Digital Story Telling

Digital storytelling is, in our own words, the act of creating a story using digital tools. Digital Storytelling could take the form of a video or it could even be an interactive video game. Digital Storytelling is also about sharing these stories by using the internet as a tool. The games or videos are usually short (under ten minutes) but they could also be longer.
As teacher's it is important to note that Digital Storytelling is something that can be used in the classroom to benefit students and to provide a a bridge to connect school to an interest a student may have outside of school.

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Video Games as Digital Storytelling

"If the principles of learning in good video games are good, then better theories of learning are embedded in the video games many children in elementary and particularly in high school play than in the schools they attend" (Gee, 3). Video games provide some of the same fundamentals that the education system has today. Video games include literacy, exploration, and choices that allow for a player to have a sense of freedom and creativity with what they choose to do in the video game. As time goes on, video games are becoming more about this freedom with the release of "sand box" games. These types of games allow for the player to explore what they want and do what they want. While there is still a main story to be played here, there is also a lot of freedom for what the player decides to do outside of that main story.

Video Games that are great examples of Digital Storytelling:

Mass Effect - The players choose what planets they visit and the kind of person they want to be with most of the game being about decision making.
Little Big Planet - The players are able to create their own stages, some of which can have their own themes or messages.
The Sims - The player creates a virtual representation of them-self and live life. This includes buying new stuff, going to a job, making friends and relationships etc.
Dark Souls - Though this is a single player game, players have the ability to write messages throughout the game in order to leave tips for other players over the internet. This allows the players to share their experiences and try to help the community.
Elder Scrolls - There is a quest to go through but there is also usually about 300 hours of exploration and things to do outside of that main quest. The players choose where they want to go next and what they want to do.

There are many other examples that can be linked to Digital Storytelling but these are just a few different examples to show the multiple uses for video games

Machinima as Digital Storytelling:

Machinima is a form of digital storytelling as it uses 3d programming in order to tell a story. Originating in the late 80s and early 90s, Machinima started with just 'speed runs' through videogames (beating the game as fast as possible). It would then later develop into an art form with people able to use video clips and add in their own dialogue. One of the first games to start the trend of Machinima was a 1992 game called Stunt Island. This game allowed players to pause, play, and record the stunts that they were doing in the game.
Machinima would grow with the PC world with first person shooters. Well known games like Doom and Quake would introduce the idea of mods. Mods or modifications are player made and they allow players to change the world of the video game. This includes changes to the environment, the 3d models, and many other small details to multiplayer gaming (gravity, weapon restrictions etc.) The importance of mods is that it allows the player to alter an entire video game to meet and satisfy their needs.
Since early development of Machinima, it has grown into something more. Games like Halo and Call of duty allow players to record their actions. Halo, with its new Forge mode, also allows players to make stages of their own and to share them online. This allows people to be connected over the internet.

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Positives of Using Machinema in the Classroom

  1. Machinima enhances students' understanding of concepts and theories from their courses.
  2. Machinima provides alternative teaching avenues, enabling creative expression and encouraging diverse output.
  3. Machinima teaches dissemination skills, such as uploading, posting, embedding and social sharing of content.
  4. Machinima teaches teamwork, organization, collaboration and patience.
  5. " Enables academics or students to make films using screen capture software and desktop editing tools" (Middleton and Mather)
  6. " Authentic learning activities enriches learning and that such activities need not be limited to real-life locations and practice, as authenticity can also be found through the design of blended learning environments" (Middleton and Mather)

Negatives of Using Machinema in Classroom

  1. Could take too much time.
  2. You need to have these programs downloaded on every machine in order to continue work on it.
  3. Requires a day or two to show our students how to use the product.
  4. Students when using Machinema could get carried away creating things that are irrelevant.
  5. Students will play with the software rather than using it as an educational tool.
  6. Unless the teacher is on every account there is no way to filter what the students are creating.
  7. Machinima programs "are promising, though complex or too limited to support the diversity of educational ideas" (Middleton and Mather)

