Growing up storytelling was always a big part of my life. I remember sitting by my mother and having her tell me stories about her time in Africa and listening to my father recount stories about the antics of people in our community. There were also countless evenings spent listening to a local raconteur and neighbour, Erskine Smith, tell stories with his distinctive vocal intonations and body language.
When I first heard of digital storytelling I was thoroughly confused. Was this simply using digital media to tell a story or was there something more?
As I was reading about DS 106 I was confused by the phrase “using digital tools so that people can tell their own real-life stories.” While simple, I found that this definition was limiting and actually quite boring. For example, my digital story would be incredibly boring: I get up, go to work, and come home, the end. That story would hardly be entertaining for anyone. However, upon reading the Wikipedia article the definition opened up:
The term “digital storytelling” can also cover a range of digital narratives (web-based stories, interactive stories, hypertexts, and narrative computer games); It is sometimes used to refer to film-making in general, and as of late, it has been used to describe advertising and promotion efforts by commercial and non-profit enterprises.
Essentially digital storytelling is storytelling using digital tools. The stories may or may not be true but the author has a desire for others to hear their story. As I think back throughout the year, then my students and I have been experimenting with digital storytelling continually throughout the year. Using digital mediums to help tell their stories has allowed my students to:
- Gain an aptitude with a variety of computer programs
- Gain a conceptual understanding of how films are made
- Learn that there are many people required to tell a story through film
- Learn where they fit into the collection of people who make film
- Develop essential social skills
The students in my class enjoy using iMovie and Movie Maker to create their films. These programs have become an essential part of my teaching arsenal. Most have gone out and purchased a copy of iMovie for their mobile device after I gave them a demonstration. The stories they tell have ranged from summaries of stories they have read, dramatizations of the rights of children, analyses of media, to demonstrations of scientific principles. It has been great to see them take to this format.
I was worried how people perceived this type of project. Luckily, I was asked to speak to a group of parents about using technology within the classroom. As I was crafting the presentation I met with my principal who recommended that I include practical example of technology within my classroom and not just talk about theory. Taking his suggestion to heart, I decided to include a movie the summed up a story that the class had read.
At the meeting I asked the parents to see if they could identify different things that I as a teacher could evaluate through the process of making this movie and the completed projected. After the movie was over I asked the audience what they thought, no one was willing to raise their hands. On the next slide I listed off a list of things that I could evaluate through the process. As I looked around the room the parents were all nodding and I as my eyes went over to the principal I saw a big grin cross his face.
Storytelling has been around for centuries and is as important now as it was then. In a sense we are all storytellers. What digital media has allowed users to do is to democratize the process of creating stories that use music, pictures, movies, transitions etc. to help us fully realize the visions we have for our stories, whatever story that may be.
Image and Video Credits
Story Tellings Shows at the Festival of Small Halls 2010 found on YouTube, uploaded by SmallHalls
Screen Shot Image taken by Brendan Lea