One of the most dynamic and exciting projects a middle school librarian can give—and easily "sold" to students in terms of engagement—is digital storytelling. On this page, you'll find a definition, different uses of digital storytelling, and lots of resources, including websites with examples.

Digital Storytelling is an exciting way to communicate, combining the ancient art of storytelling with cutting edge technology. Digital storytelling is less a medium than an approach, a way of thinking about telling stories. It's using new technologies to tell stories. Any project that involves an oral storytelling component and some type of visual technology qualifies. Everything from talking over powerpoint presentations to avant guard filmmaking falls under the umbrella of digital storytelling. There are thousands of free digital stories online, but here is an example of some digital storytelling projects, as well as a classic story re-told as a digital storytelling project, The Three Little Pigs.

Digital storytelling can be used in a variety of ways. It can used to teach some skill or knowledge set to a student; it can be used to teach a patron; it can be used for entertainment; and it can be used as a way of recording history.

Digital storytelling comes in many broad categories. Four are listed below.

Types of Digital Stories:

1. Pecha Kucha:

Directly translated, Pecha Kucha means "Chit chat." This website is a presentation structure that has grown in popularity in many different fields. The structure is simple: twenty slides, with twenty seconds of verbal description with each slide. The structure is new; the first known Pecha Kucha presentation was given in February 2003. There are now Pecha Kucha events all over the globe. The rigid structure of the format forces its presenters to be sharp and prepared. And, as is often the case, presenters are finding great freedom in the inelastic format.

2. Oral Histories.

Digital storytelling has proven to be a boon for oral historians, amateur and otherwise. Type in "Oral History digital storytelling" and over 100,000 web pages are listed. A number of websites offer advice, both technical and writerly, on how to interview, record, edit and present an oral history of someone's life, even your own. Most projects involving oral histories use the digital story as a way of teaching students how to look at, and engage with, the past. The skillset includes interviewing, editing content, and finding narratives within chunks of interviewee information.

3. How-To Videos.

The millions of how-to videos—everything from how to make a corn pancake to how to play various pop songs on a guitar—that populate much of youtube and the like are digital stories. The videos have audio and visual components; they use computer technologies; and, as often as not, they tell stories, too, although not as their primary purpose.

4. Blogs.

Some blogs are text-based, but many have multi-media components, utilizing various media, such as streaming photos, with their work. Video diaries, which are in a sense just a filmed blog, also work as digital storytelling.

Uses for Young Adult Librarians:

The digital storytelling approach offers librarians many useful tools. School librarians can use digital storytelling as a collaborative project in the classroom and promote a fun, learning atmosphere. The project—if structured correctly—hits many of the information literacy components, as well as giving students agency in their own lives. It involves writing, technology, music, and editing.

For public librarians, there are uses, too. Public librarians can use digital storytelling during story time. Simple additions to a story, music or a few images, can greatly amplify a story's impact. Also, an oral history project of a community can be a galvanizing thing, bringing people together, and forcing a community to face its past failures, and successes, while drawing together for the future.

Digital Storytelling with iPads:

Why Use iPads for Digital Storytelling?

Storytelling has changed a lot in the 21st century, because the “emergence of technology and digital media has resulted in some significant departures from the traditional role of storytelling in education: Stories have become media-rich experiences” (Gilksman, 2013, para. 1). The iPad is one electronic device that is being used for digital storytelling because, “with its built-in microphone, camera, and a host of multimedia apps, the iPad is an extraordinary tool for creating and integrating multimedia into education” (Gilksman, 2013, para. 2).

The iPad offers educators and students many apps and tools for digital storytelling, which can be used, “for creative expression, communicating information, entertaining, expressing comprehension, tutoring purposes, and much more” (Gilksman, 2013, para. 7). Some ways you could use the iPad as a tool for generating digital stories are to:

  • “Use a video or screencast (a recording of interactions on a computer or iPad display) to explain a complex scientific concept” (Gilksman, 2013, para. 8).
  • “Create an audio or video interview of your grandparents for a family history project” (Gilksman, 2013, para. 8).
  • “Create a historical narrative of a pivotal event using images and audio” (Gilksman, 2013, para. 8.
  • “Create a first-person audio journal of a person who lived during a significant event in history” (Gilksman, 2013, para. 8).
  • “Use audio podcasting to practice reading and speaking in a foreign language” (Gilksman, 2013, para. 8).
  • “Narrate a character story or a personal journal with a musical soundtrack” (Gilksman, 2013, para. 8).

There are many different types of digital storytelling apps for your iPad; such as, designing and constructing your story, adding images, videos, sounds and others, as well as, publishing your work.

