Sisyphus Revisited – Animation Example


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I did one more for my Digital Storytelling class examples. This is stop-motion animation. And let me say right up front – it is not a professional production, I know that!

I took a slightly different look at the story of Sisyphus. After writing my original idea for the story and planning for it, I realized I had to simplify – primarily due to my time constraints, and secondarily due to my lack of motivation. Stop-motion takes work, a lot of work, and an extreme amount of work to make it look good. I did not work that hard. (OK, I admit, I didn’t WANT to work that hard over my spring break for an example animation.)

I used Stop Motion animation app on my iPad. It is simple and easy to use. It allows the end product to be downloaded as an MP4. So I did that, and did the final editing in iMovie.

Here is the final result.

The steps in making this included: writing a script (rough in my head mainly since the story is familiar), sketching the character, rock and mountain, cutting out the poses for all, animating it, recording sounds, editing a final video all together.

piecesNot being an artist, I had to find images to copy from. I think I did a fine job for an amateur, and if I were to produce something else I would probably hire an artist, of course. Drawing and then redrawing each image onto card stock and cutting them out took about an hour. After a test run on the app to see how it produced a video, I then jumped into my real production. As you see, I did not use a tripod. The hand-held part was for time and expense since I had little time to create some version of a tripod and did not have the funds to purchase a tripod to hold my iPad. The results make me sea sick – I’m sorry if it does the same to you. But, then again, this is only an example for my storytelling class (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it).

Shooting the scenes took 1-2 hours. Recording sounds only took about 5 minutes – I did a hint of boulders rolling since I did not have one around. Final editing took about an hour also, including finding a nice music track to use. I did a quick listen to music on Free Music Archives and found “Epic Song” (I thought appropriate to Sisyphus) by BoxCat Games. It has a Creative Commons Attribution license to allow use in the video here.

After trying to make a stop-motion animation, it increases your admiration for those who make them professionally – especially feature-length movies. It takes a true love of the art.

My class was assigned to create a story using animation (any type, not only stop-motion) that is at least 30 seconds but not longer than 3 minutes. I’m looking forward to seeing their creativity. You can tell me what you think of mine if you like.


Animation Exercise


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As I was working on my second example of an animated story for my Digital Storytelling class, I came across a project that I did with the help of my daughter when she was in about 6th grade. She drew the monkey and I added the sound and edited it for an event in the School of Communication. I lost the final version in one of my many hard drive crashes, but still have the original drawings.

So I decided to use the same drawings but add new audio to create a new animation. The total project (not including the time it took my daughter to draw the monkeys) was about an hour. This includes recording and editing my voice, editing the stills to fit the words being said, matching the voice-to-image, searching for background music, and editing the background music to get this final product.

For the sound editing I used Audacity. I’ve always found it easy to use, and I am still discovering the many editing tools. For this project, I adjusted my voice with the “Change Speed” effect. I also had to adjust the tempo to help fit the images. Both steps were rather simple – and I admit were not necessary, but made the final version more fun than a “regular” voice. After exporting the voice recording as an MP3, I imported it into iMovie.

The background music came from Free Music Archive. I simply played a few files to find something upbeat that could work. I had nothing in particular in mind beyond that. I found “Panther” by Qusic, and made sure it was licensed so I could use it – it has a Creative Commons license for Attribution-Share Alike. Perfect! (Thank you, Qusic!) After downloading the file, I imported it into iMovie and chose a few seconds to fit the short video. I had to split the clip so I could limit the volume under the voice – no problem.

With iMove, one is limited in what can be done, but for a simple, “unprofessional” video like this it worked fine.

So, how do you like Monkey Mocha (the name my daughter gave her monkey sketches)?

Animation Story – Example


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The next project I am having my students complete is to tell a story using animation. There are so many varieties of animation or styles that I am going to try to give more than one example. This is my first example.

I created this brief story and animation for one of my Akron Experience classes to help introduce them to the office of Off Campus Student Services (I am not sure if we still have that office now). There were other student services that I did similar story introductions for, also, but I like this one best. It has a conflict or obstacle, some rising action, a climax and falling action. There is meaningful movement.

I used GoAnimate to create this. I like the variety and flexibility it offers. It is very easy to learn and use. At the time it was free, but now there is a charge (but there is a 14-day free trial). Although not expensive, I still have not started an account for myself to create more.

For the dialogue I used both recorded voice and typing in text – thanks, Maggie, “Worried Student.” You can choose a variety of male and female voices with many accents (US, English, Australian, etc.). Overall, I would recommend recording the voices because you never know how the computer will pace the talking, let alone how it will pronounce the words you type in.

