Digital Storytelling at its best

Wes, David Jakes and others have been talking about digital storytelling for a while now and I too have a vested interest in this medium. In our age it’s critical students have strong viewing and representing skills.

In the past teachers who have come across exemplary work in written form want to share it with others. It’s exciting and rewarding when students grasp the concepts of good writing. Joel is a 15 year old friend of our family who’s been creating digital movies for a few years. He has fostered his love of lego and made some incredible videos. He was asked by his teacher to create a video for the story of the Good Samaritan. The resultm as you will see, is quite amazing. Joel obviously has a gift for storytelling and I know it largely comes from time watching movies and television. As Steven Johnson says, “it’s not all bad.” As we move from our text biased classroom to a more rich offering of expression, we will undoubtedly find more Joels. After watching, visit the archive and leave a comment for him. Also, if you know of a place to enter this video, let me know.

joel and teaganUpdate: I need to point out that this video is actually a collaborative effort between Joel and his friend Teagan. While Joel certainly has more of the technical skills, Teagan made strong contributions in developing the storyboard and creative inputs into perfecting scenes. This is a key point. While the digital story process involves craftsmanship in technical terms, it also requires creative analysis and is best done in teams. Consider the people involved in any movie or digital production and it’s evident that even with powerful computing and editing tools, the need to challenge one another and critique each other’s work is critical in creating quality work. Excellent work Joel and Teagan.

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  • Great job Joel! I am sure this took many hours to complete, VERY well done! Great use of sound effects, background music– and very smooth animation. I am wondering how many frames per second you captured to make the animation so smooth? Thanks for sharing this with the world! I’m letting others know about it on my own blog.

  • Joel, This is excellent work. I would love for you to do a guest spot on this blog and give a little advice/tutorial on completeing this project. Where do you get your sound effects from? Great story, and very convicting as well. I especially liked your capture of the man holding the bible with the cross. It conveys the heart of the story in a modern setting well. I too am going to link here.

  • Raj

    Very well done – Kudos all around.

  • Thank you for sharing this video clip! It’s an inspiration to see Joel’s work, and the power of storytelling in digital form…it goes to show that new technology can powerfully convey “old” stories we thought we understood.


  • Joel,
    I cannot believe what an incredible gift God has given you! You should offer classes!

  • Joel Plosz

    Thank you for all the kind comments. They are very encouraging and make me want to continue to make more little movies.
    And to anwser your questions: This movie was shot in 15fps. Most of my sounds come from my collection I’ve been stocking up on over the years, but for the sound effects I didn’t have, I downloaded them from
    Thanks again 🙂

  • Joel, I really liked the visual effects and music. However, what is a .flv?
    Never heard of it and I am waiting to learn.

  • Wow – this was very powerful!

    Legos or not it was the feeling, the music, and what wasn’t said that made it so compelling. Are you really only 15 years old? This had an ending with quite a sophisticated twist!

    Joel and Teagan you are a great team that compliments each other! Well done!

  • shareski


    A .flv file is a flash video file. Joel’s original video was in .wmv (Windows Media Format) Although he likely has a DVD as well.

    I’ve been trying to use the .flv format since the flash player is the most prevalent player, has potentially the best compression options and works nicely as an embedded video.

    I use a program called Sorenson Squeeze to convert a variety of formats to .flv.

  • This is great work. I just don’t understand why we’re suddenly calling filmmaking “digital storytelling.” It’s just corny and separates the work from its deep disciplinary roots.

  • Raj

    I agree with you Tom – the “digitization” of media is nothing more than neologism running wild. Digital Photography is the same way. Photography is photography, regardless of if you shoot IMAX, Velveta or Lexar Pro 80X.

    Digital stories to me are really more short films that have been made far more accessible to the general public with the advent of tools that are largely in the digital space to manage their production. If that digital element is enough to make it significantly different than shooting 8mm or on VHS handicam, then I would be wrong, but I think that the basic principles are independent of the medium (though the medium is still the message as there are certain stories that will appear because of digital technology that would not have come out otherwise because of other barriers).

  • shareski


    Always love your “contraire” perspectives.

    I think digital storytelling can embrace more than filmmaking. Wikipedia describes it this way,
    “Digital Storytelling reflects both a broad reference to the emergent new forms of digital narratives (web-based stories, interactive stories, hypertexts, and narrative computer games) as well as the specific approach of creating short digital films developed by the Center for Digital Storytelling.”

    Many definitions include audio as a form of digital storytelling. Even the use of PowerPoint can be considered a digital story in a presentation format.

    Although this example is filmmaking, the concept of digital storytelling can embrace a broader scope but since the principles of storytelling are at work, it’s easier to lump them altogether.

  • Marg

    Wow Joel and Teagan!
    This is a remakable and powerful story. I am about to introduce digital storytelling to my Year 6 students (NSW-Australia) – we are discussing “social justice” issues at the moment and I would like to use your movie with your permission. Thank you for sharing a great gift!

  • Joel

    It would be our pleasure, Marg. You have permission. 🙂

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