Author Archives: admin

Digital Storytelling in Denmark: Taking the Show on the Road

Category : Uncategorized

May Term 2016 Study Abroad










This May we took our ‘show on the road!’ Instructional Technologist, Kathy Filatreau and I traveled to Denmark with professors of social work, Paula Sheridan and Lisa Ibanez and 19 Whittier College students.

This study abroad course is designed to bring students to Denmark to research and understand how this country runs its welfare and workfare state.  Our course was filled with site visits, lectures by invited guests, and a digital storytelling workshop that included faculty partners from Metropolitan University College in Copenhagen and a class of international students visiting from different countries throughout Europe.  Together with our Whittier College students, the EU students worked in teams to create digital stories that reflected their collective thoughts on articles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and how each relates to youth in their respective countries.

Over the last five years, Kathy and I have been working with the social work department at Whittier College to create various digital assignments including collaborative community resource maps, digital magazines, capturing community stories with digital presentation tools and digital storytelling. Thrilled with the success of seeing students actively engaged in this process of crafting personal narratives filled with evidence-based knowledge of what they have learned and how they will apply their experiences as emerging professionals, we wanted to share our pedagogy with international partners.  These narratives juxtaposed with images, sound, and graphics can be powerful ways to communicate– in ways that perhaps traditional ‘papers’ cannot capture or translate.

The digital storytelling assignment is rigorous!  Students go through a series of writing and peer review sessions before a final narrative is formed. It’s an exercise in the economy of writing and communication forcing them to be concise in the usage of their words.  Digital stories are typically three minutes in length and students must also learn to use visuals that correspond to their recorded words.  We coach students on techniques to capture photos on their mobile devices for use in their digital stories. For students that want to use work created by others we explain the use of creative commons licensed media and the responsibility of properly giving attribution for borrowed work.

This academic process of combining personal narratives with stories of achievement have produced compelling student-produced digital stories that are too good not to share!  With student permission, we have compiled an online archive of digital stories created by Whittier College students here.  

Taking the Show on the Road

When we designed the digital storytelling assignment for study abroad in Denmark we had to keep in mind that we didn’t have a whole semester to work on it like we normally do.  We had to scaffold the assignment in a way that made sense to our Danish partners and the classes they were teaching.  We would also be working with a group of students from an international community that we wouldn’t meet until the day of the digital storytelling workshop.  The success of our project was based on what we did know:

Digital Storytelling is Relatively Low-Tech

Editing the Digital Story: Yes, we needed wifi to create projects.  We checked with our Danish partners in advance to make sure all of our students would have access to an internet connection.  We use the web-based video editor WeVideo because of the collaborative editing options and assigned administrators can manage student accounts and projects. It also makes digital stories easily shareable.  Our Whittier College students were asked to create accounts in advance to save time and avoid tech hiccups before our workshop.

Photos for the Digital Story: We scheduled a field trip with a local photography expert while in Denmark who explained technique and use of lighting.  Our photography expert had a very nice DSLR camera with multiple lenses but we had cell phones.  We shifted our lessons to iPhone/cell phone photography (which has become quite popular).  Most students have cell phones with cameras that take great photos!  They are portable and the photos can be easily transferred into WeVideo through a free app.

Recorded Audio for the Digital Story: We purchased $15 microphones on Amazon to record student narratives on our cell phones.

Sharing the Digital Stories: At the end of our workshop day, we shared student digital stories in class.  The advantage of using technology to create these stories is that the finished products can be saved in multiple platforms and they are easily accessible. The playlist for our Denmark digital stories is here.

