tech tips for writers / writers tips

Best-in-Class Digital Storytelling Tools

Best-in-class Digital Storytelling Tools

A digital story is a series of images connected with text and/or a narrated soundtrack — captured by a digital device such as an iPad or smartphone — that tell a story. It can be fiction, non-fiction, narrative, biographic, expository, or even poetry. Think of Ken Burns’ The Civil War, or Colin Low’s City of Gold. Because of its multimedia approach and appealing blend of text, color, movement, sound, and images, it has fast become one of the most popular formats for visual writers.

According to Center for Digital Storytelling, there are seven elements critical to a good digital story:

  1. Point of View — What is the perspective of the author?
  2. Dramatic Question — A key question that keeps the viewer’s attention and will be answered by the end of the story.
  3. Emotional Content — Serious issues that come alive in a personal and powerful way and connects the audience to the story.
  4. Voice — personalize the story with the author’s unique writing style to help the audience understand the context.
  5. Soundtrack — Music or other sounds that support and embellish the story.
  6. Economy — Using just enough content to tell the story without overloading the viewer.
  7. Pacing — The rhythm of the story and how slowly or quickly it progresses.

These elements are conveyed by the vast swath of multimedia tools available in digital storytelling.

Writing a digital story includes five basic steps:

  1. Research the topic so you are clear on presentation.
  2. Write a script, a storyboard, or a timeline of activities.
  3. Collect the required multimedia parts — text, images, audio, video, oral selfies, and more.
  4. Combine everything into an exciting story.
  5. Share and reflect on the completed story.

These five steps are stepping stones for beginners and critical to experienced storytellers.

There are so many online options for digital storytelling, rarely is there a writer who can’t find a webtool that fits their communication style. Here are some of the most popular. Try them all and then pick the one that works best for you:

adobe voiceAdobe Spark Video

Free; iOS

Adobe Spark Video is an easy-to-use digital storytelling app for iPads. It integrates text, images, royalty-free clipart, background music, and your own artwork into a story you tell and then render as a movie to be shared easily through the cloud. As the name implies, the storytelling revolves around your voice. While it lacks many of the bells and whistles of more sophisticated digital storytelling tools, it includes everything necessary to relay exciting, creative stories.

puppet palsPuppet Pals

Freemium; mobile app

With Puppet Pals, you add a voice-over to a selected cast of characters (only one available with the free version) and animate them to tell a story. The paid version provides additional characters and more storytelling options, but the free version allows for a great deal of flexibility in the writing process as well as an authentic expression of ideas.

storybird kindergarten digital storytellingStorybird

Freemium; web and mobile app

Storybird is a gorgeous collection of high-quality artwork that has inspired over 5 million to write. You pick an artistic theme for a story, then add text to as many pages as you’d like. Once finished, the story is saved as a booklet that can be shared via a link, printed, or embedded in blogs or websites.


Free; iOS

Storykit makes it easy to tell stories with photos, text, personal drawings, and audio. Each page is created individually using images from the camera roll, the optional addition of audio, and then curated into a link that can be shared with others or uploaded to the Storykit server and made available to all users.


Freemium; iOS

With Tellagami, you create a thirty-second story using an animated avatar (called a gami) that moves and talks in response to a recording of your own words (added via voice or keyboard).  After customizing the gami’s appearance and emotions, it is placed in a background selected from the camera roll, taken with the device camera, or hand-drawn directly onto the screen. Finally, the audio overlay is added.  When completed, it can be saved to the camera roll or shared via email or a variety of social media options. This app is well-suited for book trailers or anyone who wants to promote their book but doesn’t like a visual recording of themselves. The cartoon character makes it easier to communicate required information without what is–for some–the embarrassment of seeing themselves on video.


Fee; web or iOS

VoiceThread is an interactive, cloud-based slideshow approach to digital storytelling that can share images, documents, videos, voice, and more. It’s intuitive to use, as simple as adding the media you desire with the click of a button and a drag-drop from your digital device. Once published, viewer comments are appended via typing, audio, or video. As others comment, they can draw on the screen and/or add other documents (images, files, and more) to better explain what’s being said. When completed, it’s saved as a video and can be shared in a wide variety of methods.

This is one of the most powerful digital storytelling tools, allowing users to share a wide variety of media in support of their story, narrative, documentary, or argument.


However you start the use of digital storytelling, just start! It will change the way you think of writing.

–published first on Today’s Author

More about Digital Storytelling

Storyboard That–Digital Storyteller, Graphic Organizer, and more

8 More Digital Storytelling Websites

19 More Digital Storytelling Apps

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and Born in a Treacherous Time, first in her prehistoric fiction series Man vs. Nature. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.


70 thoughts on “Best-in-Class Digital Storytelling Tools

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  6. This is interesting. I knew there were programmes for creating digital stories, but have never found the time to track them down and look, now you’ve gathered them together for me. That’s very useful. Nice post.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve never heard of this,Jacqui, but I can definitely see how it might be immensely popular. Intimidating a bit for those of us who aren’t tech savvy, but what a great idea. Thanks for the informative and fascinating post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My head spins with this idea. To be honest, I have a difficult enough time with the “regular” author toolbox. But I’m sure this will be a new tool that many will use to great success. And because of your post, at least I’ll understand what they’re talking about! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you Jacqui. I hadn’t heard of any of these apps and do so appreciate you sharing how they work. I really like the idea of combining the graphics, music and story in a visual medium. Happy Hop Day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Jacqui – everything we do in life is story-telling … and I love having the opportunity to learn more through your digital ideas … and as you mention definitely different – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I love this idea. I’d need to see some examples, though. i’ve been wanting to try out Adobe Spark, and I found out about Storybird a while ago. I should experiment with it.

    I’m sort of new to this blog hop. I used to comment on everyone’s blog, but then I noticed that not many reply back. Only a handful visit me (or perhaps they just don’t comment lol) but maybe that’s because my posts are about organization. haha Your first post is really good. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Storybird image is an example I did (very quick). Their pictures are gorgeous and all writers do is add text. Adobe Spark is quite popular in schools now (free helps).

      My only blog hop experience so far is #IWSG which is wonderful. I’m hoping this will reprise that. The list is short enough, I know a lot of the participants (like you) so you’ll probably see me every month!.


    • Thanks, Raimey. I know you tried to be clear on what posts should be but there’s nothing like just doing it to give me a sense of what works.

      I read CL’s post about Instagram too. I tried it for my teaching books which should work fine but it was a lot more work than I expected. I’m not sure how to use it for fiction–book covers? Hmmm…


  12. Welcome to the hop!

    Thanks for sharing these useful resources. I’m interested in making a mini video or digital story once I’ve finished a book so these are really helpful 🙂 (I’d make a full animated scene if I could, but my skills are too limited!)

    Liked by 3 people

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