Digital Storytelling 101 – Pre-Production

Last week’s blog was a quick re-introduction to digital storytelling. This week we’ll take a look at the importance of the pre-production stage.

Pre-production is basically anything you do up to the filming stage. Just like painting a room, the more work you put into the preparation, the more successful the final product will be! (Take it from me, I’ve painted a LOT of rooms!)

One of the first decisions needs to be format. What app/site will you use to create your digital story? What style will it be? There are lots of options out there. In our district, due to privacy concerns, there are certain options we can’t choose but luckily, there are still lots of choices! The choices I use on a regular basis are: Book Creator (on laptops and ipads), iMovie, Apple Clips, Green Screen, Stop Motion Animation, RSA Animate, In Plain English stykle and combinations of the above.

Can’t pick? Well, the age and experience of your students should be the first place you start. Book Creator is the simplest choice, although it can also be quite complex, depending on how you use it. iMovie, Clips and Green Screen can be used by the youngest primary students with big buddy support and by older primary students with some instruction. Like Book Creator, both iMovie and Green Screen can be used for quite sophisticated work, also.

Stop Motion Animation, RSA Animate and In Plain English are more complex and should likely be left for intermediate students. Likewise, smashing various apps or styles together is something you might want to leave for older students. See the table below for a little more guidance.

Once you’ve determined what style you and your students will use, spend some time doing research and planning or storyboarding. Basically, you want the students to think through the plot or path of their story. What will the title look like, what information will they include, who will do the talking, what will they capture in each “scene”? While students are doing this step, they can create a running list of “props” they will need to complete their project.

I usually include this planning stage in my marks for the final project. This tends to help kids realize they have to put time and effort into this stage.

Next up? The filming process, including tips and tricks for each format! Look for this post on April 2nd, after Spring Break!


Digital Storytelling 101

Humans have been telling stories for as long as we’ve been on earth. Stories to entertain, persuade, educate, inform and delight us. Stories told around the campfire, passed from generation to generation. The advent of the written word expanded the scope and audience of our stories. And the advent of digital tools and the internet has given anyone with a camera, tablet or laptop the ability to tell their stories in engaging and interesting ways.

Photo by Tomáš Malčo Malík on

The telling of stories using digital tools is called….wait for it….digital storytelling!! Digital storytelling was really big about 12 years ago. It’s never gone away but in typical fashion, other educational “trends” have come to the forefront. However, in our increasingly digital world I would argue that the ability to use various media to tell stories, whether their purpose is to entertain, educate or persuade, is a crucial skill our children need. Bonus? It’s fun and engaging!

Digital storytelling can run the gamut from a 10 second video showing one of Newton’s Laws and filmed using Apple’s Clips to a minute long Public Service Announcement about Pink Shirt Day created using video, still images and original music composed on Garageband. Kindergarten students can create documentary films about penguins, high school graduates can create multi-layered stories highlighting their skills to potential post-secondary educational institutions.

Over the next few weeks I will look at a number of tools, apps and tips that you can use to help your students tell their digital stories!