Digital storytelling is most frequently but not always taught in a workshop/retreat format. While many of us have used digital storytelling in a normal classroom setting, most of us have attended a training of trainers type workshop. Traditionally, this workshop was held over a three-day period. We have managed to get it down into one very intensive day, though probably two days is a comfortable medium. Pretty much everyone who has ever gone to a workshop and then implemented digital storytelling in their classrooms has stated that they can’t imagine trying to learn digital storytelling on the fly, or in any other format than a workshop. Though it’s certainly possible, the digital storytelling workshop is a wonderful way to learn a new skill, and think through some of the deep issues that implementing digital storytelling with students encompasses. The Digital Storytelling Working Group can help you set up a workshop on your campus! Workshops usually require two facilitators and, as mentioned, at least a full day. The workshops are good for up to 15 participants, and are modelled on the very successful multimedia narrative workshops taught by NITLE for several years. NITLE is no longer facilitating workshops, so the DSWG has been formed to fill in and offer peer support and expertise.

This is a sample one-day workshop outline. The two or three day model looks similar, but actually allows for some breathing to occur. Workshops can also be tailored to more specific applications, such as study abroad, language learning, or particular disciplines. The DSWG will work with your college to create a workshop that meets your goals:

Creating Culture, Crossing Borders: Digital Storytelling Across the Disciplines and Beyond the Campus

A One-Day Multimedia Narrative Workshop

Workshop Summary

The digital revolution has put powerful storytelling tools into the hands of educators and students. Digital storytelling, in which images, words and music are combined into short films that are easy to share with a wide-audience, has the potential to enhance the liberal arts learning process. Digital storytelling projects can facilitate focused reflection and concise articulation of experience and its impact on personal or intellectual development. Participants in this workshop will learn about digital storytelling first-hand, by making their own digital story. Along the way, the group will discuss the myriad ways digital storytelling can augment and enrich classroom practice across a wide range of fields.

Workshop Goals

Participants will:

  • Better understand the potential role of story in liberal arts education
  • Gain a broad overview of the digital storytelling environment, including programs, online platforms and dominant story forms
  • Understand the rich opportunities digital storytelling presents to meet a variety of learning goals
  • Understand the particular power digital storytelling has in crossing borders—personal, cultural, social, economic, geographic, etc, but also between the personal (student development) and the academic (curricular)
  • Gain experience in one or more digital storytelling platforms
  • Leave the workshop with their own example of a powerful digital story

Pre-Workshop Preparation:

Participants in this workshop will need to come prepared to make their digital stories. Though the stories themselves are short, the thought, planning and effort into making them are great. This workshop is normally taught over a three-day period. The facilitators have prepared a packet of information that will take you through the introductory material and will help you adequately prepare for the workshop. Our goal is that all participants come with a working knowledge of the digital storytelling movement and form, as well as the building blocks for their film, including digital/digitized images and a script draft.
Preparation Pod Contents:

Module I: Contextual Information
Introduction to Digital Storytelling, by Bryan Alexander
Digital Storytelling for Crossing Borders, by Doug Reilly
Opening the Dialogue, a meditation on control and trust in the study abroad educational process, by Doug Reilly

Module II: What is a (digital) story?
Story Types
Parts of a Story
Examples of Digital Stories (online content)

Module III: Writing your script

Module IV: Jaycut: Registering and Uploading Images

Workshop Schedule

8:30-9:30am Session I: Digital Storytelling: DI-WHY?
9:30-10:30am Session II: Story Circle and Script Workshop
10-10:15: Break
10:30-Noon Session III: Recording Your Script
Noon-1pm: Lunch
1-1:30pm Session IV: Jaycut Tutorial & The Language of Film
1:30-3:30pm: Work Session
3-3:15: Break
3:30-3:45: Copyright and Creative Commons Images, Sound and Music
3:45-4:00: Using titles
4:00-6:00 Work Session II
6:00-7:30PM Dinner, Premiere Party and Applications Discussion

Workshop Schedule In-Depth


8:30-9:30am Session I: Digital Storytelling, DI-WHY?

