Digital Storytelling

Old-timey radio show meets digital technology. The offspring is the podcast.


It can sound like The Thrilling Adventure Hour: think 1930s radio with a modern quirkiness all made up for fun and laughs, or it can be darker and addicting, like Serial, which is based on a real life murder story.

Whatever your preferred genera, there is a podcast for it.

The Benefits

In the article The Teacher’s Guide to Digital Storytelling, author Leah Levy writes that teachers are beginning to utilize this resource to help them get students to think critically about literature, writing, and technology. In addition to the deeper thinking that can be promoted through incorporating podcasts, she adds that the technology is a good way to meet a handful of the expectations set forth in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

English teacher Michael Godsey agrees, and has found this to be the case in his classroom. Godsey has used the podcast “Serial” to help improve his students listening skills, improve reading skills as students have poured over transcripts of the show, and caused students to use higher level thinking. All of these things are requirements of Language Arts CCSS, and students are meeting them in a way that does not seem like school work at all. To read more about how Godsey uses the podcast in his classroom, see What Teens are Learning from Serial and Other Podcasts.

Teachers can also incorporate other forms of digital storytelling in the classroom, such as video or photography. There are defiantly benefits to using podcasts and digital storytelling in the classroom, they help teachers deliver standards based instruction, which is important. It also helps develop an interest in literature that can turn into a lifelong passion, which is more important.


Photo CC – by Zero Divide

The (Possible) Disadvantages

As teachers we must remember that we use technology to support learning objectives. If the technology does not fit, we find something else. We need to think just as critically of digital storytelling forms as we do with other methods of conveying information.

We also need to remember that it the teacher that directs the learning, the learning does not direct the teacher. When I was in school many teachers used videos to supplement instruction. The teachers who made them meaningful had learning activities and discussion centered on the videos to help students get the most out of the technology as possible. Some teachers used the videos to burn time, and we rarely gave the content a second thought. Digital storytelling can be an excellent tool – it is a tool, and needs to be utilized, not just set out there with the hope some students will make use of it.

The last disadvantage to using digital storytelling in any format is that it is easy to get carried away. Addiction carried away, because these podcasts can take over your life in the way Netflix causes the evening hours to slip away without thought or notice. Not that I know anything about that. *Ahem*

. . .

I would like to use digital storytelling in my elementary school classroom. It will be a great tool to utilize as I teach thinking, listening, and writing skills to my students. Both Scholastic and itunes have resources for younger audiences and teachers.

I think that I would also like to give my students the opportunity to turn their writing and artistic abilities into digital stories. This would be an excellent way for students to make learning meaningful, and produce products that allow them to extend their thinking and learning beyond the traditional products students churn out.


Photo CC – by Melanie Holtsman

However I use podcasts and digital storytelling, be it through presenting material or as an avenue of expression, I want to make sure students are using it to further their learning.


The Daily Create, Part III

Day 11

I need to do an audio create, so I went to the archives and pulled this up:

Record 10 seconds of what you are hearing right at this moment!

It is a recording of my washer and dryer running. Proof of multitasking: cleaning and homework at the same time. Can you tell that I lead an exceptionally exciting life?

Day 12

Save Noddy! Someone threw Noddy in the skip and DS106 must save him! Do some photo editing to get him out of there.

I made the treehouse photo first, but my husband thought Noddy would have more fun at Area 51.  So, I made the second one and put it as wallpaper on my husband’s ipod without telling him.  He he he….

TreehouseNoddy  Screensaver

Treehouse Photo CC – by GJ Charlet III, UFO Photo CC – by Vladimir Putovit

I hope Noddy is having more fun now than when he was in the dumpster.

Day 13

Make a Kindle Cover Disaster for the bestseller ‘DS106: a once in a lifetime adventure’

I made this cover pretty bland, ‘cause all the excitement is inside.


Day 14

Take an umbrella photo.


Day 15

Pet montaaju time.


