Storyboards are visual organizers, typically a series of illustrations displayed in sequence for the purpose of previsualizing a video, web-based training, or interactive media sequence.

The storyboard is usually created before actual work on creating the digital story begins and a written description and graphical depiction of the elements of the story, such as images, text, narration, music, transitions, etc. are added to the storyboard. The elements of the story are arranged in the storyboard in the chronological order in which they will appear in the story and this allows the developer to organize and re-arrange the content for maximum effect.

Creating storyboards is an often overlooked component of digital storytelling and for many students, storyboarding may seem like a tedious extra step. It allows the user to visualize how the project will be put together and help illustrate what holes exist since they can see the entire plan laid out in front of them. Storyboarding can also inspire new ideas as well as lets the developer rearrange existing resources before the final development begins and changes may be harder to make.

Storyboards may be created in a variety of ways, both digitally and manually on paper or artists’ board. If storyboards are developed on a computer, a variety of software programs may be used, such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

The idea of storyboarding was developed at the Walt Disney Studio during the early 1930s. Disney credited animator Webb Smith with creating the idea of drawing scenes on separate sheets of paper and pinning them up on a bulletin board to tell a story in sequence, thus creating the first storyboard (Christopher Finch, The Art of Walt Disney, Abrams, 1973). The first complete storyboards were created for the 1933 Disney short Three Little Pigs (The Story of Walt Disney, Henry Holt, 1956). According to John Canemaker, in Paper Dreams: The Art and Artists of Disney Storyboards (1999, Hyperion Press), the first storyboards at Disney evolved from comic-book like “story sketches” created in the 1920s to illustrate concepts for animated cartoon short subjects such as Plane Crazy and Steamboat Willie.

One of the first live action films to be completely storyboarded was Gone with the Wind. William Cameron Menzies. Storyboarding became popular in live-action film production during the early 1940s, and grew into a standard medium for previsualization of films.

Scoreboards for Video

A storyboard for video production is essentially a large comic of the film or some section of the film produced beforehand to help directors, cinematographers and television commercial advertising clients visualize the scenes and find potential problems before they occur. Often storyboards include arrows or instructions that indicate movement.

In creating a motion picture with any degree of fidelity to a script, a storyboard provides a visual layout of events as they are to be seen through the camera lens. And in the case of interactive media, it is the layout and sequence in which the user or viewer sees the content or information. In the storyboarding process, most technical details involved in crafting a film or interactive media project can be efficiently described either in picture, or in additional text.


Storyboarding for Online Learning

More recently the term storyboard has been used in the fields of web development, software development and instructional design to present and describe, in written, interactive events as well as audio and motion, particularly on user interfaces and electronic pages.

Benefits of Storyboarding for Online Learning

One advantage of using storyboards is that it allows the designer to experiment with changes in the sequence before production begins. It can also be a useful way to get client buy-in for linear designs (typically using storybards for non-linear learning activities becomes too complicated to be useful to a client).

Disadvantages of Storyboarding for Online Learning

The disadvantage of using storyboarding for online learning is that they tend to limit the final product ends up being very linear. In addition, many affordances of online media cannot be easily be captured in the storyboard format. For example if the learning experience adjusts depending on the choices of the learner (typically database driven learning applications) it can be very difficult to display in storyboard format. It is also hard to capture online learning that has social interaction between learners and experts.

Get Started with Digital Storytelling

In 8 Steps to Great Digital Storytelling, Samantha Morra provides a great overview of the digital storytelling process, as shown in the following graphic.


Write a Script

Digital storytelling allows computer users to become creative storytellers by first beginning with the traditional processes of selecting a topic, conducting research, writing a script, and developing an interesting story. This material is then combined with various types of multimedia, including still images, recorded audio, computer-generated text, video clips, and music so that it can be played on a computer, added to a web site, posted on a blog, or burned on a DVD.

The script for an educational digital story is one of the most important components that students will create. We stress to our students and workshop participants that a good digital story must first be a good story and that no matter how much expertise a student has with technology, a poorly written story will not be improved by fancy transitions and other digital effects.

