Ideas for Using iPads for Digital Storytelling

Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

This article is more than 9 years old.


By Sam Gliksman

The following is the first of a series of excerpts from Gliksman's book iPad in Education for Dummies.

The digital aspect of storytelling raises the art to a new level of experience. The emergence of technology and digital media has resulted in some significant departures from the traditional role of storytelling in education: Stories have become media-rich experiences. Billions of mobile devices are in the hands of people worldwide, and an ever-increasing percentage of those devices contain video cameras, still cameras, and microphones. Whenever anything of personal significance happens, it can be captured and chronicled in digital media that we edit, process, and publish. Within minutes, that moment is available to friends and family around the world. Media has become the language of today.

Reading and writing remain crucial educational components. However, if you want to prepare students for life in 21st-century society, it’s essential to help them develop and use a broad range of communication skills. Schools have begun to recognize the importance of multimedia use in education. Fortunately, with its built-in microphone, camera, and a host of multimedia apps, the iPad is an extraordinary tool for  creating and integrating multimedia into education.

When you think of storytelling from a traditional perspective, you might conjure up any of these images of Danny Kaye telling a story to a group of children seated on the ground; a kindergarten teacher reading a book to a group of young students; a parent reading a bedtime story to a child. The common thread is the clarity of role definition: The adult tells the story, and the child listens; the teacher imparts knowledge, and the students listen and learn. (That’s the theory, anyway.) All those images show a clear relationship between adult and child, expert and learner, craftsman and apprentice.


Then we reached the information age. Technology is expanding knowledge at accelerating rates. Passively absorbing information that is then regurgitated can’t pass for learning any longer in the information age. Students must develop the skills necessary to constantly learn by searching for, interpreting, and analyzing information, and then applying what they’ve learned to real-world
problems throughout life.

Students are becoming producers of knowledge: digital storytellers who use technology to express themselves. And it’s a role that’s become an integral part of their lives outside school. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and more. . . technology has turned everyone into a story producer in one form or another.

Students traditionally produced a product for an audience of one: their teacher. Thanks to the Internet and the power of social networking, those digital stories can now be shared worldwide in an instant. Producers of a digital story today can communicate with people and communities anywhere around the globe through the power of a device — such as an iPad — that they hold in their hands.

If you own an iPad, you have access to a host of apps and tools for creating digital stories. Use them for creative expression, communicating information, entertaining, expressing comprehension, tutoring purposes, and much more. Here are just
a few ideas:

  Create a narrated slide-show story to demonstrate the understanding of new vocabulary.
  Use a video or screencast (a recording of interactions on a computer or iPad display) to explain a complex scientific concept.
  Create an audio or video interview of your grandparents for a family history project.
  Create a historical narrative of a pivotal event using images and audio.
  Create a first-person audio journal of a person who lived during a significant event in history.
  Explain a mathematical concept by creating a screencast tutorial.
  Use audio podcasting to practice reading and speaking in a foreign language.
  Demonstrate a portfolio of work with personal narrative describing each piece, its objectives, and development.
  Narrate a character story or a personal journal with a musical soundtrack.

Digital storytelling makes for engaging lessons that allow students to create and publish content rather than just passively consuming it. It empowers every student with the opportunity to develop his voice and personalize it through the use of media.

Throw away that lesson plan that calls for students to “read Chapter 5 and answer questions.” You have a wide variety of options for applying digital storytelling to your curriculum. I discuss a few of them in the next few chapters.

Excerpted with permission from the publisher, Wiley, from iPad in Education For Dummies by Sam Gliksman. Copyright © 2013.