Apr 19, 2007

Just what is the essential nature of digital storytelling?

I love it when I get to discuss this type of question!
Digital storytelling is many things to many people.
Is it about social change, or empowering the marginalized, or giving voice to the voiceless?

The approach I am taking for teaching and learning is the one that Joe Lambert has expressed in his interview here:
The old public speaking method is to tell a personal anecdote to engage the audience in listening to your topic to glean understanding from your personal narrative and connect it to the topic.
In other words, the story provides a framework for what is to follow.
Teachers call it anticipatory set or even an advanced organizer.
Unfortunately these tools often are nothing more than an outline (ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz).
Crafting a digital story to fit a lecture, for example, can help learners exercise thinking to build connections or metaphors or understand what your point -of -view is.
Digital storytelling (DS) can put the interest back into a lecture, if lecturing is where the comfort zone of faculty is (or the only option at large institutions).
Pedagogically it is about the scaffolding nature of learning; building on personal experience to bridge to new knowledge and skills.
If you can activate the background knowledge of your students and draw them into the new knowledge you want to present, you have "bridged" a gap in knowledge.
By grounding a topic with "realworld" experiences, it is easier to introduce abstractions and teach theories.

In a way, a good DS "respects" your audience- you assume they are capable of making connections and drawing conclusions...of course, as the author, you need to be sure you have crafted a piece that clearly communicates the intended message.
Even an audience of freshmen gets it whether a lecturer is interested in "espousing" and "telling" -uh-er- "lecturing" or creatively presenting a stimulating learning experience.
Crafting a story to illustrate a point lets your audience listen and "think deeply", as the Center for Digital Storytelling people would say.

DS is a teaching tool aimed at changing the way we look at presenting information to learners.
For 15 long years I have been trying to impart the 'new paradigm' of learning- constructivism- alternatives to lecture...alternatives to death by PowerPoint (PPT)....
I offend many, I am certain, when I suggest bringing a systematic approach to learning....that respects the listener and asks him or her to draw her own conclusions and make his or her own sense out of information.
I love that Joe Lambert calls Digital Storytelling- "PPT on steroids"....
It is not about the mechanism for delivering the information (PowerPoint or video) as much as it is about engaging the listener with a good story with a point-of-view that is not blatant "lecturing".

Most importantly DS CAN bring back "interest", motivation, warm and fuzzy "engagement" of the learner....
.....rather than the faculty thinking of students as empty vessels to be filled with knowledge, Digital Storytelling can engage the student in a creative, fun way of thinking with higher order cognition!
Lisa's personal framework in the Oveta Culp Hobby story gets a listener to thinking....."Yeah, maybe I can be a "Tall Texan", too!" Her point-of-view that is shared with the audience invites the listener to be bolstered by Oveta's story, too."
The emotional "open- wound" stories that we tend to make at first, also show students vulnerabilities of faculty and maybe can foster a more human connection in vast lecture halls.
Could DS bring back civility to campuses of higher learning?
Can DS help students see faculty as living, breathing, feeling humans?
Many faculty converse with students in "brochure" language (distant 3rd person authority) which really turns off studentslisteners.
Who wants lectures that sound like marketing ad campaigns?
Speaking from 1st person experience can transform the cultural climate of higher education... which we really need.
Large classes foster impersonal relationships----
Personal DS can help create communities of learners, even when large.

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