Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash
High School English teacher Nicola Ball, who teaches at Dulwich College Pudong in Shanghai, China, has embarked on a bold digital storytelling journey. Inspired by a desire to pair environmental conservation with the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese Zodiac, she has embraced a creative storytelling approach and is creating waves of engagement in her school.
As you'll hear in the video interview below, Nicola was struck by how Lunar New Year messages in February were featuring "regular" types of wishes: for a prosperous year, a healthy year, a happy year. But at the start of the Year of the Tiger, she didn't see any messages about tigers as an endangered species, or anything related to thinking about human impacts on the environment. That disconnect was jarring and she decided she wanted to take action.
The first thing she created was a 12-month goal calendar featuring one personal goal each month to raise awareness about tiger conservation. She shared this with her students and right away they had a lot of questions and feedback for her, and were curious and interested to know more.
Her first monthly goal was to engage in an act of advocacy for tiger conservation, and she chose to take William Blake's poem "The Tyger" (a poem she was about to explore with a group of her English students) and re-write it slightly to shift the focus to tiger conservation. The changes are subtle and clever, and students had to look carefully to find the differences between the two poems, which led them to analyze Blake's original poem to understand Nicola's piece.
"It was excellent," says Nicola. "They embarked on analyzing the poem on their own as a result of what I had done and it led to excellent analysis."
Nicola then took her poem and created a video with voice narration in Canva, sharing the final product with students and on social media. This sparked immediate reactions from students as they, too, started playing with the original text, adding art and other digital storytelling elements, and producing their own digital products to share with a global audience.
Here is an example of one student response focused on environmental conservation in relation to forest fires and human impact on the natural world.
"There have been many ripple effects from this first video I created," says Nicola, who is already working on her next monthly goal which will focus on the importance of language related to service and sustainability. "It's been fabulous to see how digital storytelling has generated so much engagement with my students; as they have watched me take some risks and put work out into the digital storytelling realm, I think it has empowered them to do the same, and it has created a situation where we are learning together. It's been dynamic and energizing."
Below is an interview with Nicola about what she is doing with digital storytelling, along with her video of "The Tyger". See if you can see how she has changed the original text, and to what effect.
If you're interested in pursuing digital storytelling in your own classroom, check out these articles and resources. They're a great place to start. And I will be offering my 4-part "Becoming a Digital Storyteller" course again in June. Stay tuned for registration details! :)
Resource Links: Learn More about Digital Storytelling
1. Digital Storytelling Across the Curriculum
2. 38 Ways Students Can Create Digital Content
3. Build Literacy Through Digital Storytelling
4. Digital Storytelling: Benefits, Examples, Tools & Tips
5.Shifting Schools Podcast about Digital Storytelling (with me and Shei Ascencio as guests for this episode)
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