Storytelling, as an account of events in the evolution of something or one’s life, is something we humans participate in every day, but how often do you ask your students to   engage in the activity deliberately?   Many students will need to know how to tell good stories in the professional world, potentially, for a variety of audiences: public outreach, funding agencies, institutions, company executives, etc.

Describing something complex through story–how it works, why it is important in the bigger picture–will help make it understandable to others. It is so important for students to learn how to write, how to speak, how to tell the story of their discipline and their research or activities.   In addition to reporting technical findings, such as in a lab report,   engaging students in creating a narrative easily understandable for people outside the discipline or course can push their understanding further. Because, this process of retelling requires knowledge of the topic, analysis, and synthesis, as it forces the distilling of information into a story with context. It is learning through teaching in a sense.   Additionally, the artifact of a digital story can serve as part of one’s curriculum vitae, portfolio, and professional online presence.

Good stories have an emotional or a thought-provoking impact and often have relevance for multiple audiences. When something is presented in terms of a story, we tend to remember it.

Storytelling methods could take up a whole course. As a starting point, these are the seven elements of digital storytelling to keep in mind as you develop activities for students:

  1. Point   What is the main point of the story?
  2. A Dramatic Question – a key question that keeps the viewer’s attention
  3. Emotional or Thought Provoking Content – connects the audience to the story
  4. Your Voice – personalize the story to help the audience understand the context
  5. Media   music, sounds, and images can help support and embellish the story
  6. Economy – concise content to not overwhelm the viewer
  7. Pacing   rhythm of the story


Online Tools

Adobe Spark – story pages and video
Esri Storymaps – stories with maps
StorymapJS – maps that tell stories
Racontr – for interactive story building
Thinglink – annotate images
Wirewax – interactive video

References & More Info