Do you want to preserve the memory of a loved one?
Would you like to strengthen family relationships?
Want to cope with grief through digital storytelling?
What Is Digital Storytelling vs. Traditional Storytelling?
Digital storytelling combines the age-old tradition of word-of-mouth storytelling with the modern availability of digital resources. If you have a story to tell and a computer, you can create a unique digital story to share with family and friends. And a digital story can be uploaded to the internet, a CD, DVD or flash drive so that it’s easily shareable.
Digital storytelling can be as simple, unique, and creative as you want to make it. They can be as short as two to five minutes or longer, if you wish. With pictures, a few added graphics, titles and transitions, and some background music, you’ll have a fun and interesting narrative to tell.
Using Digital Storytelling to Strengthen Family Relationships
If you want to strengthen family relationships and friendship bonds, then digital storytelling can be a great avenue to achieve that goal. Whether you are telling your own story or the story of a loved one (either before or after their death), you can help others get to know you or your loved one in a different way. What personal experiences and details do few people know? How did a family tradition begin? Is there something unique about your family that ties everyone together? Consider these things and more when planning your digital story.
Digital storytelling can help build communication skills with children, teens, and adults and help them find a better way to relate to the people in their lives. Many young people don’t know a lot about their parents or where their family came from. Providing a family history in digital and written format can help provide a foundation for teens and adults about their family history and where they fit in.
As you tell your story or the life story of your loved one, take time to incorporate as many people as possible into the story. We are all pieces of a larger puzzle, and it can help some people to know how they fit in and how they contribute to the ongoing family story.
Family relationships can also blossom and be further solidified through digital storytelling. Your effort to tell a portion of your family history can prompt questions and conversations that will form deeper bonds within your family. And you just may inspire someone else to continue this new tradition.
Getting Started: You Can Be a Digital Storyteller!
The first thing you’ll want to do on your digital storytelling journey is to write your story or your loved one’s story. Of course, if you are writing your own narrative, you won’t need to do much research. You may want to confirm some facts to be sure you remember them correctly. You may also want to incorporate the perspectives of others for certain events. If you need help beginning your storytelling journey, you may want to consider attending a local digital storytelling workshop.
If you are writing a loved one’s story before or after their death, incorporate the first-hand knowledge and relationship that you had with the person. Then interview others who may have known your loved one in a different way (through friendship, marriage, work, etc.) or who may have known your loved one at a different time in his or her life.
You don’t have to tell an entire life story in your “digital postcard/movie.” In fact, that might be overwhelming for your viewers. Instead, focus on a specific period in time, an event or a theme (such as the family tree, careers, relationships or anything else that ties your family together).
Keep your writing simple. You don’t have to worry about long, expository passages. For digital storytelling, you’ll want to keep text brief… no more than what can be read as your story plays. Too much text will make your viewers frustrated if they can’t read it quickly enough or it can be too cumbersome to fit on the frame. Center your digital story on images, dates, places, a few quotes, and brief stories that will enhance the visual images.
What’s Your Story?
Digital storytelling can be a way to express your own identity as well as illustrate your role within your family. What experiences have you had in your life that have changed who you have become? What outside events have shaped your life story? How did other people play a role in your life journey? These are just some of the questions you can ask yourself during the digital storytelling process.
Plus, you don’t even need words to be a digital storyteller. That’s right! With so many tools available, it’s easy to share your life story through pictures, video, and audio. A few words may be necessary for titles, transitions, subheadings, photo captions, and brief notes. But digital storytelling is not novel writing.
Media to Use for Digital Storytelling
The ways in which you build your digital story are nearly limitless. You can be as creative as you want. Make your narrative fun and interesting for all who want to view it. Give each person a takeaway: a nugget of knowledge, a discovery or insight to something that they never knew before.
Here are some digital media resources you’ll want to consider using in your digital story.
- Audio/voice recordings
- Newspaper clippings
- Family documents
- Photos of memorabilia (awards, tickets, collections, treasured items, etc.)
- Social media elements (Tweets, Instagram posts, Facebook posts, text messages, etc.)
- Interactive elements (maps, timelines, etc.)
- Voiceover narration
One important item of note: When incorporating items into your digital story, be aware of any copyright restrictions. Be sure to get written permission to use something in your digital story if it was created by someone else.