Machinima's Recent Development

In the last few decades the use of videos has drastically increased as a youth cultural pastime. Through the national survey, about half of all teens and 70% of college students play video games.
“Many commercial video games have software built into them by the publishers that enables players to change the game or create their own modifications that extend the original game” (pg. 32)
Modding tools- graphic system on which the game runs (modifying games)

The purpose of providing gamers with the tools is to….
  1. Create new maps
  2. Encourage video gamers to change parts or all of a game
  3. Extend software’s shelf life
  4. Build Communities

Criticisms of Video games
  • Mindless entertainment and a waste of time
  • Encourage violence offline (Sanders, 1995)
  • Instant gratification and aggression( Anderson, 2003)
  • Responsible for a lack of engagement in literacy (Weber, 2004)
  • Decrease in Face to Face Contact.


Educational Benefits

“Video games counter that they do not replace literacy activities, but are in themselves literacy activities” (pg. 33)
“Can teach children thinking and reading skills, particularly those new literacy skills and abilities” (pg. 33)
“teach educational teach soft skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving, prioritizing, and decision making”
Enhance motor skills, Hand eye coordination
“Surgeons who spent at least three hours a week playing video games made about 37% fewer mistakes in laparoscopic surgery than did their peers who did not play video games” (Johnson, 2005) (pg. 33)


Educational Skills Learned

“This creative, problem-solving mentality has been recognized by scholars to be fundamental ability required for full participation in the knowledge economy” (pg. 33)
“Designing thinking involves working collaboratively in teams, teasing new ideas, prototyping and failing, reflecting on failures, and making changes, all of which are fostered by creating video games. (pg. 34)
“ Students enacting cultural literacies in creating video games like asking their peers for help, asking peers to try our their games, critiquing their peers games, giving suggestions from making games better, using narrative characterization and themes, and thinking about their peers as their audience” (pg. 34)
“Students create original storylines in video games formed by using the Aurora toolset to modify the environment, characters, and story of the game” (pg. 37)

I-Movie as Digital Storytelling

I-Movie is a program on Mac computers that allow for the students to make their own videos. These videos can include photos from the internet or even videos. What makes I-movie and programs like I-movie useful is that the students can add their own voice to the video. This allows students to narrate a story to share with whomever. This idea of using I-movie as a tool can be very useful to the ideas of social studies. Social Studies in its own way is a story that is told by the many figures involved in it. By allowing a student access to all of these historical stories, we then allow students to interpret and analyze those stories and create their own. This is where I-movie plays it part. It allows students to look at historical images, or stories and narrate about their own thoughts. These videos don't have to be long and can be shared over the web with other people. This allows students freedom to create a video based on their thoughts.


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Comic Life is a program that allows students to create their own comic using images from the internet. The pages of the comic have templates from the program that allow students to make a comic with multiple panels. The importance of comic life is that it allows students to add dialogue of their own to the images.
When discussing social studies this is important because it will allow students to add their own perspective to the images they see in history. This allows students, in a sense, to create their own digital story to be shared with the class.
Comics are another way to provide a link to the “popular culture bridge” that can link a kids life to his/her life in school. Comic Life provides comics that can be any length and is a free and useful program.

Class Assignment

You are going to take a picture from online. Save it to your computer. After you will use this picture to create a Character in Machinema.

Your goal is to create a character that looks like your picture that you selected. This will help you understand that Software and it will give you a better understanding of the application.


Movies and Educational sources to possibilities in Machinima

Digital StoryTelling clip 1

7 Elements of Digital Story-Telling

  • Guuzzetti, B., Elliott, K., & Welsch, D. (2010). DIY media in the classroom . (1 ed., Vol. 1, p. 117). New York and London: Teachers College Press.
  • Middleton , John , and Richard Mather. "Machinima Interventions: innovative approaches to immersive virtual world curriculum intergration." Research in learning Technology . Taylor & Francis Group , Sept 2008. Web. 25 Nov 2011.