Digital Storytelling Project: Mount Saint Helens

For ISTE Standard 1, I created a digital storytelling project to see how I might use such a tool in class, either as a presentation or for an example project students might create. I chose Mount Saint Helens and its 1980 eruption as my topic because it is relevant to Washington State, a topic covered in the grade I wish to teach (4th). This video was created with the intention of being viewed by my class, though I believe anyone who is interested in getting a brief overview of the eruption would find it of value. In class, it could be used as in introduction to the topic of volcanoes, the Ring of Fire, or geology, and could be used within the classroom during direct instruction time, or could be viewed as “homework” in a kind of flipped classroom setting. This project serves also as a model for creative and innovative thinking with information, a model for knowledge construction, and a way for engaging students in real-world issues, all three of which fall under the ISTE 1 standard. This project was slightly frustrating for me to complete, which I feel was helpful for me to learn before assigning it to students without testing it first. I used Windows Movie Maker and an audio program called Reaper (which is similar to Audacity, but can layer tracks easier and has a more “professional” quality to it). I used my cell phone to record my voice, and found the content for my project through a variety of resources, such as the United States Geological Survey and various books. My music came from the Free Music Archive, a resource for free sound effects and music. Originally, I wanted to create a project on the history of computer programming, since at the time I was researching the topic for a STEM expo I worked at. However, much of the information I found was speculative or not relevant to my topic, and I didn’t feel that it would be as relevant to teaching 4th grade. While traveling near Mt. Saint Helens, I was researching some of its history, and thought it might make a better project, so I completely switched gears and started delving into the geology of Washington and the Pacific Ring of Fire. My biggest challenge was keeping the information I had short and relevant. I did not have enough space to include a Native American legend about the mountain (a very interesting one about Loowit and the great spirit Sahale, which I recommend reading about), and it was the piece I pulled away, as it was not relevant to the geology and causes of the mountain’s eruption. I also found the technological aspect a bit challenging. Audacity would not work correctly, so I asked around about programs that might be more effective. Movie Maker did not have all the features I wished for, and frustrated me by changing my settings for each slide, making the project more time-consuming. I feel that it was an important lesson for me to learn, however, and I will be sure to keep this in mind if I ever plan to use digital storytelling either for my own lessons or for projects for students to complete.  I also thought that having this as an option rather than a requirement made it a more fun and interesting project, since I was able to choose my own form for presenting the information I gathered. Overall, I found it a beneficial and rewarding project, however, and will likely use something similar (if not so complicated as I made it) during my teaching.


Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standard 1 for teachers states that teachers should “use their knowledge of subject matter, teaching and learning, and technology to facilitate experiences that advance student learning, creativity, and innovation in both face-to-face and virtual environments” (ISTE, 2015). This means that teachers should model creative and innovative thinking, they should promote student reflection, use digital tools and resources to engage students in real-world issues, and model knowledge construction (ISTE, 2015). This standard also aligns with HOPE principle P4, practice the integration of appropriate technology with instruction. As a teacher in a society that is continually advancing, providing opportunities for students to experience technology in a way that promotes creativity and learning is vital.

While exploring ISTE standard 1 and the materials for this week, I grew curious about the technologies available for language arts and literacy lessons. Since I hope to teach fourth grade, I examined the Common Core State Standards for fourth grade writing standards, and asked the question:

How can I use technology to help 4th grade students create a real or imagined narrative with dialogue, description, and a sequence of events?

My main concern with asking this question is that I would have a difficult time finding a resource specifically designed for creating stories with description, dialogue, and event sequencing, three standards outlined by the Common Core. Rather than searching for this specifically, I determined that it is more beneficial for teachers to use resources at their disposal in order to encourage ideas and reflection, then take those ideas and help students translate them into writing. I have also noticed that for many students, writing does not come naturally. With this in mind, I asked a new question:

How can I use technology to help 4th grade students generate and record ideas in a way that suits their learning style, then use these ideas to create a real or imagined narratives?