Tools for Digital Storytelling
The tools available to create your digital story are also nearly limitless. Arts and technology have advanced so much that you don’t need to be a professional in order to create something meaningful to share with others. New software and applications (apps) are continuously being created. Many of these computer-based tools are easy to use or can be quickly learned—even by a novice. In addition, many hardware and software technologies have help desks or online tutorials that show you how to use the product. Do an online search or check YouTube for any questions you may have.
Consider using some or all of the following items when creating your digital story.
- Windows Movie Maker
- iMovie for Mac
- Digital camera
- Digital recorder
- Digital audio recorder
- Video editing software
When your narrative is complete, there are many ways that you can share your story with your family, friends, and/or the general public. It’s up to you how public or private you want the story to be. However, keep in mind that once you share the digital story with family and friends, they may want to share it with others as well.
Use the following resources to share your completed digital story.
- Social media channels
- Flash drive
- Other electronic distribution systems
One important item of note: Be sure to have another set of eyes check your digital story for accuracy before publishing. And we highly recommend hiring a professional to proofread your digital story to correct any errors before you upload your video and make it available to others.
Digital Storytelling: A Way to Heal from Grief
Losing a loved one can be devastating. Death is difficult for anyone, and each person deals with loss and grief in their own way. Throughout many years and many cultures, the art of storytelling has served as an invaluable tool for humans to promote healing. The accounts of our lives reveal our personal stories as well as an innate connectivity between all human kind. We all have lived through struggle, discovery, failure, success, pain, and joy. These things are all part of the human experience. In addition, stories can be told on multiple levels: individual, family, community, nation, and world.
According to a 2016 study published in Health Promotion Practice, “The digital storytelling process fostered a sense of community by providing a space for people to share their story and connect with others around their experiences. Furthermore, this process gave participants the opportunity to self-reflect.”
"Digital storytelling can play an important role in healing. In this study we learned that digital storytelling is a powerful tool for Hispanic/Latino disease survivors. Storytellers mentioned that the process of creating their digital stories had a therapeutic effect; it allowed them to reflect on a past experience with a disease in a way they had never had the chance to do so. It also gave them the chance to connect with others who had gone through a similar experience."
Elements of a Powerful Digital Story
Although you can take any story and turn it into a digital story production, there are some elements that make a good story successful. As you begin to research and write your story, we encourage you to keep these seven elements in mind.
- Audience – Who are you writing for? Is your audience younger, older or not even born yet?
- Purpose – Every narrative has a purpose, which is usually to inform, educate, entertain, challenge, scare, etc.
- Content – Make sure what you say is important. Stick to the theme of your digital story and don’t cloud the intent with extraneous facts and other events.
- Voice – Who is telling the story? Keep the voice consistent throughout. If you are telling a story from more than one perspective, be sure that the change in perspective is clear.
- Technology – Take advantage of the many free and low-cost resources available to help tell your story in a fun, inviting, and creative way.
- Connections – The purpose of your story is to create connections between current family members and friends and between generations. We have a lot that we can learn from each other if we just take the time and listen.
- Economy – The length of the story doesn’t determine the value of the story. Longer doesn’t always mean better. In fact, when you’re creating a digital legacy story, brevity can be your friend. It’s more important to say a lot in a few words than to lengthen your story without purpose.
Benefits of Expressing a Life Well Lived
Sharing your life story can have many long-lasting benefits to the writer. First, writing your story can help you to become a better story teller. Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. And every story has elements of learning, struggle, failure, and success. These experiences and others are uniting human stories.
Through storytelling, you find your voice. You learn to speak up for yourself and gain strength and resilience. You learn to recognize what’s important and not important, not only in your story but also in your life as a whole. By looking back on your own life with a storyteller’s perspective, you can find value in wisdom. And by passing that wisdom onto others, you are able to help them in ways that you never thought possible. We are all experts in our own lives, and we all have something of value to share with others.
Finally, you can find peace, solace, and happiness in reviewing and writing about your own life. You may come to terms with grieving, death and dying, past trauma, transgressions, and life lessons. By finding your voice and sharing your story, you reaffirm your values and discover a sense or well-being, calm, and balance that you didn’t have before.