach our students and as we do so, we are modelling being life-long learners…right?

      1. Hi @jocelynsutherland,
        We’ve just started Exhibition but already students are using CARP as a verb in discussions! “How are we going to CARP this bulletin board?” “Don’t forget we have to try CARPING our google site more”


        I will definitely be updating my coetail blog… when I find time! eeek. Thanks for the note.


  4. I love seeing the Gr 1s blogging and making ebooks! I agree with Kitto-Switzer above, my stumbling block is always assuming that the kids know more than they do. Or rather, some of them inevitably do (I have kids this year who can practically make a laptop sit up and beg) but some still can’t open their gmail solo.

    I’m fascinated by Adobe Slate. Is it on iPad, or laptop? The screencaps make it look like iPad… You’re right, it sounds like an excellent tool for the Exhibition, but I’m thinking we might have to have a go during our next unit, since that’s prime for digital storytelling, and exactly what I want to focus on.

  5. Hi @kmatthews how has your digital storytelling journey been going? Have your students tried Adobe Slate yet? What other platforms do your students (and you) like to use?

    I think it is fascinating the degree of confidence students can exhibit in one class. That’s why I really believe in allowing students to teach each other as a way pushing class standards up to the next level. I think it’s great that you are confident allowing your students to share their understanding if it’s above your own, as it models for students that even teachers don’t know it all, and we need to seek help and learn from each other. That’s what collaboration is all about anyway right? Look forward to reading more on your Coetail blog about your own journey…

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