This story is only about 23 seconds long. I want my students to have their stories at least 30 seconds long and no more than three minutes. If a story were animated by stop-motion, the product process would take longer and a briefer story would work better. If using this program or one similar, a longer story would be rather simple to complete – this took me about 20 minutes total.

We’ll see what my students come up with!

Relationship Stages – Infographic Example


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This assignment for my students was to “tell a story” using an infographic. Again, we are using a broad definition of “story” to fit it into this mode of delivery. I am trying to emphasize the importance of details, data, and supporting information in conveying ideas, while still limiting the amount of such supporting information. An infographic also involves visual cues to help support or emphasize the information, so we have to consider and plan those aspects.

Again, I put together one myself as an example. I also wanted to be sure I realized the amount of work, time and effort it takes for the assignment – you know, to help keep it real (or practical, or so my expectations of my students are aimed properly).

This is my infographic:


I used which is an infographic builder with a free version (or, of course, an upgrade, but actually a very reasonable cost per year). This is the first time I used this software. It was not too difficult to learn. I’m sure there are details I could have used. There are several templates set up and ready to use, but I did not see what I wanted for this information.

After deciding on a topic to tell, I gathered my information and decided how much I could leave out while still getting a full understanding across. I hope I reached that goal – not only for this assignment example, but also because I teach this information in one of my classes.

My next step was to find an image that helped or fit with the information. There is no shortness of mountain pictures, images or drawings. Finding a single mountain limits the number a little, but still . . .

I found good photos, and it came down to one of Mt. Fuji, a

green mountain (I think from Ireland), a mountain trail used by the Incas in Peru, and the one I used from Iceland.

I did not put each of the mountain photos in the background to decide, I just used the simplest image since it was figurative or supportive and not the main point of information.


I could have edited the stair image better, but this is just for an example.

The model of relationship stages is typically called the step model – stepping up and stepping down – so I looked for images of stairs to use. It was not as easy to find photos or drawings of stairs that would work in this situation. (But there are some extremely nice stairways out there!) And I did not want to draw or create the stair image myself, though some may create what they want. The stairs do make the image simpler, and some may say that the text is easier to read using the plain, white background instead of the mountain. But, I did not think stairs looked as nice as a mountain, so I went with the more aesthetically pleasing image.

I had some difficulty getting the arrows, shapes and lettering all lined up. And I am not fully pleased with the final results. However, I did make the decision to have the letting and arrows consistent for each side. The default is black, but I wanted to make the “Coming Together” distinct from the “Coming Apart.” I do think that worked out well.

This is a nice summary of the information, and I will probably use it in my class next time I cover this topic (especially since I did so much work on it).

Well, you can also let me know what you think. I’d appreciate any feedback. (thanks!)

That Happened – podcast example


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This storytelling project is more straightforward as storytelling goes. It is to tell a story using only audio – a podcast. The challenge is to not only to gain the listener’s attention, go through the story arc (building interest, and come to some conclusion) but to do all that with only the sound of your voice. I did, however, allow them to use sound effects if needed, and I mentioned if they really want to take the time (if they had it) that they could use music (we discussed copyright!) but that would probably be too much at this stage. I also required them to read/tell the story themselves – not have someone else read it.

The students are to tell a story by doing a podcast of 1-3 minutes, so I am providing this example:


The example is a good story: it has a problem, other complicating situations that hinder a simple solution, and then a climax that solves the problem. I also tried to wrap the story in light of a central point or thought: how do we explain some things that are beyond simple explanation? I think that came across well (you can tell me your perception of this if you like).

I wrote it, and then I rewrote it a couple times. I think I only had to do a few drafts because I had the story bouncing around in my head for quite a while. I did have to practice reading it out loud. Even with the practice, I had to record it three times. One reason was because my dog interrupted, then the phone interrupted (working at home instead of a nice sound booth). The recording was simple on my digital audio recorder ZoomH2(Zoom H2 – newer versions available now). Then I did a little editing with Audacity. I combined parts of the different recordings, but only a little. Most of my editing was to get it under 3 minutes. I cut some interesting but unnecessary information. Instead of re-recording it, I simply. cut the phrases and sentences that were not needed. A couple edits were to put a phrase or sentence from one version into my final because I thought I read it better one way instead of the other – that’s mainly a matter of taste, but sometimes it conveyed the message differently with the various vocal inflections and pace.

So, the only thing I may change now is to add some intro or theme music. (Maybe when I go pro and make a series of podcasts.)

Single Image Project – Example


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Another digital storytelling project is more challenging – trying to use only one image.

This requires that we allow a broad definition of “storytelling.” You can’t really get a full story – all the details, the full explanation – in one still image. But you can show that something is happening, something is or was going on. You can pique the interest of the viewer and stir the imagination.

