Friday, April 07, 2006

Digital Story Telling - Free and Easy

I mentioned Microsoft Photostory in my post about iLife envy last year. Photostory is a great program for creating digital slide shows. The best part is that it is free if you have a legitimate copy of Windows XP (yes, it checks). Unlike many slide show programs, Photostory allows you to pan across a picture or zoom in or out. This allows you to use still images to create a movie.

I've used this with my Physics students to created astronomy movies. In the past I've had students create powerpoint presentations from the massive amount of cool images from the Hubble, Spitzer, and other telescopes to explain some astronomical object or phenomenon. The problem was that students included more slides of text than the cool pictures. My intent was to have students talk about their pictures during their presentation, but they would just put all their info on their slides and then simply read they slides while presenting.

With Photostory I have them narrate their slides. The result is exactly what I wanted the students to do with powerpoint in the first place. Which was to tell a story with really cool pictures, not simply give an astronomy lecture.

Photostory is very easy to use. You only need to give about 5 minutes of instruction and your students will be up and running and probably finding cool stuff you never even noticed.

Cool Features:
  • Ken Burns Effect: This is the panning and zooming bit. It will do this automatically for you or you can take complete control of it.
  • Narration: You can narrate each slide and if you talk longer than the duration you set for the picture then the length of time the picture is shown is changed to match your narration.
  • Music Track: You have the option of adding background music. You can import music or have Photostory generate music for you.
  • Slide Transition: There are lots of cool slide transitions.
Potential Problems:
  • Export as *.wmv files only.
  • Students will often choose low resolution pictures and then zoom in too far and all detail is lost.
  • Slide Transition: There are lots of cool slide transitions. Many students will try to use them all!!!
Other Stuff:
You can import your clips into Windows MovieMaker (also Free) if you want to use the cool panning along with actual video clips.



teacher dude said...

I'm also using Photo Story 3 with my ESL students. It's a great piece of software. BTW, Thanks for the tip about importing the stories into Windows Movie Maker. I didn't know that.

Steve said...

You're welcome. My students like being able to use both programs together.