Veronica Johnson

Digital Story Telling

Silhouette cartoon figures listening to a storytellerDigital story telling is an instructional practice that is used to tell stories by using computer-based tools. For example, individuals or groups may tell a story by using a variety of multimedia such as audio, graphics, voice, text, and video. For centuries, many people have learned messages from stories that were either passed down orally or written in a book. We now live in such a technological advanced society that learners can now comprehend an intended message by using technological products of the 21st century.

Is Digital Story Telling Something You Should Implement?

Do you consider yourself a tech savvy individual? Are you always looking for ways to increase learner engagement? Are you searching for opportunities in which your learners can take control of their own learning? If you answered yes to the last three questions, then I suggest looking into incorporating digital storytelling into your curriculum. Although I asked if you are a tech savvy individual, it really doesn’t matter because there are so many technological tutorials available that will teach you how to use new products. Lastly, many times students usually have more experience with the latest technological tools, and they tend to collaborate and teach each other.

Is Digital Story Telling an Effective Instructional Tool for Teachers?

If you are trying to determine if digital story telling is an effective tool for instructors, the first thing I would suggest is determining what form of capacity an educator would like to use this practice in.

For example, is this a practice that only the instructor will be implementing or will learners be responsible for creating digital stories as well? Many educators utilize digital story telling when introducing new content because it serves as an anticipatory set to gain the learners attention. Also, educators are using digital stories in study units in which the content may be difficult for learners to grasp if it is presented in the traditional way.

There is plenty of research that focuses on how digital stories are not only engaging, but they also help learners retain all types of information. We live in such a high technological society that I understand how this research can be true. In my opinion, we live in a society that is full of entertainment and many times I feel like learning institutions are in competition with the world to keep students’ attention on staying involved with learning. Also, no matter how old we are, we all struggle with the feeling of being defeated or overwhelmed. If the level of content is usually difficult to grasp, then it would make much more sense to either create or find a digital story for learners, because it makes learning come alive. When the stories include action such as graphics, animation, sound, video, etc. it draws the learners in, and many times it serves as an interactive tool for them.

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of working with an instructor on the development of an online introductory accounting course. The instructor was very hesitant because she had taught accounting in a traditional environment for years, and she witnessed so many students struggling with some of the mathematical concepts. In actuality, the development process was rather lengthy because I had to do a lot of coaching and reassuring her that she could teach this course just as effectively in an online environment. In the end, the instructor experienced great success with teaching the online accounting course.

One of the key components to her success was the implementation of a variety of digital stories. Some were created by her, and then there were others we found on YouTube. We even tested out the digital stories by having me watch them and then attempting to complete some of the problems.

This scenario is a personal testament as an instructional designer on how digital story telling helped learners to achieve mastery in an online introductory accountant course. Content which was usually extremely difficult in an on-ground class wasn’t as difficult online, because the instructor knew she had to release control and provide learners with as many online tools as possible to be successful.

Is Digital Story Telling an Effective Instructional Tool for Students?

Research has shown that digital storytelling appeals to people with diverse learning styles. This is definitely a sign of positivity, because no one style of learning can fit all learners. By incorporating digital storytelling, instructors can create an adaptive learning environment. Many instructors are allowing learners to create their own digital stories. By implementing this strategy, students can tap into their own creativity and strengthen their research and communication skills. This reasoning is because before doing the digital story a learner has to formulate their ideas, ask questions, and look for resources to include in their narratives. Also, having learners share their digital stories with their peers promotes collaboration and a chance for them to receive effective feedback from their peers.

Having learners create their own digital stories also enhances their 21st century skills in information literacy, visual literacy, technological literacy, and media literacy. This ensures that not only can learners read fluently, but it also measures if they can compete in this ever-changing economical global society.

The Next Steps

If you are interested in doing your own digital story or teaching learners how to do one, then there are seven helpful steps listed below for starting points which were created by StoryCenter (formerly the Center for Digital Storytelling).

  1. Point of View What is the main point of the story and what is the perspective of the author?
  2. A Dramatic Question A key question that keeps the viewer’s attention and will be answered by the end of the story.
  3. Emotional Content Serious issues that come alive in a personal and powerful way and connects the audience to the story.
  4. Gift of Your Voice A way to personalize the story to help the audience understand the context.
  5. The Power of the Soundtrack Music or other sounds that support and embellish the story.
  6. Economy Using just enough content to tell the story without overloading the viewer.
  7. Pacing The rhythm of the story and how slowly or quickly it progresses.

Digital Story Telling Aid I Created

A few years ago, I created a digital story telling aid for a class that I was teaching and I told my story on being a single mother. I used my example as a way to teach my students on how to create their own. I even incorporated the tips from the seven elements listed above in order to create my story:

If you are interested in an additional resource on the seven elements for digital storytelling, then please view the video below:

And here’s a helpful resource if you would like to teach the seven elements to your learners.

In conclusion, implementing digital storytelling into any curriculum is beneficial to the instructor and the learners. We are living in high tech society and so it is essential to present content in a manner that is not only appealing to learners, but in a way in which they will retain information. Most learners enjoy interacting with technology, so having them create digital stories is a step in the right direction, because it gives them a chance to perfect their 21st century learning skills. There are so many resources on digital story telling, so feel free to find them and use them—because the goal is to create a learning environment in which all can thrive.

Veronica Johnson

About Veronica Johnson

Veronica Johnson has been an instructional designer for the School for New Learning since February of 2015. In December of 2014 she graduated with a Masters in Learning Design and Technology from Purdue University. Veronica has a Bachelors in Elementary Education and a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction. Before coming to DePaul, Veronica was a teacher in Chicago Public Schools for 14 years. While teaching she discovered that she enjoyed designing her own curriculum so this is what led her to become an instructional designer. Veronica enjoys collaborating with faculty to ensure the best practices of online design are embedded in every course she designs.

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