There are so many ways to do this. Those who study photography are still at work doing this. For us amateurs, we have to try harder (and usually take several more photos to find one that works).

So, I will show a few examples, each a different approach or style. None “professional” of course – these are my own.

First: Stitches

stichesI thought this picture stirred the imagination. There are a few different stories that could come from this or lead up to this image.

Depending on which direction you let your imagination run, I could be a clumsy dope who had an accident, a jerk who got in a fight, a victim of a jerk who attacked me, or, actually, this image is the result of an operation – I had skin cancer.

Unlike many images that tell a story, this one is an extreme close up. Most images that are used to tell a story are a broader view and typically show some action or event.

Second: Graduation

DT K gradThis shot is one like many take at events to “record” it, to keep it as a memory. And many images like this do tell a part of a story. This image is simple, and there really isn’t much more to the story than what you see: I graduated from kindergarten.

Is it an interesting story? Well, to me and my family, yes, of course. But is it interesting to others? Maybe, at best, but probably not (other than I am a really cute kid). It is a bit different from other graduation photos because I am so young, and most people graduate when older like from high school or from college. So that is what I thought may have been the hook to catch the viewer’s interest.

And: Friends Reading

Friends ReadingThis image is one that brings the viewer into the scene. The attention of the people in the picture is focused on the book, so the viewer would wonder what are they reading? What is the relationship – probably grandmother and granddaughter, but it is not certain.

It is simple, it shares a moment, and it stirs the imagination.

I like it and the story it tells.

Multiple Image Storytelling Project – 3


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One of the first digital storytelling projects is a  to use 4-7 images to tell a story. I allowed students to either use images without words or with some text, like a comic strip. The exercise is to be relatively simple, but to work on using images more than text to convey the story. How do you show emotion, the obstacle and the resolution, or tension in images? How can you create a connection to the characters? How do you do this without words? The goal is to get a complete story down to the basic or only the necessary details.

As I explained before, here is an example I had fun with.

Third Example

I like donuts. I love Krispy Kreme donuts! I have the calendar that gives coupons every month. What a good story to tell! And here is my story:

“Saving a Morning”

Donut Story

This is a simpler story than my previous example. I don’t think any words are needed. Can you relate to it? Most probably can – some mornings we feel dull, uninspired, or tired and a simple thing can make our day. Besides, what is better than a warm Krispy Kreme donut hot off the baking rack?!

Overall, this story was simple to put together. First, I had to think up the story. I got hungry one morning and thought it was a good idea. Second, I had to get the “talent” involved, so I called my daughter. We often go get donuts together anyway, so it did not take too much convincing (especially since I was buying). Third, I had to plan the steps that conveyed the story – giving enough info to make a complete story and eliminating unnecessary information.

I got a few shots of each step and chose the one that looked the best and got the idea of that phase of the story across. I put it together by inserting images in MSWord. I used a table and put one image in each cell except for the last image. I wanted the last image to be emphasized a little more, so I combined two cells. This also solved the problem of an uneven number of images forced into a table with equal rows and columns. A little formatting to get the images centered in their cell helped the overall look. However, using a table is not required.

So, another example of digital storytelling. I look forward to your reaction. And feel free to share your stories!


After discussing this example with my class, I wanted to share some of their ideas about how improve my donut story. They brought out ideas to show more conflict or obstacles such as showing an empty fridge or an empty wallet. The ideas were to make the story more interesting and engaging – they had good ideas, and I look forward to seeing their stories.

We talked about the logistics of planning and photographing a story, an how my hurry limited the quality of the story.

Multiple Image Storytelling Project – 2


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One of the first digital storytelling projects is a  to use 4-7 images to tell a story. I allowed students to either use images without words or with some text, like a comic strip. The exercise is to be relatively simple, but to work on using images more than text to convey the story. How do you show emotion, the obstacle and the resolution, or tension in images? How can you create a connection to the characters? How do you do this without words? The goal is to get a complete story down to the basic or only the necessary details.

As I explained before, here is an example I had fun with.

Second Example

For my second example in this story format I use photos. Trying the same story of the hungry dog that I used before, I wanted to use my own dog – the inspiration for the story originally. So I got some shots of my own dog, Lola (a rescue from Ozark Homeward Bound) and put them together.

What Lola Wants . . .

Dog story

This is the simple version. I also wanted to see how it was with thought bubbles like I tried in the cartoon, so I did this to it:

Dog story2

So, I like the photo story overall, it is one that I live daily. For the viewer (you), it should pull up some emotion – even if for no other reason than dogs are cute.

But how is it as digital storytelling?

Well, it gets the idea or the full “story” across fine. I like it without the thought bubbles, they seem to be “overkill” and unnecessary, especially used in every frame. I know people use them a lot to make sure the reader/viewer gets the idea. Sometimes they are needed to drive home the point you want. But here they are not needed.

