Watch, Listen, and Learn: Using Digital Stories in the Business Communication Classroom*

As many of you may have discovered, assigning digital stories to students is a great way to encourage them to engage with material and reflect on issues, ideas, or personal experiences. However, instructors can also create digital stories to

  • Make abstract concepts more concrete
  • Appeal to multiple learning styles
  • Add interest to an assignment, discussion, or lecture

A digital story integrates voice, images, sounds, and music. Unlike other digital material that presents the facts of a case, illustrates a principle, or explains the steps of a process,  a digital story is just that—a story. As such, it should be a narrative with a distinct point of view, dramatic question, emotional content, and narrator’s voice. In addition, a digital story should be short, usually 3 – 5 minutes.1

Creating a digital story is simple, and you likely already have the technology available. Though there are many possibilities, I use the following tools to create my digital stories:

  • Windows® Movie Maker (Camtasia works, too, though there is a cost; Movie Maker was already on my computer in the
    All Programs >> Accessories menu)
  • PowerPoint
  • Audio recorder such as Audacity/LAME
  • A photo editor such as Photoshop, Picnik, or Picasa
  • Still photos
  • Music
  • Microphone
  • Digital camera
  • Scanner
  • A script of the story. The script should accompany the digital story to comply with Americans with Disabilities requirements for course materials.

As you create and gather your materials, be sure to respect copyright laws and intellectual property rights as you use photos and music.

Once you’ve created your digital story, you can use it in your course in several ways:

  • Lecture material
  • Discussion board topic
  • Case or writing prompt

Sound interesting?  The time it takes to create a story depends on many factors. If you have ready photos or an idea of the music you want to use, creating the story may take only a few hours. More likely, though, a good story will take a day (or three) as you polish and perfect your work. Here are a few links to some resources that you may find helpful as you create your stories.

Digital stories are great fun to create, and students respond well to them. Try your hand at creating one. As always, if you have tips, tricks, or suggestions, be sure to share them here.

1Source:  Lambert, Joe. Digital Storytelling Cookbook. Berkley: Center for Digital Storytelling, 2006. Print.

*Presented by Paula Lentz at the  International Meeting of the Association for Business Communication, 29 Oct., 2010, Chicago, IL

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