Photo CC – by Davesblog007

The anime eyes were drawn by my daughter, Megan. The kids are home on spring break so we all made some eyes and then picked the best ones.

. . .

I have made it halfway through the challenge. It’s going fast!  I have done every category of the Daily Creates from the ds106 site.

At the Back of the North Wind

This week I am writing about one of George MacDonald’s works, the children’s story At the Back of the North Wind. I have read George MacDonald since I was a little girl, or rather they were read to me. On Saturday mornings I would climb into bed with my dad, curl up under quilts, and he would pick up a book and begin to read. He read the Narnia books by C. S. Lewis and George MacDonald’s fairy stories to me in this way.

My favorites are The Golden Key and The Day Boy and the Night Girl.

Recently I have begun to collect MacDonald’s works and children’s stories on my Kindle. They are public domain and some are available for free at Project Gutenberg.

I have been reading At the Back of the North Wind since Christmas. I finally finished it this week. I have to confess that this was a hard book to read because it wanders quite a bit. If you choose to read it, select the shorter version edited by Elizabeth Lewis as it is true to the heart of the story. I read the original version published in 1871.

At the Back of the North Wind is a story about a boy named Diamond who meets the North Wind. She breezes into his bedroom through a crack in the wall.


Image Credit FCIT

North Wind takes Diamond on adventures, where they fly from place to place. She also can take on many forms, most often a beautiful woman when with Diamond, she can be a wolf, a bee on a flower, or her real form of a violent wind.

North Wind says this of herself,

I don’t think I am just what you fancy me to be. I have to shape myself in various ways to various people. But the heart of me is true. People call me by dreadful names, and think they know all about me. But they don’t. Sometimes they call me Bad Fortune, sometimes Evil Chance, sometimes Ruin; and they have another name for me which they think the most dreadful of all.

North Wind is Death.


Image Credit FCIT

She takes Diamond to her country, and it is a beautiful, peaceful place. However, he chooses to go back home to his mother and father, so North Wind returns him to them. We find that when Diamond arrives back home, he has been sick. He knows that he was at the back of the north wind, but his family thinks that he was dying. At the end of the story, illness finally takes him, but the author says that though other people think that Diamond died, he just went to the back of the north wind.

. . .

The children’s stories by George MacDonald are different from his works for adults as he moralizes, but does not mention faith or God.

The works of George MacDonald stretch my faith and my thinking. He was fond of challenging the accepted theology of his day, and many of the things he writes about in his adult works reflect this. The book The Curate’s Awakening is one that I enjoy the most for forcing me to ask difficult questions, and seek out the answers to them. If I want a ghost story I read The Tutor’s First Love.

Photo CC – by .imelda


Technology is a constant. It is always on, always demanding that we pay attention.

This week’s focus is on mindfulness. How much do I pay attention to what I am doing online? How does it impact my relationships? How does the amount of time I spend online affect the state of my house?

ecard cleaning

A year offline, what I have learned

Paul Miller gave a TED Talk where he described his year without the internet.  He gave up texting and the internet and decided to focus on the things that mattered to him. Two questions that led him to his decision were,

  • How does the internet use me, and how do I use the internet?
  • At what point are my decisions and goals dictating my behavior on the internet, and at what point are the apps and the people and the processes … dictating and changing my behavior?”

These are great questions. Since we are the ones who navigate, we think that we are the ones dictating what happens. But wait, if that we true, then sites would not have trackers to see where we have been and what they can offer us.  Am I choosing what to do, or is another influencing my decisions?

In his quest to leave the internet behind, Paul soon found that he experienced complete freedom, and complete, excruciating, boredom. This allowed him to try to fill his time and he found that his solitude led to creativity, less drain led to emotional availability, and face-to-face conversations with friends and family led to improved relationships.

Conversation: 6/365

Photo CC – by Todd Fong

He also found that he spent the whole year on himself. Leaving the internet did not fix his problems. So he decided that he wanted to spend time focusing on others, caring for them. He had to find a balance. Find where the priority was and focus on that.

