Digital Storytelling

“Digital storytelling refers to a short form of digital media production that allows everyday people to share aspects of their life story. “Media” may include the digital equivalent of film techniques (full-motion video with sound), animation, stills, audio only, or any of the other forms of non-physical media (material that exists only as electronic files as opposed to actual paintings or photographs on paper, sounds stored on tape or disc, movies stored on film) which individuals can use to tell a story or present an idea.” (Wikipedia)

Here’s a great article to get you started with digital storytelling in your own classroom: 8 Steps to Great Digital Storytelling.

… and here are some tools that you can use to start telling your own digital stories. Note that this is far from an exhaustive list. For more tools check out this wiki: 50+ ways to tell a digital story.


Storybird lets you create web-based and printed books using a gallery of high-quality artwork. Books can be embedded on a website, downloaded as PDF files or ordered as hard-cover books from the company. Creating web-based books is free, and teachers can use a built-in classroom management tool to create anonymous usernames and passwords on behalf of their students.

Note that only teacher accounts can embed books, so you’ll want to sign up for one before you get started. You can do that by filling out this quick and easy registration form.

Pic Lits

Pic Lits is a simple image captioning program that is useful for creating simple one image stories with your students. You can use a pre-set list of words to drag and drop captions onto a series of pre-selected photos. Great for practicing ESL and ELL. lets you create comic-style bubbles on top of images and then save them to your computer. It’s probably the simplest tool on this list, and it doesn’t require you to register for an account.



Kerpoof is a web-based storytelling tool that lets you create “comic book” style stories. You can view your stories online, print them out and author your stories with a fairly large library of free characters and backgrounds. Kerpoof also allows you to create short animated movies and greeting cards. Teachers can requests access to a classroom management tool to create accounts on behalf of their students.

Sample Kerpoof movie: Panda vs. Bunny


ZooBurst is a digital storytelling tool that lets anyone create their own 3D pop-up books. Books can be viewed online, embedded on your website or experienced in Augmented Reality. The site offers a basic user account that lets you create up to 10 3D pop-up books that can be viewed online and embedded onto your own website or blog. In addition, ZooBurst offers a paid premium account that allows you to set up accounts on behalf of your students, record audio into your books as well as access member only content, such as holiday-themed templates.


Prezi is a “zooming” presentation tool that lets you organize text, images and video in a fun, flowing way. Prezis can be viewed online and embedded onto your website or blog.

Example Prezi: Alice in Wonderland


Create your own 3D animated movies by writing your own script and “directing” a series of virtual characters.

Example movie: Danka’s Debrief

Zimmer Twins

Zimmer Twins is a fun video creation website that lets you create simple movies using pre-rendered cartoon footage. Students can construct timelines that use a wide range of scenes that can be customized with their own text. Stories can be published online and linked from your website or blog.

Example: Prime Numbers


iStopMotion is a desktop based tool that lets you take a series of “snapshots” to construct a stop motion animation. The package is not free, but a single license starts at $12.99 on the Mac App Store. Stop Motion animation is time consuming, but the end result can be pretty spectacular. Here are a few examples:

The Arctic Race

The Arctic Race from Elif Atali on Vimeo.


An extremely simple slideshow tool that lets you make professional looking videos out of your own digital photographs. Their free version lets you make 30 second videos, but you can upgrade to their premium package to construct longer projects.


Audacity for Editing Digital Audio

Audacity is an audio editing program that allows you to record, mix, and add special effects to your sound files. It is completely open-source, and is available at Here’s how you can get started with a new audacity project:

  1. Open up Audacity. A screen simliar to the following will appear:Audacity startup screenAudacity startup screen
  2. Make sure that you have a microphone installed. You can use the built-in microphone on your laptop if need be, but a USB powered external microphone will really help to make your audio come out crisp and clear.
  3. Click on the record button (#1) and begin speaking. A waveform will begin to appear (#2) as your voice is detected by the microphone.
  4. Click on the stop button (#3) in order to stop the recording.
  5. Click the rewind button (#4) and play button (#5) to listen to your recording.
  6. To trim your recording make sure that the selection tool is clicked (#6) – then highlight the portion of the audio that you would like to cut. Click on Edit->Cut to extract the selected area.
  7. To record a second clip, click the record button (#2) – a second waveform will appear beneath the first.
  8. To reposition a clip, click on the slider tool (#7) and slide the desired clip back and forth.
  9. Using the volume adjustment tool (#8) you can increase or decrease the volume of a specific clip.
  10. Your can import other audio files (WAV, MP3) by clicking on Project -> Import Audio. The audio file will appear as a new waveform. Here is a small collection of sound effect files to get you started.
  11. You can also apply special effects to your audio clips – this can be accomplished by selecting a portion of a clip using the selection tool (#6) and then using the Effect menu.
  12. When you are finished working on your clip you should save your project by clicking on File -> Save.
  13. You can export your project as an MP3 file by clicking on File -> Export as MP3. Note that Audacity does not come pre-loaded with MP3 export capabilities – you can add this feature into the system by installing the free LAME MP3 Conversion Library (available here).

