Digital storytelling with free, online Web 2.0 resources

Jerry Talandis Jr., Toyama College of Foreign Languages


Quick guide

  • Key words: Digital storytelling, computers, Web 2.0, multimedia, four skills integration
  • Learner English level: Intermediate and above
  • Learner maturity: High school and above
  • Preparation time: About 3 hours
  • Activity time: Four 50-minute class periods
  • Materials: Computer, broadband Internet connection, digital or cellphone camera. Optional: An external microphone or digital recording device, webcam, photo andaudio editing software, video camcorder


The recent explosion of free, online Web 2.0 resources has provided ELT instructors with a veritable cornucopia of options for helping students practice all four language skills in unique, interactive, and creative ways. From blogs, wikis, podcasting, and social networking sites, to services such as Flickr, Jump Cut, and Slideshare, there isno shortage of ways for learners to create and share multimedia content in English with the world. The possibilities are endless, and therein lies a problem: With so much that could be done, it may be hard to know where to start, especially for those new to Web 2.0. One strategy is to take a familiar activity genre and apply it with an e-learning spin to it. The following activity, based on Alan Levine’s wiki, 50 Web 2.0 ways to tell a story, exemplifies this tactic by providing a flexible online storytelling template that encourages creative self-expression and opportunities for English interaction. Here VoiceThread (a multimedia story creation website) is the tool of choice, but variations of this plan can be accomplished with virtually any online service.


Step 1:Explore the website, browsing through the various tutorials and sections. Clicking on a few sample VoiceThreads in the Storytelling section should demonstrate clearly the capabilities of this service.

Step 2:Create an account, then construct a simple test VoiceThread made from a few random digital photos you have convenient access to. Follow the instructions: Upload your photos and add some audio, video, or text commentary to each one.

Step 3:For practice, leave some audio, video, or text comments on a few other interesting and inspiring VoiceThreads.

Step 4:Decide on and bookmark a few already existing VoiceThreads to use as models for your students.

Step 5:(Optional) Create a more polished VoiceThread for yourself, one exemplifying the type of story you would like your students to tell.


Step 1:In the first class, introduce the concept of digital online storytelling and provide an overview of what you would like your students to create.

Step 2:Introduce the VoiceThread service by showing a few sample stories or the story you had created previously. Be sure to emphasize the interactive nature of the service, with the ability to give various types of feedback.

Step 3: Guide your students through the process of creating accounts.

Step 4:Provide time for students to explore various stories on their own and practice leaving comments on VoiceThreads they find interesting.

Step 5:Explain in more detail the sort of story you would like your students to create. Is it a simple narrative? A work of fiction? A movie review? A how-to manual? Lay out the required elements.

Step 6:Have students decide on a story idea and assign the photo taking/image creation step for homework.

Step 7: In the second class, students should write up their story on a simple storyboard handout (see Appendix). Help out as needed.

Step 8:In the third class, assist students as they create their own VoiceThreads.

Step 9: In the fourth class, require each student to view and leave comments on their classmates’VoiceThreads.

Step 10:(Optional) Alert your colleagues and friends to your students’ stories and encourage them to leave comments.


As stated, this activity can be done with any number of free, online resources. Follow up on the reference below for more ideas. The basic workflow is the same: Students write a story, gather multimedia content to illustrate it, then share their creations with classmates and others. In addition to providing a creative four-skills learning experience, this activity also helps students build Internet skills they can utilize beyond the classroom. Finally, it is a demonstration to you of how e-learning techniques can be implemented in conjunction with your regular English lessons.


Levine, A. (2008) 50 Web 2.0 ways to tell a story. [Online] Available: <>.