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Discovering a Shared Purpose with Digital Stories

Discovering a Shared Purpose with Digital Stories

Written by Jennifer Woollven
May 25, 2013

I’ve been thinking a lot this year about connected learning. Wondering which principles already live in my classroom and how I might breathe life into other.

Our final project this year was to create a digital story. “Production centered” – check. After weeks of reading memoirs and various brainstorming and free write strategies students crafted their own narrative. Drafts were shared with peers for feedback and revised. That’s one for “peer-supported.” Our next step was to watch and analyze compelling digital stories. We wanted to know what made them so effective. Students produced lists and then set out in groups to create rubric guides for their own. “Academic” – done. Students’ stories were interest-powered because they chose the subject matter, which ranged from vacations, to special relationships with siblings or grandparents, to eating disorders, and one silly, but wittily written story about a hat

Students had a choice between iMovie or Mozilla Popcorn Maker, something that I was excited to try out, but had only briefly tinkered with. As we moved into the computer lab and began the task of digitizing our stories we ran into many problems that needed solving. I knew we would and I had warned students to be prepared to experience some frustration, an emotion that causes many of them to panic.

I work in a school of very fortunate students, a school that offers a plethora of opportunities in a highly competitive environment. As such, I have many students who don’t feel comfortable taking risks that might jeopardize grades. When you have mastered the rules and figured out a formula for success you certainly don’t want some crazy teacher telling you that you will have to problem solve and that failure leads to learning, especially when you only know how to equate failure to grades.

Trudging forward there was a high level of anxiety at times as files from didn’t transfer over to Popcorn Maker the way they should or or images mysteriously disappeared or moved around the timeline. But with each problem that we ran into, there was eventually a solution. Each time a student learned something new it was shared with the class and there were high-fives and exclamations of triumph as everyone benefited from this new knowledge. This individual project had become a collaborative effort in which we all had a “shared purpose.” This problem solving and celebrating was incredibly rewarding to watch as the teacher.

The last three days have been a celebration of watching students’ stories. We have laughed, squirmed, blushed, and cried as each student bares a little piece of their soul. The support and genuine compassion they have shown one another after each story has been the perfect ending to our year. Here are a few of their stories.


Digtial story created by a 10th grade student in Austin, Texas.

The Day I Caught A Dinosaur

High school student digital story.

Clean Break

Click here to watch the digital story.

Arkansas Memories

10th grade student, Austin TX

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