By the way, I found the thought bubbles in MSWord – Insert – Shapes – Callouts. They are a little tricky, but once you get how to edit them it is quite simple. The layout is simply inserting pictures into a MSWord document. I saved it as a PDF, but that could not be shown here, so I opened the PDF (it automatically opened in Preview on my Mac) and exported it as a JPEG. A lot of steps, I know, but not too difficult.

You should be aware of the fact that working with untrained animals is beyond frustrating, and it takes a lot of time. I had to keep a camera handy during odd times and hope that the behavior continued even with the distraction of me doing something different and pointing a camera at her.

The last two pictures were filters in an app on my iPad called Clips. It is for video, but you can export a still from it. I like the look of the “cartoon” filter and the “line” filter – it would be good for some stories to convey a different feel. I pretty much had to use them here to get the example done without taking a couple more days to catch my dog in the pose. She knows how to “sit up” but does not do it on command – only when she wants something, then we have to figure out what it is. “doggie treats” is often the answer.

Let me know what you think! (about the dog OR the digital story)

. . . (to be continued)

Multiple Image Storytelling Project – 1


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One of the first digital storytelling projects is a  to use 4-7 images to tell a story. I allowed students to either use images without words or with some text, like a comic strip. The exercise is to be relatively simple, but to work on using images more than text to convey the story. How do you show emotion, the obstacle and the resolution, or tension in images? How can you create a connection to the characters? How do you do this without words? The goal is to get a complete story down to the basic or only the necessary details.

My first attempt was a comic style. I wanted to try out Pixton, an online site that helps you make comic strips. It has a 15-day free trial and variable pricing for business or education situations. Since I used the free trial I could not embed my story or download it. I did, however, get a screenshot of it, and if you can’t see it well here in my blog, go view it in Pixton here.


The process is relatively simple. There are multiple templates to use, or you can start “blank” and add things as you go along. Getting a setting and changing a setting comes from a long list of scenes, both inside and out, and changing settings is simple. Characters are limited. You can adjust their poses and facial expressions by clicking on them then on  the pose or expression you want. The dialog bubbles are attached to the character, and if you move the character too much you tend to lose the “link.” I also could not find how to make it a “thought bubble” instead of dialogue – and the dog should be “thinking” instead of “talking.” Instead of wasting time, I just went with a talking dog.

One other missing piece is the dog treat that she gives. I did not know how (or if it is possible) to add a prop or item like that. All I had was the background or setting, the characters and the talk bubble – Oh, and I could not delete a talk bubble, so I guess the characters have to say something in every frame.

it’s an example – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Perhaps I simply rushed too much. If I took more time exploring the tool I may have found solutions to my difficulties with thought bubbles and props. Nevertheless, it is an excellent example. That sounds like a great excuse, but it really is part of my thought process for this blog overall. Nothing here is considered “perfect” but is considered something learned and then shared.

Overall, I don’t recommend cartoons or Pixton for the storytelling I’m considering even though on their website you can find testimonials from teachers about how wonderfully it fit into their students’ educational experience.

. . . (to be continued)

Those Who Can . . . ?


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You may have heard the saying, bad and untrue as it is:

Those who can, do.

Those who cannot, teach.

And those who cannot teach, teach gym.

I believe the last line was added by Dewey Finn, Jack Black’s character in School of Rock. Funny, kinda. But certainly not accurate.

So why do I start with this demeaning quote about teaching? Because I thought of it as I was planning my class this semester. Working on lesson plans for the coming weeks, I knew I had to provide examples for my class. Then I thought, “Why bother taking the time to search for examples when I can make them myself?” I’ll have examples and have fun!

dig picI’ve blogged about digital storytelling before. Now I get to do something more about it. The class is Digital Storytelling for honors students at my university. Their majors vary from engineering to political science to nursing and beyond. We are examining digital storytelling in many forms for many purposes, whether related to business, sales, PR, or simply for fun. Students will explore many tools to present their stories and critique the results.

Sounds like fun? Yes, it does. And that is one reason I am teaching it. I also like technology and what possibilities it holds (as you can tell from by blog so far) (if you’ve been reading) (if not, then please do!). And being a professor of communication, I help students learn how to communicate in many ways.

So I plan to TEACH my students and DO, also. Just like another saying I’m sure you have heard:

Practice what you preach.

Over the next several weeks, then, I will produce a digital story – an example of one technique or tool or approach. I will show it here and discuss the process, difficulties, successes and failures. You and my students can see them.

If my students want to show off their stories, they can comment here (or after one of the other posts) and give us a link to their story.

I look forward to your reactions!