We also did quite a bit of  pre-planning before we left the country.  We met with the Whittier College students who would be joining us on study abroad nearly six months before departure.  On various dates we discussed the digital storytelling project and what the expectations would be.  As plans and events were confirmed we communicated this with our students. We also wanted to make the topic they would be writing about in their digital stories simple but meaningful.  As I explained before, we didn’t have a full semester to work on this so it was important to create a writing prompt that our students were exposed to and could discuss with a group of international students.  We required the stories to only be a minute in length.  We had to keep them short but meaningful. We also created an agenda for the workshop that included breaks and lunch schedules to make sure we were on task as needed.  As the day progressed during our workshop, we noticed that some students completed their stories ahead of time while others required more time.  Perhaps this was because of varying levels of skill or experience but our thoughts in debrief were to ask these students to help others who required more assistance.

What We Hoped for But Didn’t Expect

Students bonded!  They wanted more in-class time together to talk and discuss their ideas.  It really sparked discussion and engagement.  They cheered each other on as we introduced each story for viewing.  They also hung out after class socially.  On the day of the last meeting a class party was organized and all of the students attended.  Surely they’ve found ways to keep in touch via social media.  

We see the value of digital storytelling in teaching and learning.  Students learn to use technology in meaningful ways to create and communicate powerful stories of awareness, discovery, and reflection.  As educators, we see the need to build critical thinking skills in our students.  In her study, Digital Storytelling for Reflection and Engagement, Catherine Boase states “The process of constructing a story requires numerous cognitive strategies to come into play, such as comparing, selecting, inferring, arranging and revising information.  Making a digital story is a process that is interesting and valuable in its own right. Intellectually and emotionally, creating a story involves cognitive processes of reflection, evaluation and creation, while technically the production of a digital story can require some degree of new media literacy.”  Cognitive processes of reflection, evaluation and creation–this is the strength of the digital storytelling assignment! If telling stories are a way to transfer knowledge then we are all partners in teaching and learning.  Digital storytelling also fits the High-Impact Educational Practices that we strive for.  I am grateful for the opportunity to take our digital storytelling assignment into a study abroad course and to share our pedagogy with international partners.  I am especially thrilled to showcase the collaborative work we do here at Whittier College and DigLibArts!


Day 5: Lecture at Metropolitan University College, Institute of Social Work

On day 5 we visited the Metropol Institute of Social Work in Copenhagen.  Students joined an international class of students from surrounding European countries. Metropol faculty member Helle Strauss taught a lecture on ethics based on the European social work model.  

The afternoon session of our day was filled with lively discussion around case studies focused on ethics in social work with youth.

Tomorrow is our digital storytelling workshop at Metropol.  Students got a sneak-peek of the work they will create thanks to our Whittier College student Andres Garcia who shared his recently completed digital story from the social work senior integrated seminar from this past spring semester.

File_001 (5) File_000 (4) File_003 (4) File_005 (4) File_001 (4) File_006 (2)File_000 (5) File_007 (2) File_008 (1)



Day 4: Learning about Welfare and the Workfare State

Category : Learning

On the morning of day 4 we visited the Danish Institute Against Torture called Dignity.  Guest speakers included Helle Harnisch who spoke about her work with child soldiers in Africa.  Helle has filmed many hours of conversations with former child soldiers and she shared her digital stories with our group.

IMG_3568 IMG_3569 IMG_3570IMG_3571

In the afternoon we were visited by social worker Andrey Lukyanov who spoke to our group about Danish child protection services and the Danish welfare system.  Students were surprised to learn about the many benefits Danish citizens enjoy including free education and health care paid by the state.  Denmark has the highest tax rates from any other European country but it also spends half of collected tax revenue on public services. “It’s like an all-inclusive resort” says Lukyanov to the students.


Day 3: Visit to Superkilen!

Category : Learning

On Day 3 we visited a public park called Superkilen in the Norrebro district of Copenhagen. This park was designed to honor Denmark’s diversity. We looked at the use of art in public spaces also used for play and community building. Today’s trip exposed students to a community made up largely of immigrants.  As part of our tour, we had a photography composition lesson by Peter Hyldekjaer, an accomplished travel photographer and retired head librarian at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad.  Students had an opportunity to also interact with the community and take pictures that could be used to form their digital stories.

