Streams of stories travel in circles around the world. Circles of voices, circles of whispers and words. Circles of life.
As an educator I have always been enthusiastic about giving my students a voice. Not merely by creating an atmosphere where they could voice their opinions without the fear of contradicting me or my own views, but also in the sense of instilling in them a sense of voice and ownership. This was a process that sometimes took time – time for students to be assertive and even time to send their work for publication by postal service.
Today those issues are different. Students still need to take ownership of their learning (e.g. becoming an autonomous learner) but it is easier to share their voice with others, especially beyond the narrow space of classrooms. I have found that even less motivated students will try harder to write well when their work is published in blogs and they are aware that the teacher is not the sole recipient of their efforts.
Before discussing the implementation of digital tools for storytelling, consider what happens online:
Whether an educator agrees or not, students today are participants of the world above. Whether an educator agrees or not, not teaching learners how to become efficient participants in the world above, not only as consumers but as creators, is doing a disservice to learners. There is much that students need to learn: from being responsible digital citizens to how to create a digital footprint which will accompany them throughout their life to how to collaborate and create with others online. Although learners have always collaborated and created products (whether a skitch, an essay or poster), there is so much more richness offered by online tools. Additionally, these are lifelong skills which learners will take with them to the next level of instruction and possibly to their future jobs. We are in the midst of preparing students for jobs we still don’t know; it is educators’ responsibility to teach them how to use our existing tools with the hope that learners will quickly adapt to tools and demands which will exist in their futures.
One argument is that digital tech only brings in the “WOW” factor and there is little pedagogic concern about effective learning. Either that, or that students need to learn the core curriculum and already know sufficient digital technology. Both are fallacies.
Implementing digital tech should not be a matter of “Wow” but be embedded in sound pedagogical practices. The second argument is poor and unfounded for learners do have so much to learn, as with the examples I mentioned above.
Learning how to navigate the digital world, developing digital skills takes practice. Young people have always collaborated and exchanged information. They are engaged in the digital world and their interests can be directed towards creative learning. Digital storytelling is part of what is considered to be digital and information literacies.
Storytelling is part of human rituals, combining fact and fiction in blended delights. Storytelling holds hope, weaves the past and present, helping one to process information. Through stories emotions may be filtered, memories linger, attention is focused on the characters, the plot, the outcomes. Stories are to be shared, they are motivating and captivating.
For learners, telling stories is motivating and engaging. It is a focus on them, an opportunity for them to tell stories that matter to them, that are relevant and have immediate significance. Learning is personalized, these digital stories may be embedded in students’ blogs and shared – not only with the teacher, but with peers and beyond the classroom walls. Digital storytelling involves text, images, sound, video. Selecting the data, making decisions as to the storyboard, how best to visualize it all, are skills that students engage in, even the lesser academic motivated ones.
Not all my teaching practice requires digital tools. Although I may be known to have a strong interest in the use of ICT for classrooms and learning purposes, there are times when ICT is not necessarily required. Nevertheless, with the possibilities that digital storytelling opens today, it really would be a disservice not to introduce my learners to the potential at their fingertips.