Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Developing Literacies through Digital Stories


All students must obtain basic literacies in fundamental areas to succeed in college. Students have often found this task tedious, resulting in lack of engagement and motivation. This session takes a look at redefining the way students meet basic literacies through digital stories. This approach increases student engagement while leveraging social negotiation and self-reflection to create a learning community. This approach can be implemented in a wide variety of disciplines and settings. This blog post describes the theories behind the use of Digital Storytelling in Education. For information on tools that can be used for Digital Storytelling, view my previous post Digital Storytelling Toolbox.

What is DST?

Digital storytelling is simply the use of digital tools to tell stories. If you want your students to engage in digital storytelling, you need to have them use digital tools to convey stories. Stories can be fictional or non-fiction and range in subject matter.

The Narrative Arc

A key component to creating quality digital stories is understanding the progression of a story. Students should learn and understand the narrative arc, which is the stories’ journey from beginning to end and how it gets there. Every story should have a character, a challenge, and a resolution.



Several theories create the basis for the use of DST in courses. Constructivism plays a central role in the pedagogy for DST. Constructivism's ideals of learners constructing their own knowledge through exploration of a chosen topic is a core facet of DST. Students will naturally see connections between what they are learning and why, because the final product is something that they have created.

Multiple Intelligences

The many faces of MI can be reflected through each individual student’s approach to DST. DST allows a student to learn and create a story in a way that enhances their MI.  As Ohler states, “Most of Gardner’s intelligences, from the linguistic and the musical to the kinesthetic and intrapersonal, are important in digital stories if we understand how to teach DST effectively.” A student who is strong in Musical-Rhythmic may choose to create a DST in the form of a song. A Bodily-Kinesthetic student may choose to record their observations and daily movements to create a story about their daily life or activities. Interpersonal intelligence through journalistic and documentary DSTs that required interviewing skills.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

DST naturally draws from Bloom's taxonomy through a character's progression throughout a story. Bloom's (1964) Taxonomy of cognitive processes proposes levels of transformation in regards to how we learn, or how a character learns through a story. Bloom's taxonomy of affective domain proposes levels of transformation in emotions and feelings, which can also be applied to characters within a story. So while you are using Bloom's taxonomy to gauge student progression, you can also use it to prompt discussion of character and story progression.


Ohler, Jason (2008). Digital storytelling in the classroom: New media pathways to literacy, learning, and creativity. Corwin Press.

Reigeluth, C. M. (1983). Instructional design theories and models: An overview of their current status. Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc. Inc.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

KompoZer a Dreamweaver Alternative

As I previously mentioned, I have recently found myself relocated and in a new position. Along with this came all of the expectation that I know my way around HTML and other such things. The downfall is that I have always worked with HTML in Adobe Dreamweaver, which I adore. Due to the completely new position and new computer, the fantastic (and expensive) Dreamweaver was not installed. I was handed a Microsoft Word syllabus and asked to create it in HTML so that it could later be copy/pasted into Blackboard. I found myself with the "What to do?" question repeated in my mind.

Sure, I had the capability to compose the entire thing in Notepad by hand. Or use Microsoft to develop a garbled HTML that I would then have to clean up in Notepad. Lucky for me, I am a master Googler and a proponent of all open-source and free tools! Surely, I could find a Dreamweaver alternative! I found several options, but one in particular seemed to appeal to me, KompoZer.

Perhaps I am a sucker for a well-designed website, but KompoZer had several key features that I was looking for.

  1. Free and open-source software
  2. FTP site manager
  3. Color picker
  4. Tabs for multiple HTML documents
  5. CSS editor
  6. Automated Spellchecker
The WYSIWYG editor is fairly straight-forward and clean. The only downside is that you either have to be in the "Source" tab or the "Preview" tab, there is no split-screen option. Not too bad of a compromise for a free option though, all things said. Some screenshots of the tab with some HTML I pulled from my website are below.

Preview View
Source View

Since I am using it for some pretty basic functions, it has served me well. I still have Dreamweaver on my personal computer, but it seems that I will be keeping KompoZer around on my work computer for now. It's hard to justify the money that would be spent to buy Dreamweaver when a free and workable solution is currently in use especially after a recent request for Adobe Production Premium CS6. I might put KompoZer through its paces soon in redesigning my personal website, so keep watch for an updated review on this software.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Online Course Delivery: What platform should you use?

I have always been a proponent of the idea of using "technology as a means to an end, rather than the end itself." After a recent job change which prompted an LMS switch from Moodle to Blackboard (yes, I have gone over to the dark side), I found myself asking the question, "What platform should you use for online course delivery?" I began comparing the features and layout of Moodle to Blackboard. Should I have been asking this question at all? Well... let's not get ahead of ourselves too much. First, my musings from the question.

Moodle LMS

As many know, Moodle is a LMS that is open-sourced and created from the student perspective. By keeping this key philosophy in mind, Moodle has stamped out a place in the world of accessibility and ease of use for students. However, this can create a disadvantage for faculty members creating a course (f-2-f, hybrid, or online). Many improvements have been made with the recent release of Moodle 2.x that improves usability. Some notable improvements are: drag&drop, navigation block, activity chooser. The new file structure has thrown many veteran Moodle users for a loop, as it completely changes the way they approach building a course. I must say that I am a fan of the new file structure, as it increases security of files, reliability of course backups, and stays consistent with Moodle's student-centric philosophy. If a file is meant to be part of a course, put it in the course where it should be! The overall layout of a Moodle course is fairly straightforward. Moodle 2.x allows different middle sections (topics/weeks) to be displayed on separate pages is desired. These sections appear as navigation options in the navigation menu. That is the setup I took, which is shown in the screenshot below. Each of these sections or "weeks" as I name them, expand to display that week's work.

In my previous life, I was a Moodle Administrator. I was supported by another Network Administrator (who I swear had a magic wand!) who handled the majority of the back-end technical details such as server issues. My main responsibility was user support and heading off technical problems that arose. It took me at least three months to feel confident in my Moodle capabilities, which is a pretty steep learning curve for a tech person. Now granted, I had never been exposed to Moodle before that AND I was dabbling in learning from an administrator perspective rather than a faculty perspective. I could  probably cut the learning curve time down to one month for a typical faculty member to be well versed if I account for all of that. From the student perspective, I would have to say that it would only take 1 day to understand Moodle due to it's ideals of transparency.

Blackboard LMS

Blackboard... oh how you have already begun to warp my mind. Blackboard Learn is the platform that I have recently switched to. As many of you know, Blackboard is a tried and true LMS that has attempted to create a monopoly of the market. Many buy into the franchise, while many others throw up their hands in dismay. I'm fairly impartial, as I'm not writing the check for the LMS or responsible for the administration. Blackboard was created from a teacher-centric philosophy. The LMS is extremely intuitive for faculty members in the creation of their courses. I had dabbled in it for an internship during my undergrad, and have rarely looked at it since. After an afternoon of training, I feel pretty comfortable with my knowledge of course creation. For a first time user without any LMS background, I would put the learning curve at about 2 weeks for a faculty member. Student learning curve? Now that is a good question... The screenshot below is from coursesites.com where you can create a course using the newest version of Blackboard Learn. This one is fairly easy to navigate, but I don't see any one area that contains all the information needed by students. They are tasked with jumping from chapter material to discussion forums and so on.

There is the ability to have folders inside of folders that sometimes contain folders! The maze of things for students can quickly spiral out of control. Not to mention the navigation between different weeks is often not broken up into separate menu buttons. The one benefit for students is that once they successfully complete one online course (with likely much pain in figuring things out) all others will immediately make sense and be a breeze. I could quickly see how these layers both make sense from a faculty perspective but could cause confusion for students who are unfamiliar with the LMS.


Canvas? Google Sites? Blogs?

