Looking for approaches for student engagement? Want to integrate digital tools and technology into assignments? Need to bring a project to life? Spice up your end of semester projects with Digital Storytelling!

Reasons for StorytellingWhy digital storytelling?

  • Digital Storytelling tells a story in a powerful way by connecting ideas, narratives, and emotion through the use of digital tools. These stories may evoke feelings, convey a message, describe experiences, or express a point of view.
  • Although digital storytelling was originally made popular in communications and creative writing courses in higher education, it has potential across diverse fields of study (Levine and Alexander, 2008McLellan, 2006).
  • Digital storytelling engages students through the use of technology, offers multiple modes of learning (e.g. visual and auditory), connects the use of technology to institutional learning, and facilitates an alternative method for student assessment (Chisholm and Trent, 2013; France and Wakefield, 2011).

How I transformed a dull project with digital storytelling:

Last spring, I was dreading with the usual PowerPoint group presentations about system-based content and disease processes. The traditional project was often presented during class with one or two slides dedicated to a “case study” patient example. I was concerned about the effectiveness for student learning and consumption of class time each week for 1-2 presentations. Often the case study was an example from the text, or a modified example from another resource.

Digital Storytelling brought these dull projects to life. Students began creating and cultivating knowledge rather than consuming the information. Students were randomly assigned to small groups of 3-4 students with one general physiological system topic selected.

The Digital Storytelling assignment was compromised of the following two parts:

  1. VoiceThread Content: Students were required to prepare a VoiceThread focused on the disease process their patient would present with. The idea was that nursing students would need to start thinking about the project early in the semester and have the knowledge and preparatory information necessary for adequate care of the patient. This portion of the assignment was due as it aligned with course content. Since students selected their topic, they were aware of and in control selecting a topic based on a due date convenient to their group members. This first portion of the assignment offered a method of assessment to content delivery and presentation using VoiceThread. In addition, it aligned with the classroom content delivered to link significance to classroom learning. The students were required to include 10 review questions in the VoiceThread, therefore many students utilized these student-developed content as exam review.

VoiceThread example DS

  1. The Story: Students were required to tell a comprehensive “case study” of a patient using any medium or digital tool of their choice. The last day of class was reserved for in-class presentations of the final Digital Story. Suggestions were made for options including audio-video recording, VoiceThread, CI Keys, Google presentations, Power Point, Storyfi, and Animoto, but ultimately the student groups could select any delivery mode they wanted. Students were empowered by having control over the creativity of the project and selecting the content delivery of choice. The guidelines were unrestrained, only requesting students present a patient with a disease process within the topic selected, including a case management issue. The students were encouraged to reflect on their prior clinical experience with patients and consider how complex a patient’s “story” can be.

The Results

The depth and creativity of the students’ projects amazed me.

Digital Storytelling Example

Digital Storytelling Example          Screenshot 2015-09-27 09.07.24


In creating these patients, students had to consider disease process, clinical presentation, associated lab values, and appropriate interventions and medications. The transition from flat lifeless presentations to Digital Storytelling was like going from black and white TV to color. The engagement and effort in this project was so much more than a shallow review of the content in text.

Imaging your next assignment or project. Ask students to step into the content, engage them in the experience, excite them with the integration of digital tools, and provide deeper learning. Digital storytelling may be a solution to enliven your student projects.

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