First “Digital Storyteller of the Year” awards presented to Redlands Unified School District students


The Redlands Unified School District hosted their first “Digital Storyteller of the Year” awards ceremony for elementary, middle and high school students on May 15 at Studio Movie Grill in Redlands.

In efforts to promote digital storytelling through video, RUSD created a weekly video contest as a platform to encourage students to unleash their creativity through video.

In 2018, Redlands USD Productions bought the online video editor, WeVideo, granting free access for all students in the district to use with their school account.

Dwayne Cowles, teacher on assignment in RUSD, instructs students and teachers how to use WeVideo and include it in the classroom. Cowles says he strives to aid students in teaching them “how to tell their story in different, sometimes better ways than traditional formats.” Cowles also guides classes in learning Google Docs tools, such as the voice typing tool. In addition to his role as TOA, Cowles is the producer for the Video as Story Teller, or V.A.S.T., celebrations, like the awards ceremony at Studio Movie Grill.

“I think that students find that they use greater critical thinking skills when they combine video with their stories,” said Cowles. “Video makes the students think more about their audience and what they want their audience to leave with.

Over the course of the school year, teachers from schools in RUSD would submit video nominations from their students to Cowles. From there, a winner was chosen each week from the accumulation of videos.

Of all of the video nominations submitted, only the video of the week winners and their guests were invited to attend the awards ceremony in which the video of the year winners were announced for primary, middle, and high school levels.

Also in attendance at the awards ceremony were the teachers who nominated the weekly winners, RUSD Superintendent Mauricio Arellano, assistant superintendents, members of the instructional technology department and their guests.

The afternoon consisted of two to three minute showings of each video that was a weekly winner, announcement of finalists and winners, and for those who chose to stay, a free movie showing of “Pokémon Detective Pikachu.”

“When I walked into the theater and saw these kids on the big screen in Redlands Studio Movie Grill, I was truly amazed at how good they all were,” said Cowles. “They were so creative and professional in their videos. It is obvious that there will be some future filmmakers coming from Redlands.”

As students and their families entered the lobby of the theater, they were welcomed with custom made posters, designed by Jason Hill, from the district’s Instructional Technology Department, featuring the title of their video and their name. (La Plaza photo)

The “Video of the Year” award winners were chosen by a group of teachers using a rubric in order to determine how well each participant told their story.

In the end, Aubree Cardiel won the “Video of the Year” award for the elementary school level with her video, “Mohammed Ali,” Kayleen Lim earned the award for the middle school level with her video, “Monkey’s Paw,” and Samantha Barajas and Gavin Milbourne won the award for the high school level with their video, “Drew Doc.”

Redlands East Valley seniors Gavin Milbourne and Samantha Barajas were announced as the winners of the Video of the Year Award for the high school level. Milbourne and Barajas stand next to the poster on their documentary about REV senior Drew Vines. (La Plaza photo)

Barajas, a senior at Redlands East Valley, said that her inspiration for her video “was to show people that there is more than just one kind of art.” She recognizes that there are many students with extraordinary hidden talents and Drew Vines, whom “Drew Doc” is based on, was one of the ardent students she encountered.

“I think digital storytelling is very important in today’s world because it shows a variety of perspectives on how others view the world,” Barajas continued.

The district intends for this contest to continue as this was the first year it was introduced.

“This year, we had 5000 students participate using WeVideo, and next year, we hope to double that number,” said Cowles.

In addition, next year, there will be an end of the year celebration at the Redlands Bowl as well as quarterly V.A.S.T. celebrations at Redlands Studio Movie Grill on Oct. 16, Jan. 8, and April 8. Cowles greatly encourages students to submit their work using the link,

“I feel that the RUSD weekly video contests benefit students today by giving teachers and students valuable and interesting information,” said Barajas.

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