With your newly created MP3 file you can create a soundtrack to a video, remix a song or even create your own podcast.

Audio Slideshows

Podomatic Minicast

A “minicast” is a short audio visual experience that you can build using your own images and sound file. Minicasts can be linked or embedded from your blog. Here’s an example:

Sample Podomatic Minicast

Animoto Slideshow

Animoto slideshows are slick looking image slideshows that put your pictures to music. The free version of the site lets you build 30 second slideshows – you can construct longer ones if you upgrade to their premium service.



Try our slideshow maker at Animoto.



Create a Podcast using your blog

You can create a podcast using your WordPress blog by doing the following:

  • Create a post for each episode you wish to publish
  • Attach your audio file (mp3 format) to each post using the “Add Media” button when writing the post
  • Distribute your blog’s “feed” address to people who want to subscribe to your podcast.  You can get your feed address by adding the suffix “/feed” to your blog’s address. For example, if your address is “” your feed address would be “”
  • Uses can subscribe to your podcast by opening up their podcasting software and pasting in your feed address.  For example, in iTunes you can click on File -> Subscribe to Podcast and then past in the feed address to subscribe.

Create a Podcast using Podomatic

It’s sometimes easier (and cleaner) to use an external service to host your podcast.  A nice free one is Podomatic which lets you upload your mp3 files to their service – they will then create a podcast for you and give you your own feed address.  You can distribute your feed address to let people subscribe to your site, and you can also embed your podcast onto your blog (see below)

Basic Photo Editing Software that Runs in Your Browser

Pixlr is a Chrome extension that lets you perform basic image manipulation tasks from within your browser.  It emulates many of the powerful features that are available via commercial packages such as Adobe Photoshop.

You can install Pixlr by clicking here.

Note that Pixlr requires Flash, which means it won’t run on an iPad.  However, iPads have a ton of photo editing alternatives (just search for “edit photo” in the App Store!)

Once Pixlr is installed you can launch it by opening a new tab in Chrome.  It will appear as a tile on the page (see below)



When Pixlr launches you can open up a file by using File -> Open.  Here are some common editing tasks that you will probably want to try using the software.

Resizing Large Images

  • Open a file
  • Click on Image -> Image Size
  • Type in a new set of pixel values (for your blog you probably want to keep your images between 600 and 1000 pixels wide)
  • Save your image (File -> Save).  Note that the JPEG format should be used for photographs and the PNG format should be used for diagrams & cartoons.  PNGs should also be used for images that should include transparent regions.

Cropping an Image

  • Open a file
  • Click on the crop tool (looks like two right angles)
  • Select the region of the image you wish to keep
  • Double click to accept the region – the rest of the image will be removed
  • Save the image

Rotating an Image

  • Open a file
  • Click on Image -> Rotate Canvas
  • Save the image

Adjusting Color Levels

  • Open a file
  • Click on Adjustment -> Levels
  • A graph will appear that shows the distribution of color in your image. Drag the handles below the graph so that they are at either edge of the graph (see below)2013-07-12_0449



Photosynth is a website that lets you create your own 3D “walkthroughs” of a space by uploading any number of “flat” digital images. For example, here is a walkthrough that lets you experience what it’s like to be on the roof of Bellver International College in Mallorca, Spain (we created this during the summer 2010 version of this course):

It’s easy to get started with Photosynth – just visit and sign up for a free Microsoft account. From there you will need to download a free Photosynth plugin which only works on PCs (sorry Mac users :( ). You can then upload your photos to the site and watch as your own 3D walkthrough comes to life! Once finished, Photosynths can be embedded on your website or blog.

Photosynth also has a mobile application – just search for Pyhotosynth on the iTunes app store or on Google Play.  The mobile app is incredibly useful for creating panorama images of a space.  Here’s an example panorama that I took back in Pennsylvania before I left for Mallorca.  Click on the picture to expand it!


Clipping out an image from its background

ClippingMagic is an amazing site that can be used to extract a portion of an image from its background.  To get started simply visit their site ( and upload an image.  From there, use the interface to select what you want to keep (green + button) and what you want to remove (red – button) – the program will then remove the desired pixels and give you an image with a transparent region (the checkerboard pattern on the image on the right indicates transparency)

Screen Shot 2013-07-12 at 5.02.12 AM



I believe that some of you are working on developing a website for your final project — if so, you might want to check out Weebly. Weebly is a website publishing tool that is simliar to WordPress.  Here’s a quick overview of what can be done with the site:

I have to admit, it’s pretty cool.  The site has a ton of bells and whistles, and publishing a page is more or less handled via a series of simple drag and drop elements.  Here’s a quick site that I set up in about 10 minutes:

One feature that I really like about Weebly is its ability to publish your site to your own customized domain if it available (for example, is actually available, and I could reserve it via Weebly for $39.95 per year – much cheaper than if I was to purchase it outright through a traditional web hosting provider)

You can sign up for a free education site by going here: