The Art of Telling Stories in the Digital World of Today
«People are hungry for stories. It’s part of our very being. Storytelling is a form of history, of immortality too. It goes from one generation to another.» –Studs Terkel
From ancient times, humans have used storytelling as a way to communicate and to preserve their heritage, culture and beliefs. Every single person tells a story. Storytelling is also the oldest form of teaching.
Today, the emergence of the Internet has brought about many challenges of a completely new nature in formal educational environments. Hence, educators are faced with a different type of learner: the digital native. This term has been coined by Marc Prensky (2001) because he found them to be native speakers of the digital language of computers and the Internet. This new generation of students prefers to receive information quickly, relies on communication technologies, multitasks, has a low tolerance for lectures, and chooses active rather than passive learning. Being witnesses of such technological advances in education, we, teachers, face a new challenge when we approach storytelling: how to blend the ancient art of telling stories with the new tools that technology offers.
Digital Storytelling is simply telling or writing stories with the assistance of technological tools. According to Porter (2005), Digital Storytelling “shapes its power by integrating technology – digital images, graphics, music, and sound—with the author’s own story voice, thereby giving a deeper dimension and vivid colours to characters, situations, experiences and insights.”
Using Digital Storytelling in the EFL classroom has many advantages. We can summarise those benefits as follows: a) it motivates learners to write stories of their own in the target language; b) it fosters learners imagination and empowers their creativity; c) it integrates the four communicative skills together with computer skills and critical thinking; d) it encourages learners to share their stories with their classmates and the rest of the world; e) it adapts to students’ learning styles (auditory, visual, kinesthetic) through the use of different resources; and finally f) it promotes the development of socio-cultural identities.
The endless number of resources we have on the web can be overwhelming. Here are five sites to approach digital storytelling in the EFL classroom, which can be used in all levels.
#1 Storybird: (www.storybird.com) is a free Web 2.0 tool to create stories or poems. Students can choose Imaginative Art images from the site and add text to them to create their artwork. Once students publish their digistory, they can embed it in a blog or a wiki. Registration is required. This tool is suitable for all levels.
#2 Pixton Comics (www.pixton.com) is an online tool to create comics. Students can use pictures already available on the site and write inside speech bubbles. Students can also explore their artistic skills by drawing new pictures for their comic strips. Pixton is for free though registration is required. It is appropriate for teenager students. It is also available in Spanish.
#3 Dvolver (www.dvolver.com) is a simple website which allows students to make customised animated videos. Students can select the background, characters and plot. They can also add a dialogue bubble which will appear above the character’s head in the finished movie. Students can also choose music for each scene. Once students publish their video, they can embed it in a blog or a wiki. No registration is required. This tool is suitable for all levels.
#4 Glogster (www.glogster.com) is a tool to create an interactive poster. Students can include videos, photos, voice recordings, text, drawings and links to external websites. It is suitable for personal introductions or holiday stories. It is ideal for teenager or adult students.
#5 Folding Story (www.foldingstory.com) is a Web 2.0 tool to create digital stories which allows learners to collaborate in story-writing. It is the web version of the traditional game “Write, Fold and Pass”. Registration is for free and people from all over the world can read the digital stories once they are published on the site. It is appropriate for adult learners.
These are only a few of the numerous resources that the Net offers to make storytelling more appealing to our students. Even though digital storytelling might be challenging and time-consuming, it will motivate our digital native students and will enhance their learning by challenging them to work both collaboratively and autonomously.
Written by Prof. María Fernanda Frola
English teacher at In-genious Idiomas
Sources and References:
Alexander, B. (2011) The New Digital Storytelling. Creating Narratives with New Media. Greenwood Publishing Group.
Porter, B. (2005) Digitales: The art of digital storytelling. Denver, CO: Bernajean Porter Consulting.
Prensky, M. (2012) From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom Published in From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom: Hopeful Essays for 21st Century Education. Corwin.
Wright, A. (2009) Storytelling with Children. Oxford University Press.
Published in Teacher’s Magazine, April, 2015, Ediba Ediciones, Buenos Aires: Argentina