New Slide: Digital Storytelling

Few people could argue with one simple truth:  There’s something inherently powerful about a good story.  Think about how many times you sat mesmerized on your grandfather’s knee as he wrapped you in words or that you listened intently during story time as your grade school teacher wove a tale of surprise and adventure.

There was nothing better, right?

From the time that we’re born, we connect through stories.  We sympathize through stories.  We understand through stories.  We communicate through stories—-and if we’re really good, we influence through stories.  In the high-touch world that Daniel Pink describes in A Whole New Mind, storytellers hold kind of hold the keys to the kingdom, don’t they?

But here’s the hitch:  Storytelling is changing. 

Paralleling the rapid expansion of broadband Internet access, the availability of mobile devices, the rise of digital video recorders, the growth of the gaming industry, and the decreasing costs of personal video and photography equipment, access to—and engagement with—visual content has exploded in the first decade of the 21st Century.

 (download slide and view original image credit on Flickr)

Companies—-recognizing that consumers are increasingly plugged in and far less likely to pick up printed material than previous generations—-are investing in digital advertising campaigns built around short,  interesting stories.  Whether it’s Evian’s roller skating babies or Zappo’s super-fast nudist, clever marketing directors are tapping into the attention of the 75% of online Americans who are watching 17 billion videos on sites like YouTube and Hulu each month  (Lipsman, 2009, Lipsman, 2010).

What implications do these changes hold for educators?  Given that digital storytelling has become commonplace beyond our schools, should lessons on visual influence begin playing a more prominent role in our classrooms?

How do we balance the skills necessary to craft a good story—which haven’t changed in generations—-with the skills necessary to produce a final product in a medium that will reach the most listeners?  Are we doing enough to introduce students to the changing nature of storytelling or is this another area where schools and teachers are falling behind the times?

Finally, what are the barriers to integrating digital storytelling projects into our classrooms?  Are we limited because we don’t have access to the right equipment?  Is pressure to produce results on standardized tests the demon in the closet yet again?  Are our own skills and preferences getting in the way?

Interesting questions, huh?

Work Cited:

Lipsman, A. (2010, January 5). November sees number of U.S. videos viewed
online surpass 30 billion for first time on record. comScore. Retrieved

Lipsman, A. (2009, March 4). YouTube surpasses 100 million US viewers for the
first time [Web log message]. Retrieved from

2 thoughts on “New Slide: Digital Storytelling

  1. Jane Mitchinson

    “How do we balance the skills necessary to craft a good story—which haven’t changed in generations—-with the skills necessary to produce a final product in a medium that will reach the most listeners?”
    I find that storytelling is changing in some ways with new digital technologies. MIT professor Sherry Turkle says her students are not connecting their paragraphs in essay writing like they used to. They focus on individual paragraphs. Perhaps this is due to the multi-tasking, task-switching, hyperlinked manner students are engaging in. The style of storytelling is changing. It’s not necessarily linear any more. The question now is whether or not we still need to teach linear narrative storytelling. I think we do. Students still need to practice linear storytelling to organize and synthesize connecting thoughts, ideas and information. Bill, can you point us in the direction of some digital technologies that can help us with this?

  2. mratzel

    It’s interesting you should make this post now. I’m just finishing up a huge digital storytelling assignment in science class. I chose this product because the learning target was dry and unappealing to students…I believed if I used the allure of digitalizing the stories that revealed their understanding, I would get greater student buy-in.
    Well that definitely happened.
    I’ve blogged about the assignment’s progress over the past couple of weeks. I definitely think that doing this kind of work takes LOTS of organizing and a heavy hand in managing the process.
    Like any assignment, it helped that I boxed students in during the research and planning phase of their assignment. They had to read so many articles, find so many pictures and they had to use a script before they could record their story. I think that’s just good old fashion teaching.
    I would tell you that the way the quality of the stories improved was through watching each others. They picked up ideas, things to avoid and revisions that needed to be made quickly. But I guess that’s really no different than having a peer editor read through your report. It’s just an updated version.
    The biggest hurdle is access to computers. We had to do this assignments as partners in order for us to have enough equipment. And we had to block out using the computers for a long stretch of time. No biggie for me, but no one else could use the library computers while we were in there.
    I would also argue that my students truly understand this learning target, which will be tested next year. And I believe they will remember the science ideas much longer from having to produce these digital stories than from reading about and taking the typical test.

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