My first thought was for a daily journal. Students could record ideas and thoughts based on several writing prompts provided by the teacher. These prompts could range from questions about students’ weekends, to invented dialogue, or providing photos for students to describe. However, keeping journals on paper only allows for students to write or draw their ideas, despite the fact that many may struggle with this. So I began searching for web resources that incorporated a variety of ways to record journal entries, and came up with several possibilities. Ideally, schools would have unlimited resources for technology, and would be able to include handheld devices such as iPads or personal computers for each student while in school. However, as a member of my learning circle pointed out, there is this idea of the “digital divide”, which describes the disparity between students (or schools) with access to technology and the internet, and those who do not have it. Keeping this in mind, I conducted my research for affluent schools, and for schools with limited resources.

One resource that allows students to record their voice, record and upload video, upload photos and drawings, and also research in-app and write ideas, was Glogster. The app can be free, or there is a paid app for schools (or website), allowing classrooms to create digital media posters called glogs either individually or in groups. The teacher has access to all glogs in his or her classroom, and can provide feedback for students, while also assessing where each student is at. I experimented with Glogster a bit and created my own poster, which can be seen by clicking on the image.

Meghan's Glog Example

Jack Marshall, one of my learning circle members, suggested that Glogster be used as a graphic organizer, and I think this is a wonderful idea. Students could “conduct their research [and] add pertinent information onto the board and then have everything in one place as they prepare to write their papers” (Marshall, 2015). The access to the web in-app also allows students to engage in exploring real-world issues which they can then write about, which is part of ISTE standard 1. Another classmate, Kate Thibault (2015), posted an article about tech tools in young classrooms, which described word processing programs that don’t involve fine-motor skills and can make the physical act of writing less frustrating. Although this was meant for younger children, I believe I could also adapt it for older children who struggle with putting their ideas to words on paper.

One potential issue with ISTE standard 1 that several of my classmates expressed was that using technology in class can provide a distraction for students. Since Glogster can be somewhat distracting for students (access to YouTube, internet images, the ability to add stickers and clipart), another possible direction for online journals is a blog. Dr. Wicks mentioned edublogs as a safe and secure place to keep these. Recordings can be created and uploaded for free online for students who like to speak their ideas, and drawings can be photographed or scanned as well. Having individual blogs also allows students to collaborate in their writing and constructing of knowledge. For schools with fewer resources, in-class journals are still an option. Students who have an easier time expressing ideas through speech may benefit from an inexpensive voice recorder, which teachers could teach them to use and transcribe. Amazon has some recorders at a variety of reasonable prices.

In my classroom, I hope to incorporate as much technology as I am able, though obviously I may be restricted by budget or time, or support. However, students today are using so many resources ranging from wikis to social media to podcasts and blogs. They are “using them in an ever increasing pace and in ways that are helping to define a new generation of not just information gathering, but information-creating as well” (Robin, 2008). Because of the increasing technological resources and interest in digitization, as well as ease of access, it makes sense to teach them in a way that they will be using. In my classroom, I hope to use the resources I discovered relating to this standard to facilitate the creation of online media as well as use online resources to create stories and discover world issues. One idea I had was to use freerice, a website mentioned in the Vialogues for this week (or something similar) as a way for students to spend free time practicing various subjects, but also using it as a way to generate interest in world hunger. This could lead to a year-long service project in which my class conducts research on hunger issues in the world and locally, and uses the information to come up with a project where students could volunteer time to raise funds or send resources. In this way, students are generating possible solutions for authentic problems while using technology to research these issues, and are promoting positive values of citizenry.

Marshall, J. (2015, January 12). ISTE standard 1. [Comment 2 on Welsh, M.] Message posted to:

Thibault, K. (2015, January 9). ISTE standard 1. Message posted to:

Robin, B. (2015). Digital storytelling: A powerful technology tool for the 21st century classroom. Theory into practice, 47:220-228.

ISTE (2015). ISTE standards: Teachers. Retrieved from: