Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Digital Storytelling

As I viewed An Introduction to Digital Storytelling on the University of Houston website, I found myself becoming excited about the uses and possibilities for this concept.  I have been an avid reader of a wide variety of books since three years of age and still consume at least one book per week for pure pleasure in addition to all of the reading required by my occupation.  Some may wonder where the time to do this comes from and I have to admit that I have sacrificed sleep time since early childhood.  I am one who always prefers to read the book over watching the movie.  To my surprise this introduction to storytelling captivated my attention.  It brought to mind the documentaries by Ken Burns that have been aired on PBS stations.  I find that the use of images and video clips while the voice tells the story not only does not detract from the content or interfere with the images conjured up in my mind, but actually enhances the mind scenes and encourages a better focus.

I recall reading stories to my children when they were quite young and they were always drawn to the illustrations in their books which helped them understand the content.  As they grew older they progressed to books without illustrations and I noticed an interesting phenomenon.  My daughter immersed herself in the reading of books for pleasure, but my son read only what was necessary and said he would wait for the movie to come out rather than read anything his sister suggested.  All people learn differently and various models have been proposed.  Fleming's VARK model categorizes learners as visual, auditory, or kinisthetic/tactile.  Teachers often end up teaching in the way they themselves learn best.  In a classroom of 25 or more children a teacher may not be effectively reaching a third of the students.  I know that professional teachers will research and attempt to vary their methods in order to reach more students, but under the pressure of time may default to what ever style is most comfortable.

I think that digital storytelling could appeal to a wider variety of learning styles.  The images and video clips would obviously appeal to the visual learner and the voiceover to the auditory learner.  The tactile learner would benefit from the act and process of putting the digital story together.  There is also no limit to how digital storytelling could be creatively used for all subjects and not just limited to language arts.  I have become so excited about the possibilities that I truly want to get back into the classroom instead of being confined to just administration.

One of the digital stories I viewed is called Meet Granny Smith.   One of the most amazing features of this particular story, that tells the life of a Granny Smith apple in the first person, is that it was created by a third grader.  This was definitely a fun and innovative way to study the growth and development of apples.  Simply reading and memorizing the facts would be a keen disappointment next to creating this digital story.

Another example I viewed was called Islamic Faith in Suburban America.  I would only show this one to older students as a demonstration of how the choice of music affects the message of the story.  The music created  a sombre and almost threatening mood.  This would appeal to fear-mongers who attest that all Muslims are bad and are taking over America.  The same images could have been used with a more upbeat soundtrack and a message of acceptance and integration would be conveyed.  It would be very interesting to have students produce digital stories using identical images, but each choose different types of soundtracks.  The class could view each one and then analyze the effect that the choice of music has on the story's message.  This exercise would cross over to music class from social studies and/or religion - another example of cross-curricular activities using technology.

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