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How to Incorporate Digital Storytelling to Empower Student Voice

How to Incorporate Digital Storytelling to Empower Student Voice

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As part of my classroom's blogging assignment, I decided to incorporate a digital storytelling component to give students an opportunity to share a story and add to their blogs. Of course, I needed to think about “why” students would be creating digital stories:

  • To gain knowledge on the structure of storytelling.
  • To communicate a message through a non-traditional medium.
  • To experiment with tools of digital storytelling to enhance their story: music, videos, images, voice, etc.
  • To build a culture of sharing and empathy in our classroom
  • To understand the power of storytelling and the impact it has on listeners/viewers.

I set up an appointment with our librarians, who are part of a great initiative that helps students with video making and media. They also help teachers like me who want to incorporate a digital aspect in the classroom.

How to Start Digital Storytelling:

  1. Decide on a topic for their digital stories: For me I left this very open, since it was a new territory we were stepping into as a class. I didn’t want to limit students’ thoughts and ideas and instead wanted to give them as many options as possible. Some suggested topics: life, culture, school experience, experiences related to issues discussed in class, advocate for a cause they believe in, etc. Several students struggled with the fact that the topics were so open, so we had a sit down conversation about what they feel passionate about and would like to share with their classmates.
  2. Create an outline/rough draft of the story: Students needed to write their stories down, so there is still a writing component in this assignment. Outlining their story is a necessary step to follow because it will be their guide as to how they want to approach creating the digital aspect of the story. There are several elements that are needed in the story in order to engage audience and grasp them in the story:
    1. Dramatic question: A question that students would like to explore or answer throughout the story. This question should be interested and engaging to grasp the attention of the audience.
    2. Emotional Content: A vital aspect of digital storytelling is the emotional element behind the words and the tools used to tell the story. Many students shared their experiences, memories, feelings about an issue, nostalgic moments. One of my students shared her experience with immigrating to Canada as a single mom, and she recalled looking at the sky above her for the first time and thinking that this was the same sky that her family is looking at back home. Examples like these are very powerful and help students to connect with each other on a personal and emotional level.
  3. Identify your material: Here is where The Sandbox, the library’s media zone, was very helpful. They helped students to identify the different tools they can use to create their digital stories. They also talked about the importance of citing images, music, and information in stories. My students mainly used PowerPoint. They added music soundtrack in the background and recorded their stories on top of the slides. Stories were no longer than 4 minutes, otherwise they would get too long to share and the audience might also lose interest. Here is a link from The Sandbox that shows an instructional video on how to use PowerPoint to create a digital story: https://edudigitalstorytelling.wordpress.com/videos/. Here is another link full of open resources such as images, clips, and audio/music files for students to use in their digital stories: https://edudigitalstorytelling.wordpress.com/materials/.
  4. Map out your story: There are several templates for students to use to map out their stories. The importance of mapping it out on a storyboard is to be able to read it simultaneously with the slide that goes with the sentences. There are some helpful links that students can use to create their story boards: https://edudigitalstorytelling.wordpress.com/writing/.

When my students shared their digital stories with the rest of the class, everyone was very astounded and inspired by each others’ words. More importantly, everyone appreciated each others’ thoughts, ideas, opinions, experiences and perspectives.

Here is an example from one of my students, he discusses his country & culture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UA0XyjtIIuQ

Here is another example where my student talks about how to successed in school: http://19960429.blogspot.ca/

After going through such a new learning process when it comes to using tools to communicate an important message, students felt very empowered by their own words. They saw new possibilities when it comes to writing. They see writing now as a tool to communicate something they truly care about. When it comes to writing, there are so many way to help students see its power and full potential. In turn, students realize that their own voice is important and impacts others in meaningful ways.

 


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Comments (7) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Nicol R. Howard, PhD's picture
Nicol R. Howard, PhD
Educator, Researcher, and Tech Enthusiast

Digital storytelling as a way to give students an opportunity to use their voices is a phenomenal idea, Rusul. I remember the days of sitting at the feet of my elders to hear their stories. It is wonderful to know the power of storytelling lives on - even in a digital age.

(2)
Brian Sztabnik's picture
Brian Sztabnik
AP Literature teacher from Miller Place, NY

Rusul,

I like how you established the "Why" early on. It is easy to integrate technology for technology's sake without considering its purpose and the added benefits and risks.

Brian

(1)
Rusul Alrubail's picture
Rusul Alrubail
Edutopia Community Facilitator/ Student Voice & Literacy at The Writing Project

Thank you so much Nicol, I agree storytelling is such a universal way of learning. My students really enjoyed the process, and I think the best part for them was when we shared the stories with everyone.

Rusul Alrubail's picture
Rusul Alrubail
Edutopia Community Facilitator/ Student Voice & Literacy at The Writing Project

Thank you Brian, it's really important for me to think about why beforehand. It helps me to reflect about teaching the learning outcomes but also for students to know that tech tools serve a useful purpose.

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Media teacher

Each time I have my students create a digital story, I am amazed at the wide variety of skills that they learn or practice in the process. Along with the more obvious writing/storytelling skills, there are so many digital literacy and media production skills that come in to play. Very valuable process with significant final products!

Joshua Block's picture
Joshua Block
Humanities teacher at Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia

Rusul, this is a very helpful and thoughtful post. Great resources! Thank you.

Rusul Alrubail's picture
Rusul Alrubail
Edutopia Community Facilitator/ Student Voice & Literacy at The Writing Project

Thank you so much, I am very happy you found it useful!

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