Response to Digital Storytelling in the Language Arts Classroom

Although a bit dated (2004), I found that Digital Storytelling in the Language Arts Classroom (Bull and Kadjar) still had a lot of valuable information in regards to the importance of the story in digital storytelling.  As emphasized in the article, “…the story should be in the foreground and the technology in the background. The focus in the language arts classroom should be on the writing and communication process rather than technical effects.”

As the authors describe it, “A digital story consists of a series of still images combined with a narrated soundtrack to tell a story.”  The stories may also include short video clips., but the main emphasis in this article is on the seven elements of digital storytelling.


Joe Lambert and Dana Atchley at the Center for Digital Storytelling at U.C. Berkley were some of the first to identify the seven elements of digital storytelling.  The elements are:

Point of View: In contrast to the objectivity of many scholarly works, the goal of digital storytelling is to emphasize a personal point of view.  The most powerful is often the point of view of the author.

Dramatic Question: A well constructed digital story will include a dramatic question that is resolved in the end.  It is the resolution of the question that engages the viewer and keeps their interest to the end.

Emotional Content: Digital stories should make us laugh, cry, feel anger, or pleasure.  And more importantly, they should attempt, “…to pursue, discover, and communicate new understanding that is rooted in who we are as humans.”

Economy: When digital stories are limited to a few minutes, students learn the importance of deciding on what is essential, and not spending valuable story time on technical effects that don’t enhance the story.

Pacing: A monotonous voice (both in audio and storyline) can drive people away from the story.  A varied tone, inflection, and pace can add to the quality of the experience.

The Gift of Your Voice: Students who are often never heard from in the classroom are given a medium for telling their stories.  “There is no substitute for using your own voice to tell your story.”

Soundtrack: Music can add complexity and depth to the story, and it again gives the students an opportunity to express their voice through the choice of their music.

The article goes on to discuss their strategy for creating stories in the classroom.  Planning can significantly improve the classroom experience of students creating digital stories as part of their learning experience.

These seven elements can provide a framework for successfully implementing digital storytelling in our courses.  The elements that make up a good story are independent of the technology used, and it is important that we recognize these elements as instructional designers.


3 thoughts on “Response to Digital Storytelling in the Language Arts Classroom

  1. Hello David,

    Thanks for sharing this article and your response.

    I agree that the digital story should be the focus, but it is technology used that fills in the background. Technology has advanced quite a bit since 2004 and is now readily available to a wide audience consisting of all age groups and backgrounds. I believe that the technology used is as important as the digital story being told. The technology used influences the story received, now more than ever.

    The seven elements provide a solid framework for composing a digital story. I have recently considered implementing digital stories with my adult learners to address leadership skills. I will definitely keep these elements in mind as I continue to design my use of digital storytelling.


  2. These 7 elements of a digital story are found across many different articles, which I find really interesting, but it makes a lot of sense in order to create a successful story.

    It’s definitely important to have content be the forefront in creating stories, especially in a classroom. You don’t want to judge exclusively on whether or not their soundtrack was impeccable or if they had the perfect title screen. Especially with language arts, of course you want to look at their narrative and structure.

    Great article!


  3. Hi David,
    This response is great! I like how you broke down the various aspects of digital storytelling. I might have to use your list for my classroom and my students.
    I’ve read a few articles lately, that mention technology as the vehicle to produce stories, rather than the main focus of a lesson. It’s really interesting that education is moving away from teaching technology exclusively in the classroom, towards incorporating it with content. I think it makes more sense to incorporate it with content, since it makes it more relevant to the students.


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