Digital Storytelling in the Classroom

Digital Storytelling is now being widely used in the classroom. Teachers are not only showing the digital stories of others but also having students tell their own stories and others’ stories.  Using multimedia energizes students to dig into research that they are otherwise sometimes loath to take on. Students are asked to create stories of famous figures in history. Students are learning history as well as creative skills in order to tell the story of another.  Through the storytelling process students also develop skills of reflection to understand history in relation to their own experiences.  Then students their communication skills by creating narratives that reflect their insights and learning to write for an audience.

Students are also gaining valuable technology skills that are important to them. Children learn digital and online tools used to edit stories and present projects online. The process of creating a digital story calls for hands on learning in which students are in charge of creating the characters of their story with media. Students can learn to put different pieces of media together in order to fully develop their story and effectively share it. Teachers create a positive learning environment when children are encouraged to use their creativity and imaginations. Children are eager to learn new skills including those with multi-media elements. When large projects are made, children put more time and effort into their final product and thus learn more from them.

There are many ways digital and multimedia elements can be used in the classroom to get children excited about learning. For instance a recent Technology and Learning magazine article (http://www.techlearning.com/article/34296) lists 10 great ways digital cameras can be implemented into classrooms to advance creatviity in students and to further technology skills in students.

In order to create digital stories, students are asked to gather resources teaching them the importance of research. Students gather and locate materials from books, websites, find images, and listen to speeches in order to create their final digital story project. This teaches students the research process and how to find and use valid resources. Students learn to compare resources and also learn about copyright.

Students who are learning English as a Second Language have also found benefits in digital storytelling. Having these students tell and create their stories lets them reflect in the English language and also develops their oral skills to speak the language.

Students that hear stories more often can better comprehend other materials. They learn the story format by hearing it, making it easier for them to grasp the concepts of reading and writing. Storytelling also promotes logical thinking and mathematical skills.

Sharing digital storytelling with children helps them understand at a younger age that everyone has a story to tell.  By using multimedia, these stories can be developed and shared more broadly, helping children learn that the school is part of a broader community. They learn to connect their own stories from life to school. The school is seen as a place where they can talk about their experiences and discuss their experiences in a safe environment. Students can also connect to their community through digital storytelling bringing them closer to the community, community resources and community involvement. Children can profile local business districts or local people through digital stories.

Children who are exposed to storytelling learn the process of creating and sharing an effective story. Students learning digital storytelling learn how to express and share emotions with their audience in the 21st century. They learn how different types of multimedia can lead to different emotions and which type to use. Children learn to combine auditory and visual elements to ultimately create their final project for their audience. In order for their story to be effective students must be able to express their emotion using and piecing together video, pictures and sound. This learning process can help them express their feelings, views and creativity using new modes of communication. The storytelling process helps children learn to express their presentations to an audience, a tool that they will use for the rest of their lives. In order to develop a story, the child must first understand who he or she is creating the story for, developing their ability to empathize with others and improving their conflict resolution skills.

Midge Frazel, author of, “Digital Storytelling: A Guide for Educators”, gives a good summary of the benefits of digital storytelling in the classroom. They include:

1.) Creativity and Innovation
2.) Communication and Collaboration
3.) Research and Information Fluency
4.) Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
5.) Digital Citizenship
6.) Technology Operations and Concepts

For more information on this topic please see:

Thompson, Mary. “Digital Storytelling: Combining Literacy and Technology.” Information Searcher 15 4 (2005): 3-6.

University of Houston’s The Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling, Educational Goals and Objectives page: http://digitalstorytelling.coe.uh.edu/educational_goals.html

Frazel, Midge. Digital Storytelling Guide for Educators. Eugene, Or.: International Society for Technology in Education, 2010.

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