Digital Storytelling (DS), aka multimedia narrative, is a catchall phrase for what is, essentially, DIY (Do it yourself) movies. They are constructed from photographs, film-clips, audio recordings, text, spoken narrations, and arranged to be experienced more or less sequentially, though some formats are emerging that are dialogical and interactive. For our purposes, digital stories are defined as short, short stories made up of pictures and words, using an economy of language to tell stories that communicate the essence of an experience. This session will introduce the form with several examples from the wider Digital Storytelling movement as well as examples from projects undertaken in the context of higher education. Importantly we will explore the pedagogical value of digital storytelling, including how DS

  1. Uses modern technology to teach age-old storytelling skills
  2. can help students (and teachers) articulate key experiences or concepts in a short, concise and often powerful way
  3. can helps students (and teachers) bridge personal experience and academic content
  4. teaches economical and succinct communication skills
  5. motivates students to focus on revision and building an effective narrative structure
  6.  motivates students to create knowledge, and
  7. extends the audience for academic production—which also increases motivation and focus.


9:30-10:30am Session II: Story Circle and Script Workshop

We can’t teach others to tell their stories without first being able to use our own. As facilitators, we have to model the kinds of stories we want our students to tell, not offering them as formulas or new clichés, but rather modeling them as examples of risk-taking and openness. The story circle is the fundamental building block of digital storytelling. We will have our first story circle as a way of introducing one another.  


10:30-Noon Session III: Recording your scipt

We start by accepting our voice as our own, and keep in mind that great talents have made their way by what others would judge to be terrible voices: Bob Dylan, Tom Waits…We we also talk about how we can use our voice to tell the story, not through the words as much as the pace, volume and what the Jazz singers called “phrasing”. We’ll record our scripts on an online audio platform, and get ready to build our film on top of this narrative foundation.


Noon-1pm: Lunch

1-2pm Session IV: Tutorials:, an online linear editing program & The Language of Film

The tools we have selected are by necessity limited and simple. But they operate on the same principles as the expensive, professional, computer-based programs for audio and video editing. Linear editing, timelines, tracks for audio, text, and video. Familiarity with the concepts will let you work upward to the more complex platforms. Or, you can become master of the simple formal structure provided, much the way a wonderful tune can be played on a flute with only a few holes. We’re teaching you the haiku of the digital storytelling world.

The Second part of this session will focus on the narrative language of film. We’ll look at how film is constructed from several layers: images, narrative, music, sound effects, and even the written word (titles). We’ll look at how each layer can best be utilized to tell an effective story, including strategies for pacing.


2-3pm: Work Session I 

Most of us who do digital stories pretty much operate in draft mode all the time. They’re never really done. They’re crystallized versions of a story, one iteration of a song collected by concert bootleggers, one stop in the telephone game of memory and communication. Keep in mind our time constraint and don’t get caught up in the minute details…work in broad strokes and then, if time remains, fine tune and tweak to your hearts content. Feel free to share your film with other participants, who may point out something you have overlooked or suggest a visual storytelling film that might just pull the whole thing together for you.


3-4pm: Discussion and Tutorials:  Copyright and Creative Commons & Titles Tutorial

In the first half of this session, we’ll consider issues of copyright, fair use and look at alternative intellectual property models like creative commons. We’ll look at the flickr creative common library, consisting of almost a billion images that are usable in digital storytelling, as well as, a massive archive of open source sound effects and ambient recordings.

The second part of this session will teach participants how to add titles to their films, and also ask them to consider how the written word may be integrated into their narratives to add another dimension of complexity.

4-6pm: Work Session II

 6-7:30pm: Dinner, Premiere Party and Applications Discussion

After a long day of hard work and lots of learning, we’ll come together for a nice dinner and finally watch the films we’ve worked so hard on during the day. This is a time for celebration and imagining where we can go from here. Questions for this session include: what can you imagine doing with digital storytelling? What do you wish you could do/add with your film that you either did not have time to do or did not have the program capability to do? What do you see as the promise and potential of this methodology? What pitfalls do you foresee in implementing DS in your classroom?


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