“Digital Story” creator apps let you design and create your own digital flip books, stories, picture books, shows, etc. You can add illustrations (doodles, drawings, etc.), different characters, narrations, puppets, props, photos, sounds, videos, movie clips, as well as, use different layouts or backgrounds for you digital stories.

Examples of Digital Storymaking Apps:

“Audio, Video, and Photo” creator apps let you add text, backgrounds, photos, videos, and so much more to your digital stories.

Examples of Audio, Photo, and Video Making Apps:

“Comic and Graphic Novel” creator apps let you create your own comic books and graphic novels, by adding photos, speech bubbles, comic lettering, stickers, effects, and lots more. You can also choose from different page layouts and backgrounds.

Examples of Comic and Graphic Novel Making Apps:

“Publishing” apps let you create and design your own eBooks, as well as, share your stories with family, friends, teachers, classmates, etc.

Examples of Publishing Apps:

Resources and Examples:
Storycenter is a not-for-profit company that "dedicated to assisting people in using digital media to tell meaningful stories from their lives." The site has a number of examples, as well as community resources, links to other digital storytelling websites, and how-to guides.
The official website for the Pecha Kucha format. The site has some FAQs, as well as schedules of local Pecha Kucha events.
This is one of many websites/companies dedicated to providing access to technology so that people can plug in and share. The company provides free services for people to digitally record their life stories.
Iowa studio 4-H is a virtual media production club that connects youth via computers from around the state. Members learn about media production from mentors who are professionals in digital storytelling fields such as cinematography, photography, audio production, and graphic design. The site is an example of how digital storytelling is empowering youth to tell their own stories.
An interesting approach to the concept, The Y.O.U.T.H. (Youth Offering Unique Tangible Help) Training Project, is "a dynamic multi-year collaboration between current and former foster youth, social work professionals, social work training academies, foundations and others committed to the empowerment and futures of California foster youth." The site has a number of examples, and talks about how training a young person to record his/her digital story also trains them in a variety of skills, digital and otherwise.
“Don’t keep it to yourself!” : Digital storytelling with South African youth.
A good example of how digital storytelling can be used for posterity, this digital storytelling for South African youth program uses the format for oral history.In 2008, the Sonke Gender Justice Network teamed up with the Center for Digital Storytelling’s Silence Speaks initiative to work with a group of rural youth in Eastern Cape, South Africa. The results of this project are eight digital stories by young Xhosa people that capture the challenges they face and the futures they yearn for in post-apartheid South Africa.
The Welcome project is an interesting, community-empowerment approach to digital storytelling. This group trains refugees and immigrants to record their digital stories, with an emphasis on their own cultural traditions. The training process teaches young people various computer programs, as well as photography and storytelling skills. The program is six weeks long, and another example of how digital storytelling can be used to strengthen community bonds and empower young people.
Pushout is a good example of both digital storytelling and community journalism. This collaborative website is a youth-led multimedia project, where young reporters investigate why young people of color are failing to graduate form Philadelphia public schools.
Digital Storyteller is website made for educators by educators to use in the classroom. It provides a step-by-step guide, demonstrating how to fully utilize the technology and tools for students to be able to create their own stories and for teachers to provide corresponding activities to the students' stories.
Just like there are fiction and non-fiction books, there are websites dedicated to non-fiction digital storytelling as well as fiction digital storytelling. Digitales is a website that cover non-fiction storytelling and recounts not only the documentations of true events, but also the emotions and feelings of the storyteller. Digitales brings a new aspect of storytelling to life to capture the interest of viewers and intrigue a sense of exploration and fun. (Digitales also has their own wiki page.
Screenr is a wonderful tool that can be used for digital storytelling. It is a fast and easy way for students, teachers, and librarians to practice demonstrating, creating, and publishing step-by-step video instructions. Writers will be able to record their own voices while demonstrating the story through pictures, photographs, and websites.
Comicmaster is a free, easy to use tool for creating short graphic novels.
Inanimate Alice is an interactive digital graphic novel is set in the early years of the 21st century. It tells the story of Alice through text, sound, games, and music.

Sources (in addition to those listed above):

  1. Banaszewski, Tom. "Digital Storytelling Finds Its Place in the Classroom." Multimedia and Internet @ Schools. Jan, 2002.
  2. Gilksman, S. (2013). Ideas for Using iPads for Digital Storytelling. MindShift. Retrieved on November 11, 2013 from
  3. Martin, Claire. "How to tell stories, one byte at a time." The Denver Post, Jan. 2009.