” We are our stories. We compress years of experience, thought, and emotion into a few compact narratives that we convey to others and tell to ourselves. ”
– Daniel Pink
The human imagination, a powerful tool, has given people across all cultures the ability to communicate ideas to others, whether through pictures, words, or both. These stories, which been passed down over generations through verbal communication, drawings, and books, are used for entertainment, teaching, and for passing down wisdom. Telling stories through cave drawings was an advanced writing idea for the cavemen in their time. Overtime, writing has advanced to telling stories through books, and now to telling stories through digital means. The ways in which we tell stories is bound to change eventually, right? How do you think our children will tell stories in a century or even just a decade? Thinking about how our technology will evolve from how advanced it is now is a concept that is unimaginable to me and does not even seem possible, yet I won’t be surprised if by the time my grandchildren are in school, technology and how stories are told will be so advanced and unimaginable, I will be like the woman in this video: illiterate grandma. In today’s modern world, we have found a way to tell stories both orally and visually through “digital storytelling”. Storytellers old and young, and students of all backgrounds, can communicate their stories through showing images and texts, and playing sound and video.
In Make Me a Story by Lisa Miller, Linda Rief writes in the foreword of the book that she is “not surprised when students forget to bring pens or pencils to class” (xi). Why? Because the word “writing” to students now does not mean pencil to paper, but rather fingers to keyboard. Should our current and future practices forget about traditional paper and pencil writing? What could be the benefits to both traditional writing and digital storytelling? Technology is the tool that allows students’ stories to come alive. They choose the words they want to say, images they want to show, voices they want the audience to hear, and the sounds they want the audience to feel in their emotions. Digital storytelling transforms students’ writing and it allows students to feel as though their ideas matter and are important to others. Why do you think (or do you believe) that students feel differently when they create their own digital story compared to a story they wrote with paper and pencil? How does (or does) digital storytelling give writers the confidence to share their story that paper and pencil writing cannot provide?
The video below called “Digital Storytelling in the Classroom” is about a middle school 8th grade US History teacher who describes how she uses in classroom. She describes her fears about technology and hesitation to allow digital storytelling in her classroom. I loved this video because it is from a teacher’s perspective and about US History (not a student favorite in my opinion) however the students were engaged in this subject through their digital stories. Do you have any thoughts about this specific video? Can you relate to this teacher?
Through digital storytelling, all types of learners can express their ideas about topics across the curriculum, such as on historical matters as 9/11, on science topics like polar bears, and literature ideas like how to express foreshadowing in a story. Before students can express their ideas through digital stories, students must have an understanding of how stories, such as narratives and science reports for example work. Miller states that “talking about books they’ve read will give students ideas about what they might write about and how, all the way through the writing process. We can all learn by imitating great writing” (14). Digital storytelling is a forum where students can express their ideas about writing and allow them to find their own writing style. How can a class of elementary aged students (k-5) create digital stories on their own on their computers? Is this too difficult of a concept for them to understand?
Below is a (cute) digital story from a kindergarten ESL class about information they gathered from a non-fiction book about polar bears. How amazing is it that kindergarten students who are just starting to write their names and a few other words are able to express their ideas with others, farther than just their class, through their voice and pictures?! Digital storytelling allows these students to explore how storytelling works, how stories are made and created, and about the basic elements of stories. Technology allows students of all ages and backgrounds to voice or show their ideas to other populations. Now since this video is on the world wide web, people of all backgrounds and curiosities can view this video and learn something from it, whether about polar bears or about how kindergarten students can create a digital story.
The image below shows the correlation between 6+1 Writing Traits and the 7 Elements of Digital Storytelling from the website http://thenjournal.org/feature/160/. Do you think students should be taught about the traditional writing traits before they are taught about the traits of digital storytelling? Or do you think these elements/traits can be taught simultaneously? How do you go about teaching young writers/readers about these writing elements through digital storytelling?
