One Voice, Exponential Impact: The Power of Digital Storytelling

After nourishment, shelter, and companionship, stories are the things we need most in the world.

Philip Pullman

by Elizabeth King

70's Girl - 80's Teen

When I was a child in the seventies, I remember watching black and white 8 mm videos that my dad took of our family. My mom would be in the kitchen making Jiffy Pop popcorn for us to enjoy as my dad set the projector up for a fun-filled night of family memories displayed on the white wall of our living room. Then, in the eighties, we welcomed the innovation of the first video camera and the VCR to play back our home movies on VHS, and the nineties brought us even more advanced videos with the introduction of the DVD.

Big Brother, John - 1973

Little Bro, Chris - 1989

Now that we are in the 21st century, I am constantly amazed at how rapidly technology develops. We are able to capture life's most precious moments with the click of a button anywhere, anytime and then share them with family and friends in an instant. The story those images evoke, leave a lasting impression on our hearts and minds. The digital story is just one more way that technology has turned our pictures, videos, and narration into an art form.

Bring Your Own Device or Bring Your Own Pillow

Educators, like me, are constantly looking for ways to get students excited about the learning process because it is just that, a process. While some school districts are resistant to incorporating “too much too fast,” many recognize that in order for educators to keep their students actively and consistently engaged, they must meet them where they are and stay on the cutting edge. Therefore, a large number of districts are aggressively pushing the integration of technology via the BYOD (bring your own device) and “one to one” (a laptop for every student) methods. Although every feature of these devices can be used in a productive and educational way with the right amount of planning and monitoring, so many teachers still shirk away from allowing their students to use their own technology, even going so far as to having students put their phones in a bin during class.

Responsible use can only be learned when it is practiced, and a smartphone sitting in a bin becomes nothing more than a paperweight at best. If you want to wake the students up in your classroom, you need to wake up to the things that are relevant to them and will prepare them to be responsible, problem-solving, decision-making, collaborating, communicating producers and contributors and not just consumers of knowledge. The digital story is a great way for students to use those devices to emotionally and intellectually connect their personal experiences in a way that is relevant to them.

Stories + Social Media = Connection

Connecting with other people is the most basic need of human beings. People have a natural need to connect with others and have relationships no matter what age they may be. We thrive on relationships. We live it. We breathe it. We would die without it. The onset of so many social media apps over the last decade has made these connections even more possible. Friends and family that we haven's seen or heard from for decades are all of a sudden sharing their lives with us every day, and more often than not, we return the favor.

Social media has changed the landscape of our society and the very definition of networking, and our teenagers are right at the helm of it all. While I am not an advocate for total immersion in any social media platform, I recognize that it is the language of society as we know it, and teenagers are social media's biggest users. It is no wonder educators have a difficult time getting them to put their personal devices away. It would be like telling the 70s and 80s versions of myself not to speak.

Social Skills-Check. Media Skills-Check. Social Media-What?

Let's face it. Social Media isn't going away. It is the new literacy, and if we aren't teaching it and students aren't learning how to use it with purpose, we are failing them. As educators we have the power to create opportunities for our students to not only make sense of literature, math, science, and history, but we also have the power to make opportunities for students to transfer the skills necessary to achieve in those content areas to something they actually care about and will use on a minute by minute basis for the rest of their lives. I have to wonder what would happen if educators would turn their attention away from the possible negative outcomes of their students using social media and instead leverage the potential of such platforms for digital storytelling through images, video, and student voice. I mean, isn't that what teenagers are doing every time they are opening one of those apps anyway - using their voices, to tell stories with images and videos? and aren't we doing the same?

What story are you telling?

If we truly believe that it our responsibility to teach post-secondary skills in addition to content, we cannot ignore the reality that is staring at us from the faces of our own smart phones as we swipe and scroll and like and comment and share our own personal experiences with the world. We all have a story to tell. How are you and your students telling yours?


Below is a Curation of Credible Resources on Leveraging Social Media for Digital Storytelling

@elizabethking88 @flippingoodtech