Stories are powerful educational tools. They connect with learners on a personal level, alchemizing practical lessons with an emotional resonance, ensuring they will not be forgotten. Researchers have found that emotion has a significant link to both attention (how well students focus on the lesson at hand) and memory encoding and recall (how well they can recall those lessons later). It's no wonder the ability to effectively use digital tools to assist in storytelling is in demand for today's educators, librarians and nonprofit professionals.
What Is Digital Storytelling?
Digital storytelling uses the tools of technology, such as video and audio production, interactive software and computer graphics, to create narrative stories that educate and build skills. The definition of digital storytelling has grown over the last two decades, referring not only to video, but also to a spectrum of mixed-media formats like podcasting, blogging, animation and virtual reality. It invites students to become co-producers in learning; they can use digital tools to identify problems, brainstorm and test solutions, and provide feedback in real time during a lesson.
The proliferation and accessibility of programs like iMovie, Adobe Slate, Flipgrid, and others have expanded the ways in which educators and students can create and collaborate on projects. In addition, today's students have grown up with technology, and are likely to grasp new programs and apps relatively easily — they might even learn these new tools faster than their teachers do.
Why Do Digital Storytelling Skills Offer a Competitive Advantage?
Acquiring in-demand digital storytelling skills often gives educators and other professionals a job-market edge. As digital technology has become ubiquitous in education from elementary school through higher education, the ability to creatively plan lessons around technology becomes a highly marketable asset.
Digital storytelling skills are critical to today's classrooms because they help educators better serve students of diverse linguistic backgrounds. It's estimated that, by the end of this decade, one in four American students will be an immigrant or an English language learner (ELL). And digital media, including video, animation and computer graphics can be especially dynamic tools in the hands of ELLs.
Developing projects around digital storytelling empowers ELLs in ways that improve their skills in communication, critical thinking, creativity and writing. Educators with digital storytelling skills looking for jobs in school districts with linguistically and culturally diverse students often find their abilities both valued and rewarded.
There is growing awareness among prospective employers of the ways in which those skills help with improving instruction and student outcomes. Today's classrooms are full of students who are digital natives. They have grown up with screens, interactive displays and instant feedback and demand a curriculum that is as dynamic and digital as the world they're used to — something a teacher with a digital storytelling toolkit is poised to offer.
Why Do Digital Storytelling Skills Matter Now?
COVID-19 brought rapid upheavals to the educational system. While tech-based learning was already an educational trend, the pandemic and remote learning suddenly made digital, online and conferencing software proficiency a core job competency for educators.
As a tool for keeping students engaged during remote learning, digital storytelling became a huge asset. Those skills are likely to remain important for years, regardless of how and when the pandemic abates. In fact, Patricia F. Deklotz, superintendent of the Kettle-Moraine school district in Wales, Wisconsin, told Education Week in September 2020 that she is confident there will be post-pandemic demand for teachers comfortable with online learning. "I would ask [candidates]: 'How do you develop relationships with students through a virtual environment? How do you check for understanding?'" she told Education Week. Administrators from other districts echoed her sentiments.
Furthering the cause of effective teaching, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) seeks to help educators around the world. The ISTE standards are a "framework for innovation in education."
Digital storytelling is a tool for developing relationships with students in the virtual realm, as well as a feedback mechanism for gauging their progress and understanding. During and after the pandemic, educators who demonstrate digital storytelling skills as effective tools for engagement and creativity can position themselves for career success.
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