Scriptwriting can be difficult for many students and is certainly more work and less fun than some of the other tasks associated with creating a digital story, like searching for images or adding music.

The First Version of the Script

Students in our courses and workshops are asked to write and submit a first draft version of the script for a digital story based on their selected topic. They are usually allowed to choose their own topics, although they are encouraged to select a topic related to historical events, personal episodes in their lives, or instructional content that describes an educational theme or concept.

Students view example stories that usually include a personal element in the script so that the digital story reflects ideas that the digital story creator feels passionate about.

Concentrating their efforts on writing a script shifts the emphasis away from finding images to illustrate a story, which many younger students want to begin with, and allows them to spend more time on the “storytelling” instead of the “digital.” and provides students with an opportunity to take ownership of the story through the personal nature of their writing.

when the focus is just on the technology of creating digital stories and other literacy skills are ignored, a number of troubling issues arise:

  • Students cannot explain what Digital Storytelling is and why it is different from a computerized slideshow;
  • Students do not recognize the power of their own voices;
  • Students concentrate on using the computer before a story’s script has been completed; and
  • Students waste time on unnecessary transitions and special effects.

the solution to these issues is for students (and teachers) to concentrate on developing narrative skills and focusing on what makes a good non-digital story, the same established practices found in traditional writing and composition classes.

Story Circles

After the initial versions of the scripts are written, students should participate in small group “story circles” in which they share their ideas for their stories, read draft versions of their scripts and provide constructive criticism and suggestions that can be used to improve the scripts and the overall plan for the final stories.

The Writing Challenge

Many students have trouble learning to formulate an educationally sound argument, and just providing students with a library of digital images and computer-based authoring software will not be beneficial to students or educators. There are many helpful resources for students, and Ohler and Dillingham’s Visual Portrait of a Story as shown in the figure below is part of a detailed description of story elements that can be helpful to students and educators as they construct their own stories.

This graphic is online at:

A Questioning Toolkit has been online for many years and is still a great resource. This website can be used to introduce students to effective questioning techniques that may help them in their attempts to formulate the dramatic questions that will form the basis of their own stories.

Another older, but still very helpful resource is The (merely) Demanding Question webpage, written by Jamie McKenzie in 2006. It contains lots of useful information about the essential questions and how they can be used by educators and students.

Tips for Success

1. Make sure your storyboard progression is logical and coherent. Even if your video is a “who-done-it?” your audience expects a logical progression to a conclusion. Although plot-twists are exciting, stories that draw conclusions from nothing are neither informative nor enjoyable.

  1. Using an attention-grabber at the beginning of your story can set the tone and get your audience interested. An attention-grabber can be:
  • a question
  • a scenario
  • an interesting image
  • a game
  • a finished example (as in a lesson)
  1. When creating a storyboard, the visual parts of the frames should be kept simple and the image in each frame should be one that best describes the action taking place, or concept being explained. The images can be simple sketches, or images from your own resources or found on the web.

Putting your Storyboard Together

Get Organized

One of the things you can do to help organize your digital story is to write your script out by scene on Post-it notes or index cards. This will help you arrange your scenes and dialogue so that your video flows in a coherent, logical manner. Once they are organized, number them and place them the order in which they will appear in the story. The frames of your storyboard will represent the images or scenes that take place. These frames will correspond to the order of your notes or index cards.

Using the Computer

Downloadable storyboard templates

After you download one of the storyboard templates, type or paste in a description of the images that will appear, the sound or narration that will be included, any music that will be playing, and any transitions or special effects that will be used for each frame or scene of your digital story.

You can use thumbnail images of the photos you have taken with a digital camera or downloaded from the web, still image captures from a video, sketches you have hand drawn and scanned, or images you have found on sites like to represent the final images that will appear in your digital story.


Another tool you may find useful for creating storyboards is Storyboard That. A free version is available that will give you a good idea of how the program works and educational versions also available that allow students to build storyboards collaboratively.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s