File_004File_003File_005IMG_3488 File_006File_001 (1)File_002 (1)File_003 (1)File_000IMG_3500 IMG_3513

Day 2: Tour of Viking Museum and Cathedral at Roskilde

Category : Learning

After an exciting introduction to the city with our historical Copenhagen tour, on day 2 we traveled to Roskilde to learn more about Denmark’s rich history.  Our group visited the Viking Ship Museum which holds five unique viking ships discovered in the nearby fjord buried underwater for nearly 900 years.  The ships took 25 years to piece back together and are on display at the museum.  Boatbuilders were also able to create full-scale sailing ships modeled after the ruins of the viking ships using replicas of viking tools.  Outside on the museum lawn, students played games inspired by the period when vikings inhabited Roskilde.

File_001 (2)File_003 (2)File_002 (2)File_005 (2)File_004 (2) File_008 File_009

We also toured the Cathedral at Roskilde built in the 1170s.  The Cathedral holds the tombs of Denmark’s royalty and over the centuries it has maintained its exquisite design and splendor! In 1995, the Roskilde Cathedral was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list of properties having outstanding value.

File_002 (3)File_000 (3) File_005 (3) File_004 (3) File_003 (3)

Day 1 Study Abroad Copenhagen: City Walking Tour

Category : Learning

Day 1 kicked off with a historical city walking tour led by Anders Larsen.

Day 1










We explored sights and secrets of one of Europe’s most alluring cities.  Our tour guide Anders gave us insight of how the city tries to preserve its history while adapting to modernity–all while keeping the idea of “humans first” as its priority.  This is seen in their urban planning with generous use of green spaces and bike paths separated by city traffic.  The three-hour tour included a visit to the Hans Christian Andersen statue located between city hall and Tivoli Gardens and amusing stories about the inspiration to his ‘dark’ fairy tales.  Where they written for children or adults?  Our tour ended at parliament where students asked questions about the Danish political system.  Now we’re prepared for the week ahead filled with sight visits, tours, lectures, and research.  Ready to go!

We’re in Copenhagen!

Nature meets Nurture, DKTulips by the North Sea, DKCopenhagen City Hall File_000 (1)

Students arrive on Thursday and classes begin Friday morning!  We have a fun weekend planned filled with city walking tours, visits to the Viking Museum and Cathedral in Roskilde and a canal tour followed by a photo composition discussion…all leading up to our Digital Storytelling workshop on Wednesday, May 25.  Get your cameras ready!  Here we go!

Preparation for Editing Digital Stories: WeVideo

We will be using the web-based, collaborative digital video editing platform WeVideo for this project.  Please sign-up for your account using the direct link posted on Moodle.  Click here to get started!

You may upload pictures and video direct from your phones using the WeVideo app.  You can find a WeVideo tutorial created by DigLibArts student technology liaisons on YouTube here.

Please email Sonia Chaidez ( or Kathy Filatreau ( with any questions.

Digital Storytelling in Copenhagen!

This spring the SOWK/ANTHRO 300 course taught by Professors Paula Sheridan and Lisa Ibañez  will be traveling to Copenhagen, Denmark to explore the ways in which welfare and workfare states contribute to the well-being of children and families.  The class will also examine the gaps in service delivery and resources in both settings.  Students will participate in class meetings hosted by Metropolitan University College’s Social Work Program.  There will also be field visits relevant to course content and cultural excursions.

As part of this study abroad experience Kathy Filatreau (Instructional Technologist) and Sonia Chaidez (Instructional Media Designer) will be leading a series of workshops in Digital Storytelling.  Participating Whittier College and Metro University College students will create digital stories that explore the central theme of living with social and economic justice in a globalized world.  Our digital stories will be crafted as prompts to research how partnerships for social change in a globalized society happen and how issues surrounding children, families, immigration, environmental justice and ethics may affect populations.that reflect topics covered in courses.

We will use this space to share preparations and materials with our colleagues and students.  We will also blog about our teaching and learning experiences and showcase students work.