Storytelling and Digital Narrative: Final Reflection

Ideas on story

Story has tremendous power in any discipline that requires information transfer to a human being. Beyond merely narrative, a well-crafted story has the ability to capture one’s attention and motivate. Anecdotally, we recognize this when comparing the audience of a hit movie to that within most traditional lecture environments. Very few postpone a bathroom break due to engagement in the latter setting. However, by recognizing and repurposing the elements of an effective story, we can generate the same level of engrossment within educational settings- whether traditional, blended, or completely virtual.

Stories are not only interesting, but also an effective means to create true educational experiences by simultaneously targeting the cognitive and affective domains. When students create digital stories, classroom productivity is recognized via the incorporation of multiple skills necessary for success in the 21st century. It is also important to note the parallel of the most recent educational standards to these contemporary skills, which expand beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic. In addition, leaders of tomorrow must also be able to demonstrate digital competency, an ability to verbalize thoughts, and utilization of the right hemisphere of the brain through creation of original works of art. Crafting a story makes use of the whole brain by demanding synthesis of both hemispheres to arrive at the final product.

The principles of understanding story invention, educating by storytelling, and improving multiple competencies through digital story creation apply to all age cohorts. From educational theories, empirical literature, and neuroscience, there is irrefutable evidence that the use of story is an exponentially more productive means than alternative means of education for young children listening to a fairy tale to corporate professionals seeking a better way to market products to consumers. Regardless of age, the principles and correlation to the human mind remain constant. Story is an effective vehicle for education, as opposed to simply teaching.

Rationale for story ideas

The opinions expressed above are mine, but there is insurmountable evidence to support these claims. Whether your preference is a more tactile instructional tool or a more environmentally friendly digital method, I provide the following references for further exploration of story efficacy.

Texts by Jason Ohler and Kendall Haven both succinctly summarize a wealth of information related to this topic. Haven’s 2007 Story Proof: The science behind the starting power of story debunks myths and provides facts related to story using a plethora of observations and research. Ohler’s 2013 Digital Storytelling in the Classroom (2nd Ed.) connects the dots between the science offered by Haven and its efficacy in the educational realm.

Examples and further explanation of digital storytelling effectiveness are available on the aforementioned authors’ blogs at www.jasonohler.com and www.kendallhaven.com , a collection of short digital stories that promote traditional literacy at http://www.digitalbooktalk.net , and the University of Houston’s website speaking specifically to this topic.

Action plan

Being a proponent of digital storytelling use for education, when asked for suggestions on how to improve courses I frequently share the expression, “Stop teaching to let them learn.” I go on to explain how I have done this effectively in my courses as an adjunct professor by telling stories and asking students to do the same.

As a form of “storytelling scaffolding”, I usually start a course by telling my stories and establishing the story format and elements clearly. As students learn this, I transition to having them participate in the stories by setting up a scene and having them tell me how they would proceed. Eventually, students are asked to create their own stories and share them with peers. Once they are comfortable with this, they tend to do so without being asked. This continues throughout their lifetime, thus allowing education to be shared regardless of the setting or discipline that they are in. The approach has been effective and the implications are great.

Machinima to teach story invention

Machinima, the cinematic recording of a machine process, is a relatively unexplored method that could be used to teach story invention in the classroom, especially if using digital methods for story creation. Paralleling the recording of video games with voiceover narration during play, the educator could screencast the multiple techniques and technologies used from conception through completion. By verbalizing thoughts while taking actions, a state of metacognition and higher order thinking exists.

Nicholas S. Favazzo, 2013

Nicholas S. Favazzo is graduate student in the Educational Technology MA Program at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, FL.

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