Enabling children to tell their stories digitally can also be very appealing to the their audience. Very often, I find that children have a difficult time focusing in class during presentations (of any kind). But, by sharing digital stories, students have the opportunity to enter the life of the person telling the story. It is almost as if we were living within that moment. Through the use of pictures and songs, we are able to travel back to all these important moments in a person’s life. In the text Crafting an Agentive Self: Case Studies of Digital Storytelling by Glynda Hull and Mira Katz, delves into the lives of 24 year old Randy and 13 year old Dara. Randy identifies himself as a writer whereas, Dara views herself as a writer and a story teller. During this case study, we are able to see how Randy and Dara use digital storytelling as a tool to capture and share stories about pivotal moments in their lives (or events that happened in someone elses life).
As teachers, we must all keep in mind that not all students all traditional writers. Some are better at sharing their stories through the use of technology. In the article, Hull and Katz both argue that their goal is to promote “how alternative spaces for learning can sometimes effectively support adolescents’ interests in literacy and foster their developing sense of agency (6). Digital storytelling should not be utilized to replace traditional writing, but it should be used to aid students have difficulty writing or lack interest. What are your thoughts on that idea?
While reading this article, another thought that occurred to me was how these experiences could help Dara at school, given that this type of technology was made available to her through DUSTY’s. Dara was able to negotiate what she wrote about at DUSTY, but this might not be feasible at school. As teachers, how can we help children develop a passion to write about topics that don’t appeal to them? How can we develop a curriculum that fosters academic writing/ writing for pleasure through the use of digital storytelling.
In coherence with the Hull and Katz’s article, I believe that Korina M. Jocson’s piece Situating the Personal in Digital Media Production was also intriguing. For some students, writing or even creating poetry can be a daunting task. For some, the flow of writing just doesn’t come natural. Therefore, producing work that is deemed to be “good” becomes a problem. But, what would happen if students were given the opportunity to write digital poetry? Wouldn’t it be more meaningful? Like sharing digital stories, I believe that the use of technology to write poetry would be a great idea. Students would be given the opportunity to give voice to their work. I believe that pictures and sound are appealing, but they also give voice and convey a message that sometimes cannot be depicted in a traditional writing piece. This is something that Jocson also emphasizes strongly in her article. Jocson also argues “digital visual poetry as one type of digital media that leaves plenty of room not only for experimentation to produce texts but also for participants to imagine selves and create meanings toward personal and social transformation” (187).
Digital poetry also gives students the opportunity to be creative! How often do we do we see creativity utilized in a classroom? Many teachers are now afraid( or don’t know how) to to be creative without taking away from the Common Core State Standards. But, what they are unaware of is that there are effective ways of integrating technology into the curriculum without taking away from the Common Core Learning Standards have called upon. Now that we have talked about digital storytelling and digital poetry, can you think of any other ways to use technology to teach other subjects?
EXCELLENT RESOURCE TO LOOK AT: The website “Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling” is a great resource for teachers to look at and use as a resource to understand more about digital stories in the classroom, the 7 elements of DS (digital storytelling), 21st century skills, and examples of what digital stories might look like. It also provides teachers with information how to create storyboards, which is a written out explanation of what the video will include (direct quotes, pictures, music, what scene should be first, etc). Below is an image from the website of an example of storyboards, using index cards.
The topics of digital stories that are included on the website range from personal narratives, to mathematics, to pop-culture, and to single-image digital stories. What is so fascinating about the single-image digital stories is that “a single picture can say a thousand words”. One single picture along with a student’s voice can be just as effective as the audiences’ emotions than a story with numerous pictures. It is so fascinating that there are countless ways that students of all backgrounds and ages can express themselves through digital stories!
*Final thoughts: If you had to choose any topic to write about in your first digital story, what would it be? How would you want the audience to feel? What would you want the audience to look at or listen to? Who is your audience to begin with?!