A few weeks back I wrote a post about using Padlet in the classroom to help facilitate active learning. Susie also facilitated another workshop on ways to incorporate active learning into your classrooms that gave a number of different strategies and tools both high and low tech. This week I introduce another active learning strategy that incorporates some of the power of technology: Digital Storytelling. Digital storytelling is not a particular form of technology, but rather a strategy that uses the multimedia benefits of technology. Digital storytelling requires learners to tell a story using digital means. These stories might be creative stories that students have created themselves, little autobiographies, documentaries, or even stories reflecting their progress on some large-scale project.
The art of storytelling requires the creator to understand the purpose of the story, organize important details, explain in clear language, and blend visual and verbal elements together in a meaningful and powerful way. A good story often creates a mental image for the listener when crafted well. Multimedia allows for the creator of a digital story to present the visual image along with the verbal description. The cognitive skills needed to tell a good story are very complex and when a good story is told, there is evidence that the creator has deeply processed and understood their topic. What I tend to find most satisfying is when students can create an engaging and relatable story with the complex information that they have been learning in their classroom. If these stories can be understood and appreciated by people not in higher-education, I think that is a significant gain. It’s a way for students to engage in ‘giving away’ their particular discipline to others and to demonstrate how their field is relevant to the general public in an engaging manner.
In a 2017 Inside Higher Ed Op Ed article, Kari Smalkoski, Linda Buturian, and Scott Spicer describe how they saw digital storytelling as a mechanism for transforming learning in a very powerful way including helping students to improve civic discourse and communicate multiple perspectives on an issue. It does require instructors to break from the more familiar recipe of the traditional research paper, but allows for more student creativity and voice within the project. Here is a link to an initiative so-lead by Kari Smalkoski in the Twin Cities area in MN that presents a number of digital stories created by high school students on issues important to them (MN Youth Story Squad).
There are several resources available to those who might be interested in learning more about this strategy.
- University of Houston Digital Storytelling Resource Site (Include examples from across disciplines)
- Kathy Schrock Digital Storytelling site
- Univ. of MD Baltimore County Digital Storytelling Resource Site
I could see this strategy being attractive to faculty who are interested in alternative ways of having students present in a class. The technical skill needed to accomplish many of the tasks in digital storytelling can be made relatively easy through the variety of programs available, but time should be given and some structure provided to help students select tools and begin to use them to create products. Having students collaborate on projects like this might be a unique way to present information. For those who are interested in cross-course collaborations, this might be one option for a project that students might collaborate with.