For thousands of years, people have been telling stories. The earliest cave paintings undoubtedly enhanced the oral recitation of the artists. Show and tell and you can captivate your audience. More than that, you can teach, demonstrate and explain almost anything to your audience once you have their attention.
For educators, it’s a lesson that needs no explanation. Every teacher knows that if you want your students to learn something, you have to get their attention first. In today’s digital communication environment, students are used to getting information in small, digestible bites from phones, televisions, tablets, computers, game consoles, video monitors and other digital devices.
Buffer co-founder Leo Widrich started marketing his product through stories instead of traditional presentations that listed bullet points and benefits. And sign-ups “went through the roof.” He shares the science of why storytelling is so uniquely powerful: “If we listen to a PowerPoint presentation with boring bullet points, a certain part in the brain gets activated. Scientists call this Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area. Overall, it hits our language processing parts in the brain, where we decode words into meaning. And that’s it, nothing else happens. When we are being told a story, things change dramatically. Not only are the language processing parts in our brain activated, but any other area in our brain that we would use when experiencing the events of the story are too.”
According to Uri Hasson from Princeton, “a story is the only way to activate parts in the brain so that a listener turns the story into their own idea and experience.”
Harnessing power of digital communication allows students to tell stories through voice, text, images, audio and video. Some examples of what students are doing with digital storytelling in the classroom include:
- Creating a virtual tour of a country or historical place.
- Creating a public service announcement on an important local or world issue.
- Simulating an interview of a historical character.
- Simulating a debate on an historical topic, such as the Bill of Rights.
- Creating a presentation based on images of local artifacts and architecture.
Storycenter.org provides a list of core principals of storytelling that are relevant for all media, including digital.
Gaining the Digital Storytelling Advantage
Educators who want to become visionary leaders with the required innovative, digital storytelling skills should learn how to empower learning communities and gain the knowledge needed to bridge the digital divide.
Southeastern Oklahoma State University offers a fully online program for educators who want to pursue a Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction with an emphasis on Educational Technology. This 30-credit-hour program can be completed in as few as 12 months and will prepare you to become a curriculum specialist or instructional coordinator in the digital age. You can take program coursework while continuing to work full time.
Courses include Digital Storytelling/Communications to Empower Learning Communities, Learning Technologies to Bridge the Digital Divide, and Innovative Leadership for Digital Age Learning Environments. These courses are designed to provide the practical foundations for applied learning that is relevant to the classroom, as well as to non-profits, universities and more.
Storycenter. (2016). Core Principles.