Digital Storytelling 101: How Kids Can Use Technology To Tell Their Story Online

by , 01/06/11


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In this brave new world of gadgets our children are growing up more technologically savvy than we’ll ever hope to be — if you’ve ever seen a two-year-old working an iPhone you know what we mean. Why not foster your kid’s creativity, help them learn to express themselves, and develop technological literacy by teaching them to create their own media instead of simply consuming it? Getting your kids involved in the right kind of technology early on can help them step into this new age on the right foot. Have relatives or friends that live too far to visit or talk to regularly? Start a blog or a vlog with your kids and help them tell their stories online. Read on for some tips to get you started!

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1. How to connect your kids with their writing voice

Kids’ minds are an endless source of clever and creative ideas. But with all those thoughts running around in their heads, it’s important to help kids find a way to channel their ideas into words so they can tell their stories to the world. While technology serves as an outstanding tool for learning and sharing stories, there’s still something about handwriting that helps us all get in touch with our inner voices. With any of these Penreader apps, your kids have the opportunity to actually hand-write their tales, while simultaneously documenting them virtually. Paired with a pen tablet or using a mouse in full screen mode, the PenReader app allows the natural fluidity of writing to take over; the app will recognize and convert each sentence your child writes into text on the screen, preparing your kids’ stories for online publishing.

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2. How to publish: ways to create a platform to share stories

Once you’ve got the creative juices flowing and your kids are producing our next generation of classics, it’s time to determine which platform is a good fit to share their stories. The fun thing about blogging is that there are endless sites that can easily get you and your kids started, with simple formats and easy-to-edit options. If you’re new to blogging, start them out with Blogger or Weebly which will both host your storytelling site for free, while providing user-friendly instructions along the set-up process. As your kids’ talents develop, you can upgrade to WordPress, which opens up more possibilities for the design and personalization of their storytelling platform, and allows them to use their own website domain.

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3. How to Promote Your Kids’ Stories

When your kids are comfortable with their stories and the blogs they have developed, social media can serve as an incredible way to help their fiction and/or non-fiction tales go viral. Through postings on Facebook and Twitter, you can move your kids’ stories around the globe quickly. In addition, various websites host writing contests and post the winning stories, giving young authors a chance at more online recognition. Check out Kids Write the Site or KidPub for ways to enter your kids’ favorite stories into a contest that could be the beginning of their future career in writing.

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4. How to start a video blog: find a recording device

Vlogging — video blogging — is also a great way to get your kid’s story out on the web, and most blogging platforms make it a snap to showcase your YouTube or Vimeo video clips. Luckily, recording videos these days is so simple anyone can do it. If you’ve got a phone or a computer, chances are you’re already set up to capture moving images — and in some cases to edit them. All Apple computers come with editing software — if you don’t have access to any software, nifty gadgets like the Flip Cam are easy enough even for kids to use. The iPhone, all Blackberry’s and the Droid come ready to shoot in high-definition and post videos with the click of a button. Remember this before you head out to purchase the most impressive HD camera on the market; most people that are “internet famous” shot their 15 seconds of fame on a phone or a flip cam, therefore, so can you and your kids. Unless you’re planning to be the next Scorsese, step away from the expensive equipment.

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5. Video Editing Tips: Be Concise

The most important thing to remember in this age of 15-second commercials is that short is most definitely sweet. Even if you and your three-year-old are making a video to show Grandma your latest batch of sugar cookies, a rambling toddler can get old after a minute or so — so don’t be afraid to cut. The Splice app for iPhone (shown above) allows you to do just that. You can also add music from your iTunes library, and its simple block design will be easy for your kids to understand. With apps like this one you can grab video from anywhere (a hay ride, a ski trip or even a school play), edit together the best parts, create a soundtrack, and post a finished video to the web in minutes.

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6. Video capturing tips: slow and steady wins the race

Have you ever been slightly nauseated at the sight of a friend’s shaky home video — don’t worry, we’ve all been there — and had to turn it off before the best moment? Here are some simple tips to make sure your videos are steady enough for anyone to power through. Professionals use tripods for a reason — but before you go out and buy one (they can get pricey), look around you. A tripod is just something stable to steady your camera, and you can use just about anything to do that. A doorknob, a fence, a counter top, or your car hood (not while driving of course) are all great makeshift tripods and will make sure your camera stays steady through the best moments of video. Also, remember that close-ups are sometimes the most adorable moments. Get your kids to fill up the frame with movement, or if you are filming a family message don’t leave any blank space — fill the video frame with smiling faces and waving hands — the tiny mirrors next to most cameraphone lenses are helpful with this, even better are phones like the Droid and iPhone that have front facing cameras so you can see yourself full frame. For more great tips check out this Parents.com article on shooting footage of your kids.

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8 Responses to “Digital Storytelling 101: How Kids Can Use Technology To Tell Their Story Online”

  1. Yuka Yoneda says:

    When I was a kid, I was making lanyard keychains – it’s amazing to see how far they’ve come!

  2. Julie Knapp says:

    What an awesome hands on way for kids to learn and keep track of all the amazing stuff they do!

  3. Diane Pham says:

    yeah, all the tech available to kids today is crazy. i was talking to my friend about this the other day and he’s still not convinced a 4 year old could use a computer…

  4. jessicadailey says:

    It really is amazing how digital and technologically savvy young kids are. My two and four year old cousins can work an iPhone better than me!

  5. Mike Chino says:

    It’s incredible how much you can do with a smartphone these days – 10 years ago I never would have thought that an entire media studio could fit into your pocket!

  6. kestrel says:

    I look forward to seeing more digital tales from all the creative kids out there!

  7. Steve Borsch says:

    You nailed it with respect to the power available to our kids for storytelling with all of these new tools! One thing is crystal clear with what educators are doing to teach “media literacy” to kids: it’s no longer *just* about teaching them to critically think about the content they’re *consuming*, it’s now that and teaching them how to bring together disparate media types to tell their stories and communicate effectively.

    There is NO question in my mind that kids entering the work world will need exactly the sorts of skills you talked about in your post. In fact, a guy here in Minnesota started a site called TEL.A.VISION (http://telavision.tv/) in order to empower kids to be able to create and present their “vision stories” so they can tap in to a sense of hope and possibility for their future (and, the hidden agenda, so that we parents, the teachers and others can help teach to *their* passions!).

    Besides…it’s fun to tell stories with video.

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