Merging digital age
tech projects with the reality of low-tech classrooms and fixed scheduling can
be frustrating. Many classrooms in our building have at most one computer
students can access, and computer lab time is limited. These time and hardware
limitations, combined with the overwhelming technology choices constantly being
introduced, equal stress for many educators.
One solution is to have students create a collaborative 3D
storytelling experience over a period of time during library instruction. At my
school, third through fifth grade library classes are 50 minutes long and the
teacher remains with the class. This allows me as the school media specialist to
work with the classroom teacher to stretch limited resources so all can
Inspired by the media-remixing work of USC Professor Henry Jenkins
and NJCU professor Christopher Shamburg of NJCU, the 3D storytelling format
brings together students' words, existing images and sound effects. To bring out
maximum creativity and remove barriers to entry, students learn to remix
existing stories, images and sounds to create a new product. They are also
taught to appreciate the original content throughout the creative
For example, a student group using an image from Diary
of a Wimpy Kid originally tried telling me what happens in the
actual book by Jeff Kenney. After they explored what happens in the book before
and after that scene, the story started to change. Students sketched ideas,
downloaded sound effects, made their own sounds and had fun with the writing
Need to show project validity? This project addresses ISTE, AASL and Common Core standards
while also passing the "this is cool" test for
But enough introduction — what do students
Every story has multiple entry points.
Each student group and individual team member can enter the story in
a different manner. Some see words on a page, while others see storylines in art
and others still hear a story through dialogue and sound effects. Classrooms
with students who have limited vocabularies may opt to draw stories first, while
highly verbal students can map out a story through
Collaboration and mixed groups support approaching a story through
multiple points of entry and provide the teacher with a single project
regardless of how students choose to interface with the material. This allows
students to come to the story in whatever manner is most
Re-mixing or creating fan fiction can empower a student.
All writers face the fear of a blank piece of paper at times. 3D
storytelling offers students a selection of images they can use to spark an
idea. We use familiar images that range from Captain Underpants and Batman to
unknown art by Degas and Kandinsky. The familiarity of the character inspires
some to take their knowledge of the character and create a new story. Other
students are drawn to shapes and colors within the relatively unknown pieces of
Fluency is a learned craft.
Storytelling demands emotion and delivery. This format requires
students to not only develop a story but practice delivering it to engage an
audience. Working in small groups allows them to build rapport with their
partners and practice fluency in a setting where all members have a role and a
responsibility. This might include reading narration, dialogue in a scene or
even making a custom sound effect.
Technology can enhance creativity.
Teachers and students alike can be easily overwhelmed with the
multitude options technology provides. Students can create digital stories using
simple tools, such as a digital camera or iPad, a computer, and presentation
software like PowerPoint or Google Presentation. The story remains the main
focus, while the technology plays a supporting
have an ethical responsibility when using images and
It is so easy to find images and sounds online that students can
overlook the importance of respecting ownership. A collaborative 3D storytelling
project allows a teacher to actively engage in fair use discussions about
images, words and sounds.
Here's an example of a 3D storytelling project in
Jennifer Latimer is the school media specialist at Clinton Elementary in
Maplewood, New Jersey, and contributing author of the ISTE book Teaching
Literacy in the Digital Age. Check out her blog and connect with
her on Twitter via @jenlatimer.