VoiceThread as Digital Storytelling

March 20, 2008 at 3:43 pm (voicethread)

web 2.0: new tools, new schools, Soloman & Schrum (released Oct 15, 2007 according to Amazon) was the only print resource I have been consulting for this course that made reference to VoiceThread.  This speaks to how new this tool is.  Valenza discovered it in June, 2007 and the education version only became live in January, 2008.  It has not yet been widely explored in print resources.  Yet, digital storytelling has been around for a while in other forms using other tools. 

In web 2.0, David Jakes is quoted describing digital storytelling this way

“The process of digital storytelling provides a voice rich in multimedia that has the potential to resonate deeply with an audience.  As a result, digital storytelling has become one of the most powerful 21st-century learning processes available to teahers and students. 

So, what exacty is a digital story?  A digital story in its truest form is a personal experience represented in narrrative format.  A script, or the essence of the story, is extracted from the narrative and then amplifed by including video, music, still-frame imagery, and the author’s voice.  A digital story typically lasts between two and three minutes.  The inclusion of multimedia makes the story come alive and takes the story to a place that could not be achieved by writing alone. 

The process is rich in learning.  Digital storytelling makes students better writers through the multiple drafts, rewrites, and script preparation [or storyboarding as suggested by Robin, (ppt)] that is required and helps them build essential visual literacy skills through the selection of the imagery required to construct the story. . . .

The final component in the digital storytelling process is sharing the creation. . . . The result demonstrates to students that what they have to say is important and how they say it is critical.  They discover that they can be lifelong contributors to the new global conversation” (p. 43-44).

According to Jakes’ definition, my VoiceThread is not an example of digital storytelling.  While it is short, it does not describe my experiences in Bolivia as a story; I simply provided verbal captions for visual highlights of my stay in the country’s capital city, La Paz.  In my case, the VoiceThread is an online photo album.  I didn’t have multiple drafts of a script as I didn’t have a script! 

If students were to create their own digital stories, I would worry about the amount of time that they could spend trying to find images to represent the essence of their story.  I know from my own experience in finding an old fashioned radio for my blog on podcasting that I spend quite a bit of time searching for the perfect image.  This could be cut down as students could negotiate who will find images to represent different parts of the story so each student need only find one image.  Students could also take photos of the images they would like to include in their digital story VoiceThread.  As Valenza has suggested, we can move students away from supporting images that represent literal interpretations of text to figurative or conceptual images that are symbols or metaphors of text.  Valenza has a wiki page dedicated to Digital Storytelling and Reforming PowerPoint.

An invaluable resource is the Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling website.  It idenfities that there are many definitions of digital storytelling which encompass combining storytelling with a variety of multimedia including images, audio, video and web publishing.  Even though it may primarily be visual, it might also be a first person narrative, that incorporates previously recorded audio, text and interviews (Robin, ppt).  I like how it describes digital stories as a jigsaw puzzle telling invisible histories or stories.  The site identifies and accompanying PowerPoints (ppt) identify ten components of a digital story:

  1. purpose 
  2. point of view
  3. dramatic question(s)
  4. choice of content
  5. clarity of voice
  6. pacing
  7. meaningful soundtrack
  8. quality of images
  9. economy of detail
  10. conventions of grammar and language usage

The power of the soundtrack stood out for me in this list.  In Bolivia I often heard flutes and pan pipes.  An audio track such as this would have enhanced my VoiceThread. 

The Center for Digital Storytelling which includes many examples of digital storytelling, included a link to The International Day for Sharing Life Stories Blog.  I was simply blown away by the power of digital stories and people to share them with the world, even including people in Kenya

At the International Day blog I also learned about Hypercities which “connects geographical information on places with stories of those who live there in the present and in the past.”  I tried to visit the first example created in Berlin (followed by LA, Lima and Rome) but I could not navigate because the page size is set larger than my screen size!  (Time to buy a new monitor I think.)  Hypercities just won an award from Humanities, Arts Science Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC for short, pronounced haystack) Initiative Digital Media and Learning Competition supported by the MacArthur Foundation, of which I have refered to Confronting the Challenges of a Participatory Culture in a previous post.  It is interesting to see all 17 winners who will share a $2M purse.

Lastly, there was a post called “Putting Memory in Place.”  This was the most powerful example of all for me when it said:

“Regimes often sustain themselves through the eradication of memory and its substitution with “official history”. Sustaining community memory, then, becomes a form of resistance.” 

This reminds me of a powerful statement by Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and author of the autobiographical Night, to “bear witness.” 

The Elements of Digital Storytelling goes into even more depth about the nature of this medium should people be interested.  While I may decide to consult it at some point, I don’t feel that I require the detail offered at this time.  

In “Digital Storytelling,” Linda C. Joseph (2006) identifies that iMovie, Moviemaker, Photo Story 3 or BubbleShare can be used to create digital stories.  (This article was part of introductory topic Getting Started & Setting the Scene: Web 2.0 in Schools and Libraries.)  She suggests making a print version (if this is posssible with the media used as video would not allow for this option) and a backup digital file to preseve the digital story.  Alan Levine actually identifies 50 Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story, telling the same Dominoe story in each tool.  Bubbleshare is the first example.  

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