After musing about the differences between Moodle and Blackboard, I was lucky enough to have a sister who was considering using Google Sites to deliver her Summer online course for University of Southern Indiana (USI). I had previously worked with her on delivering the entire course through her Blog. USI currently uses Blackboard, and she is not a fan of the LMS, so we have continuously pushed the boundaries in thinking about how she could deliver the online course. This made me come full circle in realizing that the platform used to deliver the online course is relatively irrelevant. Whether you use Moodle, Blackboard, Canvas, Google Sites, Blog, or any other platform that you can think of, there will always be some type of learning curve for both the faculty member and the students. The important thing to consider is what you are wanting to accomplish.

Once you know how you would like the course to function and progress, then it is easy to figure out which tool will work best for you. I had forgotten my own mantra, "Technology as a means to an end, rather than the end itself." This made me realize how quickly we can get wrapped up in the differences in technology, rather than exploring and pushing boundaries on course delivery and course content. I would encourage you to keep pushing boundaries and exploring new ways of delivering information to your students. As long as you are transparent in how the course is set up and should progress, students will surprise you in how adaptable they are to technology.

I will be posting in the next few days about the way my sister and I went about using Google Sites to deliver her course.

Happy eLearning!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Digital Storytelling Toolbox

Digital Stories are created through the use of audio, images, video, and text. The first three categories (audio, images, video) are presented below.  A multitude of digital tools exist for creating and manipulating media into stories. With that fact in mind, we have chosen our favorite digital tools that we believe will be useful for a novice or expert storyteller.


Audio is often thought of in terms of how it can enhance other forms of digital media to create a story. However, a well recorded audio story can be as effective as other DST formats when creative correctly. Audio stories are typically shared in the form of a podcast, or on one of the two platforms described below. Since audio stories often require manipulation of multiple recordings, an audio editing program is also provided.
  • Audacity 2.0.2 - a free, open source audio editing program that allows users to edit multiple layers of audio easily and quickly. The lame_mp3 plugin allows audacity to export MP3 files. Listen to Saving a Tree, an audio story created with Audacity.
  • iTunes U - a platform for students and educators to share their audio stories. iTunes can be used from a computer or mobile device that has the iTunes U app installed.
  • SoundCloud - a platform that allows users to share their audio stories that also allows listeners to embed comments for others to view within the track. Listen to Haleye Fox's Story Project, an audio story posted on SoundCloud.


A collection or series of images can be used to express meaning and create a story.
  • Flickr - image hosting website that allows users to create collections of images to tell a story. View Gender Miscommunication, an image story posted on Flickr.
  • Pixlr - a free online photo editor that will allow students to manipulate images for their digital stories


Videos can tell stories by themselves, as well as through the incorporation of additional text, audio, and images.

Social Media

Many of the tools mentioned could be classified as social media. There are a few platforms that incorporate media from all categories, which are explained below.
  • Twitter - a micro-blogging social media platform that allows users to upload images, link to videos, and link to websites. Students can use Twitter for digital storytelling in two different ways:
    1. collaboratively through a common hashtag. Invading Earth is a record of a hashtag story.
    2. By creating a Twitter account specifically for the the purpose of the story. William Grudgings is a Twitter profile story.
  • Facebook - allows students to tell stories through the posting of images, videos, and text descriptions. The new Facebook timeline has enhanced the visual representation of these stories in a chronological fashion, thus making each individual’s Facebook page the digital story of their life. Anne Frank of Facebook is an example of a historical use of a Facebook story.
  • Storify - allows students to tell stories through social media via Tweets, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, and other social media. Storify pulls this information into one cohesive page. Wichita Firefighters Rescue a Dog from a Swollen Creek is an example of a Storify story.
  • Tumblr - a blogging platform that allows users to post images, videos, text, links, and quotes. Users can create individual blogs or collaborate on one blog. I Could Be Trayvon is an example of a collaborative Tumblr story.
  • VoiceThread - a collaborate slideshow that uses images, documents, videos, and audio. Users can comment on slides using text, video, audio, and can draw on video slides through a comment. Conversations in the cloud is an example of a VoiceThread story.
  • Prezi - a nonlinear presentation program that allows the incorporation of images, videos, text, and audio. While Prezi provides a “blank canvas” for users to create on and viewers to explore, a bath can be created for a viewer to follow. Almost Midnight is an example of a self-directed Prezi story.