Thing 6: Digital Storytelling

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Our scissors are now digital
CC by pollyalida

Our next topic is Digital Storytelling. In the past this topic was combined with Presentation Tools, since the two topics are so intertwined. After all, giving an effective presentation is really all about good storytelling.

But the lessons were getting far too long and there are so many great tools to explore, so this gives you a chance to do 2 separate lessons instead of cramming it all into 1 lesson.  Keep in mind that there’s still lots of overlap in the tools in these two lessons.

For a great introduction to why storytelling is important, check out this excellent and quick read: 6 Reasons You Should Be Doing Digital Storytelling with Your Students

HELP! There’s a lot of information on this lesson page. Don’t let it intimidate you! Look at a few examples and play with a couple of the tools. You don’t have to look at every tool and resource listed. We just wanted to provide a wide variety of resources to meet all interests.

TIP: To test out multiple tools in a hurry, gather together 5-10 of your own photos and use them over and over. That way you can focus on how the tools work, rather than worrying about the perfect photos and the perfect storyline.


Some of the more popular tools with examples and ideas that can be used at a variety of grade levels and for a range of purposes.

Photo Based

These photo based tools let you and your students create short videos out of your slides. Some include options for words/captions and music. A fun project for an art class, create a video representing how you feel about a book or movie, share an adventure, tell a story.

  • Sharalike – (NOTE: as of Feb 2019, this service seems to be broken. Leaving it on the list, in case it comes back up.) Upload your photos and videos to create a slideshow. Choose from a limited number of slide show styles and transitions speeds. Music can also be added. Key feature is it’s simplicity. Free.  (iPad, Android, Web)  Example: Finland
  • Animoto – (apply for education free education account) Animoto is an easy to use tool to create photo & music video stories. Upload your photos, arrange the order, select a piece of music and let Animoto do its magic. You’ll have a great video slide show with slick transitions and effects synced to the beat of the music. Special accounts for educators. Examples: Polar Bears – 2nd grade animoto Celebrating Dr. Seuss on Read Across America Day at Van Meter!
  • Photopeach – Similar to Animoto, upload photos, add text and music. Can also include quizzes inside the video. Examples: Opposites – present a class assignment. Identify the Places incorporates a simple quiz.

Visual Storytelling – Photos, Text & More

  • Adobe Spark –  This has grown into an amazing tool. Definitely one to explore. Free and premium accounts. Web-based and iOS options. Note that Spark replaces and incorporates earlier services: Slate, Post and Voice.
    • Create an image with words and photos – a poster, a quote, an advertisment, etc.
    • Create a web page with images, video, text, links to other sites (using the “button” option) and more – use this to tell a story, create a timeline, present research process and results and more.
    • Create a video with images, text, video clips, add music and voiceovers.  Adobe Spark for Education was designed with educators in mind. Read more about this from Monica Burns, an educator and huge fan of Spark. She has lots of great tips on her site.
    • Examples:
      • BGS Teacher Talk – A newsletter created with Adobe Spark by @bgsteachbetter
      • The Garden – My test of Spark. Easy to search for photos within the tool and it automatically credits the photos at the end
      • Example video created during a teacher workshop.
  • Microsoft Sway – Microsoft’s entry into the digital publishing/visual storytelling realm. “Create and share interactive reports, presentations, personal stories, and more.” Lots of options, a little bit daunting at first. Start from scratch or import from PowerPoint, Word or PDF. Create on the Web, Windows 10 and iOS. Probably not for elementary school students.
  • Sutori – (Formerly called Hstry) Free and Premium plans. Create a web page with images and text. Format is perfect for a timeline presentation, but can be used for anything that needs to be presented sequentially. Teachers can add students via Google Classroom or through a classroom code. Even with the free plan, there’s a nice interface for managing your students and viewing their work. Students join with their own email addresses and then use the code to join your classroom. Students can collaborate on stories and teachers can leave feedback on the stories. Includes a great collection of ideas for using Sutori in different subject areas. With the $100/year Unlimited plan you can add video, audio, quizzes and more. 30 day free trial of Unlimited plan. If you love the tool, you can apply to be a Sutori Storyteller and get a year’s free trial.
  • ExposureSteller – These tools provide templates and design options to help you easily create beautifully laid out stories with photos and text.
    Use these for student presentations, creative writing, photo stories, newsletters and more.

    • Exposure – web-based only, with 3 free stories.
    • Steller – iOS and Android. No web interface.

Explainer Tools


Special Purpose

Tools, tips and Resources


Finding Media: Searching for photos and music can take a lot of work, especially if you’re preparing an important presentation and are looking for just the right image to convey your message. Listed below are some tools to help you find media for presentations. The best way to find photos you can legally reuse, is to search for Creative Commons licensed images. Some image search tools have a way to limit your search to CC licensed content.

  • IMPORTANT: Check for licensing terms of any photo you download. You’ll need to keep track of where you got the photo to give it proper credit.

Creative Commons Images and Sound

  • Photos for Class – Age appropriate images, Creative Commons. The downloaded images include the citation, very handy feature.
  • LibreStock – a meta search engine for 47 sites that have Creative Commons 0  licensed images. (that means you can do anything you want with the images!)
  • Pixabay – My first stop for photo searching. All images are CC0 licensed, free to use.
  • Pexels, Pikwizard and Unsplash – 3 more CCO image sources
  • Gender Spectrum Collection – “The Gender Spectrum Collection is a stock photo library featuring images of trans and non-binary models that go beyond the clichés. This collection aims to help media better represent members of these communities as people not necessarily defined by their gender identities—people with careers, relationships, talents, passions, and home lives.”
  • CC search – search for images, video and music from one search page. Handy!
  • Creative Commons Edshelf – Image, music and video sources.
  • NYPL Public Domain Collection – Over 180,000 digitized items now in the public domain. Great resource!
  • Sample Focus – Easy to search for sound files.


This learning activity is easy, fun and very flexible!

Basic AND Advanced Activity!

  • Step 1: Pick a tool, any tool and create a photo-video show, a story, an animated cartoon or whatever you’d like to share with us.
  • Step 2: Write a blog post about the tools you explored, how you might use them in your library and school, share other ideas and thought.
  • Step 3: Link to your project: either post a link to your project in the blog post OR embed it in the blog post if the tool you chose has that feature available.


  • Write & publish your blog post.
  • Copy the URL (webpage address) for your post.
  • Return to your Google Classroom, find the assignment page for the lesson you just completed and follow the directions for turning in and sharing your work.

*Only for students participating in the workshop for PD credit hours through the Google Classroom.

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