So Paul Miller did. He spent time with family, posted what he did on the internet, and found that he was able to choose to focus on others.

Social Experiment

One school in San Francisco asked their students to leave their devices and the internet behind for three days. The teachers did not actually expect kids to keep away from technology for three days, but they did want kids to become more cognizant of how technology intruded on other areas of student’s lives that they were unaware of.

So, what happens when teens try to disconnect from technology for three days?

They lived through it, though some did cheat and go back to their devices a little early. The students did see a difference in how they spent their time. Homework that used to take 5 hours a night, now only took 1½ without the distraction of the internet. Since answers to questions could not be Googled, students had to ask their parents for help. This led to kids having conversations with their parents.

Family Portrait

Photo CC – by Bo Gordy-Stith

How do I become more mindful?

In both situations the individuals went back to using technology on a daily basis. They hopefully were more aware of what they were doing online, and made an effort to say emotionally connected to people.

I don’t necessarily want to go on an internet fast, but I do want to be mindful of how I am spending my time. I want to make sure that, like Paul Miller, I have goals and decisions that are dictating my behavior on the internet. I do not want the internet to dictate to me what my goals and decisions should consist of.

In an article called Simplify the Internet the author makes the point that simplifying is about making choices about what will I share, and what am I willing to let go of. It is all about choices. Some great tips are presented to simplify use of social media, reading online, and email.

. . .

Am I accomplishing the things I want to when I search on the internet, or am I just being distracted by it?

It’s is time to think about mindfulness. And the state of my house.

ecard pinning

Daily Create Challenge, Part II

Day 6

Do a scavenger hunt of your most hated color in your neighborhood. Put the video on YouTube.

I did not do this challenge. I felt like it would create strife with my neighbors if they ever found out their house was featured on a video saying it looked terrible. I thought it would be kinder if I did something else.

My nieces were visiting, so I took advantage of time with them and had the three year old sing her favorite song for me. Thanks for your help, Ella!

Day 7

Talk with a stranger. Tell us the story!

Conversations with Walmart people

Today I was in the checkout line at Walmart. After I loaded my groceries on to the conveyer belt I tried to find a plastic divider so the woman behind me could unload her cart. I could not find one right away and I apologized, something I regularly do for things that are not my fault.

The woman said that she would wait until I was done checking out since she was trying to burn more time. She wanted to take as long as possible because her daughter and her dog were with her mother and she was alone for the first time in a week. She just wanted a break from the craziness of life. Maybe she had a bad week.

I told her to enjoy the rest of her afternoon and then paid for my groceries. Hopefully she went back to her mother’s to pick up her daughter and dog feeling somewhat restored after the alone time she spent at Walmart. She was surrounded by people, but it was people who didn’t need her to take care of them. That makes all the difference.

Day 8

The day’s challenge was to walk behind people engaged in conversation for several blocks and write a poem about their conversation.

I live in a little, little town of less than 500 people. If I followed behind 2 of them for several blocks it would be obvious, and a little creepy. I chose another poetry writing from the archive to do instead.

Try #2: Make a haiku about what it is (or was) like to start DS106 either as an open participant or at a university.

Ds106 haiku

Read, write, see and say

The Daily Create begins

Challenges to come

Day 9

Practice paying attention. Take the day to practice and show us how you did it.

I walked around my yard and enjoyed the little details. The chickens were proudly proclaiming one had laid an egg and then came to visit me. I looked at the budding plants and grasses. Swirling lines on the sandstone in the flowerbed caught my attention. There were only a few flowering shrubs, but there will be more soon. Thank goodness spring is arriving!

Day 9

Day 10

Today is DKC Tutor Maggie Black’s birthday! Design a birthday card for her. Make it meaningful. Share it.

The card may be a bit generic, but really, it comes straight from the heart.


Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Last summer I read Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. This is a must read. Uncle Tom’s Cabin made a significant contribution to the change in our nation regarding how we view and treat our fellow man, and it made an impact throughout the world.  The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center has an article about the work and the events surrounding the publication and time period on their website.

