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Eliciting the Innovative Designer Through Digital Storytelling

Explore and create

Explore and create : Creation lab

Saturday, December 5, 9:15–10:05 am PST (Pacific Standard Time)

Maria Franco  
Elizabeth Lester  

Learn how digital storytelling allows students to demonstrate their understanding of a topic on a variety of levels. Explore how computer science, engineering, English and content standards can be woven together in a digital storytelling activity.

Audience: Coaches, Teachers, Professional developers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices required
Attendee device specification: Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Participant accounts, software and other materials: Ensure your device has a USB adapter.
Topic: Computer science & computational thinking
Grade level: PK-12
ISTE Standards: For Students:
Innovative Designer
  • Students develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.
Creative Communicator
  • Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Participants will understand how digital storytelling allows students to demonstrate their understanding of a topic on a variety of levels. They will explore how computer science, engineering, English and content standards can be woven together in a digital storytelling activity. Participants will be able to explain the importance of using a design process during the writing portion of the digital storytelling activity and be able to facilitate the use of the process with their students. Using the block coding program, they will be able to explain how it supports the students’ story and computational thinking development. It will be an introduction to the coding process and the participants will have the skills to locate support as they continue to integrate coding into their instructional practices. Finally, participants will be able to explain what physical computing is and how it enhances the digital storytelling strategies. They will experience the first cycle in the design process of a digital story cycle which includes a physical computing component and be able to explain how they can use this process in their own instruction.


During the first 45 minutes, participants will begin by creating their own short narrative story from a student created drawing. They will share their stories by getting into groups with others that had the same drawing. As they tell their stories they will notice that though given a similar drawing, different stories were generated. This will help the participants identify and discuss the elements of a story. This will lead into a discussion about the importance and different platforms for storytelling in the modern era. They will learn how traditional storytelling can be enhanced with digital tools to deepen the students’ understandings. Examples for how stories can be used to demonstrate content comprehension in a variety of subject areas will be presented.

During the next hour, through collaboration and independent work, participants will develop a digital story for themselves based on content they will teach. They will use a graphic organizer to identify the audience, story purpose, story points, characters, and the solution (20 minutes). Using a coding platform, participants will begin to transform they traditional story to one on a digital platform. They will learn the foundations of block coding (10 minutes) and apply the skills to their story creation (30 minutes). An option of a pre-coded story will be provided that participants can modify for their story to see how the activity can be scaffolded for the creator.

During the next 45 minutes, participants will bring their story into the physical world by creating an interactive storybook controller. This controller will move the story along while it is viewed on the computer screen and is designed in connection with the story. They will learn how the physical computing materials work and how physical computer helps to engage students in interdisciplinary concepts. They will explore the basics of conduction, electricity and design components. (10 minutes). Using a mixture of found and art materials, they will create controllers for their digital story (20 minutes). Participants will get to experience other digital stories through a gallery walk. This will help participants to get additional ideas for how they can bring in digital storytelling to their classroom.

As a wrap-up (15 minutes), participants will share in small groups how their experience during the day and gallery walk will help their instructional evolve to engage students in modern day educational strategies. They will pair share and reflect on a digital discussion board their take-aways and next steps.

Supporting research

Research shows that digital storytelling taps into the creative sides of students. It encourages them to research and combine material in deeper ways which enhances their communication skills. When the students get to collaborate on their stories, they build skills in negotiation and communication. In addition, coding has been shown to develop resilience and troubleshooting skills in students. Adding in a physical computing component reinforces the computational thinking and collaboration strategies for students as they bring the digital world into the real world.

Digital Storytelling: A Powerful Technology Tool for the 21st Century Classroom (Bernard R. Robin, 2008)
'Physical Computing' Connects Computer Science With Hands-On Learning (Lauraine Genota, 2019)
Lifelong Kindergarten: Cultivating Creativity Through Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play (Mitchel Resnick, 2017)

More [+]


Maria Franco, Los Angeles Unified School District
ISTE Certified Educator
Elizabeth Lester, James Madison Middle School

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