I participated in a digital storytelling workshop during the summer of 2008. As the project director of an online magazine about the polar regions, I knew that I wanted to create a content-focused piece that introduced viewers to the similarities and differences between the Arctic and Antarctica. I did my homework – wrote up a script and selected some images – and thought that I was all set. I quickly realized that there was more work to be done, however.
At the workshop’s first story circle, I learned that my story really needed to be more personal. Even though the main purpose of the story was to communicate academic content, I still needed to wrap it in the context of a personal experience. Thanks to the advice digital storytelling team and the other workshop participants, I was able to do just that – and ended up with a finished product (see movie below) I was proud of. I also found that the process of connecting the academic content to my own life experience enriched my understanding.
Digital storytelling is not the only time that connecting content and personal experience is important. We know that making connections – between new content and prior knowledge, or between a text and real-world experience is essential for learning. Our challenge as educators – whatever the content area or grade level – is to help our students see how what we’re presenting in class connects to their lives and the world around them.
There are many ways to help students make connections, including digital storytelling. You might incorporate a digital storytelling assignment in which students share what they’ve learned about a topic within a personal, meaningful context. This might take the form of an end-of-course reflection, or a more focused story about a topic of interest. Students might share how their views have shifted, what they’ve learned, or how they discovered a new passion.
How might digital storytelling enhance your courses?