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Digital Storytelling — Supercharging the A in STEAM

Explore and create

Explore and create : Creation lab

Tuesday, December 1, 11:10 am–12:00 pm PST (Pacific Standard Time)

Jamie Cortz  
Dwayne Cowles  

Experience a hands-on seminar that will show you how to develop a comprehensive digital storytelling program for students K-12. Learn how to create a districtwide initiative that will improve literacy while integrating the fine arts into current STEAM programs.

Audience: Chief technology officers/superintendents/school board members, Teachers, Principals/head teachers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Windows, Android, iOS
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials:

If chosen, there will be a navigation page titled ISTE that will direct attendees to any and all URLs/software needed. No software will be required to be downloaded on any device. Everything is web-based.

Topic: Storytelling/multimedia
Grade level: PK-12
Subject area: Language arts, Performing/visual arts
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Use technology to create, adapt and personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning and accommodate learner differences and needs.
For Education Leaders:
Equity and Citizenship Advocate
  • Ensure all students have skilled teachers who actively use technology to meet student learning needs.
Systems Designer
  • Establish partnerships that support the strategic vision, achieve learning priorities and improve operations.
Additional detail: ISTE author presentation, Session recorded for video-on-demand

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Purpose- Attendees will learn how to specifically engage students through a comprehensive Digital Storytelling initiative. Through student work and community partnerships, attendees will find an easily replicated program that allows seamless integration into STEAM activities.
Objective- Attendees will learn how to create student-led Digital Storytelling activities that will improve student achievement in English Language Arts while simultaneously deepening their understanding of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. (STEM)
Challenges- In the recent past, few students have ready access to technology tools allowing them to create detailed and engaging Digital Stories. With the advent of online video editors, students are finding greater success in expressing their knowledge to a vastly greater audience, solving the technology challenges faced just a few years ago.
Technology Intervention- Our program uses programs that are readily available to all school districts and in most cases have no cost associated with their use. One exception for our district is we have a district license to an online video editor (WeVideo- not a sponsor of this presentation.) that has greatly expanded our students' ability to express their voice on every imaginable topic.
Models- “Digital Storytelling is a fantastic way to engage students, teachers and just about anyone else who has ever wanted to be the next Ken Burns or Steven Spielberg. There are many different definitions of "digital storytelling," but in general, all of them revolve around the idea of combining the longstanding art of telling stories with any of a variety of available multimedia tools, including graphics, audio, video animation, and Web publishing.” (Introduction to Storytelling), retrieved 15:44, 23 May 2007 (MEST)
Lesson plans- District Specific Models
Voice Typing- using various online and resident software programs, struggling students are finding equity in displaying their knowledge using technology that lets the computer record their voice in written format.
Read Aloud- Using online video editing software, students are creating Read-Aloud books where they become the star. Seeing their peers read books online increases a students motivation to learn to read at a higher level.
V.A.S.T.- We created the Video As StoryTeller (VAST) program to usher in creativity and collaboration with our K-12 students. Our VAST programs have infiltrated our community and are quickly becoming a leading communication tool. Our VAST program is celebrated 4 times a year with our key community stakeholders by displaying student-created videos at our local theater. Our culminating event occurs in the Spring in our towns public amphitheater that draws an audience over 5000 dignitaries and local citizens.
These lesson plans are not necessarily dependent on any particular technology or vendor, which allows for greater flexibility and implementation.
Evidence of Success
At the beginning of the 2018 school year, there was no cohesive Digital Storytelling district program. As a district, we couldn’t point to any district-wide program that effectively addressed the “A-Art” component of our STEAM initiatives. We decided to have one of our Teachers on Assignment spearhead our Digital Storytelling program. Through his relentless dedication, we now have a comprehensive program that stresses and improves literacy at all levels from Kindergarten to Adult learning. Within our first year, we went from zero Digital Storytellers to over 5000. This year looks to eclipse that mark to a total of 11,000. Each month, our students submit over 1000 Digital Stories through our online video editing software. In the first year of implementing our Digital Storytelling initiative, some of our Digital Storytellers have been recognized as regional award winners to include $20,000 in scholarship awards.


The presentation will be broken down into 4 key elements; 1) Introduction to Digital Storytelling, 2) A District Guide- How to Implement Digital Storytelling, 3) Leveraging Community Resources, and 4) A Hands-On Video Activity. Each element will last approximately 10 minutes with the Hands-on Activity lasting 30 minutes. It should be noted that this presentation will have little to no slide deck presentation tools. The presentation uses Digital Storytelling tools, specifically video to help engage attendees' imaginations and will rely heavily on student-created projects to illustrate key points.
1) Introduction to Digital Storytelling
This will be a listen and learn component which will introduce what a Digital Storytelling program would look like at the classroom, school, and district level. More specifically, this part of the presentation will show how Digital Storytelling fits into the STEAM curricula.
2) A District Guide- How to Implement Digital Storytelling
This component will discuss some best practices to get community buy-in by students, teachers, parents, administrators, and community leaders.
3) Leveraging Community Resources
This component will discuss common community resources every district will have and how to engage them to assist in a districts Digital Storytelling initiative.
4) Hands-on Activity
Attendees will enjoy learning how to create an engaging video in a matter of minutes using drag and drop online video editing software. The skills learned can be transferred to a variety of video editing solutions and isn’t dependent on a specific purchase.

Supporting research

(The above link was taken directly from our research at one of our improvement schools with an at-risk student population. This project reflects the success of one of our signature practices.)

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Jamie Cortz, Redlands Unified School District
Dwayne Cowles, Redlands Unified School District

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