Uncle Tom's Cabin, Title Page

Photo CC – by Katherine Hala

This week I decided to take a rabbit trail in my independent learning project. When reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin I wondered how accurate the depiction was of slavery. There were many aspects to the issue presented. Some made me rejoice in the strength and bravery of mankind, and even more left me brokenhearted at the depth to which man has fallen. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is one of the most difficult pieces of literature that I have ever read.

I wanted to dig deeper into the issue of slavery in the United States. I have read the works of Mark Twain where slavery is depicted as a fact of life. I read To Kill a Mockingbird, which addresses race relations in the South in the mid-20th century. I wanted to see what slavery was like, not from the perspective of a storyteller, but from one who lived this terrible institution.

This week I read an autobiography written by an escaped slave and abolitionist named Harriet Ann Jacobs. The book is called Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Written by Herself. The book was published under the pseudonym Linda Brent in 1861.

Image retrieved from

The book talks about slavery, specifically how women were treated in slavery. After reading this book I understood why Harriet Beecher Stowe has the women so desperate to escape in her work. Rather than give a recap of the book, I would like to share a few quotes that impacted me while reading about the life of Harriet Jacobs.

The cost of enslavement

In talking about the abuse that slave women endured, Jacobs writes,

[Slavery] makes white fathers cruel and sensual; the sons violent and licentious; it contaminates the daughter, and makes the wives wretched. And as for the colored race, it needs an abler pen than mine to describe the extremity of their sufferings, the depth of their degradation.

Yet few slaveholders seems to be aware of the widespread moral ruin occasioned by this wicked system.

Talking about the effect this has on the enslaved men she says,

Some poor creatures have been so brutalized by the lash that they will sneak out of the way to give their masters free access to their wives and daughters.

I cannot even comprehend the pain endured by the women who were forced to live this life. The author in her work shows such character by not only presenting her point of view, but in sharing the overall effect of these actions on all involved. This is only two quotes from the book that deal with the abuse women were made to endure. I think that after reading this account, the events of Uncle Tom’s Cabin were mild by comparison. Jacobs also talks about other events that she witnessed and was a part of that corroborate Stowe’s work.

The purchase of life

At the end of the book, Harriet Jacobs had been an escaped slave for years. Her owners had found out where she lived and went to New York to retrieve her. The woman that she worked for in New York sent her away and then arranged to purchase the freedom of Harriet. She succeeded at the cost of $300. Though Harriet shares this should have made her happy, she writes this about her feelings in a letter,

I thank you for your kind expressions in regard to my freedom; but the freedom I had before the money was paid was dearer to me. God gave me that freedom; but man put God’s image in the scales with the paltry sum of three hundred dollars.

I believe that this is at the heart of what made slavery such a tragedy; as people we placed the premise that all men were created equal aside. We as a nation of people decided that men and women, who were made in the image of God, could be sold and treated like little more than cattle.

. . .

I recommend the book Uncle Tom’s Cabin. As a companion piece, I would suggest reading Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Though one work altered the opinion of a nation, the other relates a firsthand account of why the minds of the people needed to be changed.

Daily Create Challenge, part I

The 30-day Daily Create Challenge begins!

Day 1

Breakfast Selfie

This one is the full body shot.


Day 2

Draw a 15-second batman.


Day 3

Make and inspirational poster. The twist: the words of wisdom on it have to be something that *you* have said.

 Inspirtional Poster

I say this to my kids, it’s practical words of wisdom. They recognized it right away!

(Photo CC – by Leonid Mamchenkov. I edited it and made the poster.)

Day 4

Trees are amazing. With a bit of photo editing you can turn them into evil monsters or beautiful patterns. Go make some tree art.


Day 5

Make drawn, collaged, or photo art around your fingerprints. Your fingerprints are as unique as you are.


Bonus points to the person who can name the song that inspired the picture! It was quite popular in my house for several years.