The start of a new school year is a magical time that may prompt us to think about new strategies and techniques we want to explore to deepen our teaching practice. Ultimately, most educators want to build classroom cultures and learning experiences where every student is supported and engaged, and where each child's curiosity about the world and their role in it is kindled and nurtured.
For many educators in 2022, deep student engagement is tied to an understanding of global issues, the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, and an exploration of how each person (young and old) can use their skills and talents to create purposeful and positive change in our world. Living more sustainably, engaging in civic dialogue and action, and cultivating a connection and passion for local and global issues... the start of a new school year is the perfect time to consider how we can build changemaker cultures in our classrooms and schools and how we can help our students connect with these important ideas and themes.
A simple and deeply impactful strategy we can use to do this is digital storytelling, both as a tool for student engagement and inquiry, and an outcome that demonstrates deep learning and local/global impact. If you haven't used digital storytelling with your students, I want to share some easy ways to get started. And if you're already a digital storyteller, I want to applaud what you're doing and offer some links that may support your work.
Digital storytelling is simple. It's telling stories using digital tools and spaces. It can include:
* posting photos
* videos and YouTube
* website design for classroom and school storytelling
* digital animation
* social media campaigns and posts
* using apps like Flip (formerly Flipgrid) for student reflection and sharing these with parents and the school community
* electronic newsletters
* and more! (there are so many creative ways to tell a digital story!)
Whenever we tell a story with digital tools, we're digital storytellers. Simple, right? Simple and wonderful because our students love working with digital tools (and often know more than we do about things like making and editing videos!).
Here are some ways you can bring digital storytelling into your classroom this year to create deep engagement and learning, and to foster active and informed global citizenship for your students:
1) classroom activities: embed tools like Flip (formerly Flipgrid) into reflection and assessment tasks to give students a chance to show what they know and think in new ways. This will appeal to many types of learners and will help your students become more comfortable with digital storytelling skills like making audio and video recordings, as well as responding to peers online and engaging in appropriate and thoughtful dialogue. This can lead to global competencies, traits that our students need to function in our complex and ever-changing global world.
2) e-publishing and creating digital books: there are a variety of websites and apps to help your students create stunning picture books, graphic novels and more. A few I really like are Storybird and Book Creator.
2) service learning (investigation): when your students engage in the investigation stage of service learning and use MISO (Media/Interviews/Surveys/Observations) action research to find out about a topic, have them curate their findings as digital stories to share with peers and school leaders. Instead of having students do in-class presentations, have them create videos instead that you can share to a wider audience. If you're interested in learning more about MISO, as a side note, HERE is a link to a free Eduspark course created by me, Cathryn Berger Kaye and Shei Ascencio.
3) service learning (action): advocacy is one of four types of action that students can take during a service learning experience, and digital storytelling is a powerful way to engage in advocacy. Students can create social media campaigns, stories and photos to post online, events that take place in a virtual space and more. This, too, leads to global competencies as students navigate how to communicate their ideas in a variety of contexts and how to effectively persuade others to care about an issue and also take action.
4) service learning (demonstration): at the end of a service learning experience, it's key that students reflect on and demonstrate what they did and the impact they created. Having students explore digital storytelling strategies and techniques to tell their story is a wonderful way to showcase their efforts beyond your school community and inspire others to learn and take action, too. HERE is an example of how some high school students in California used digital storytelling to demonstrate their service learning experiences.
5) assessments: transform your assessments by making them outward-facing. Instead of traditional assessments such as tests, essays, reports and in-class presentations, have students write persuasive personal narrative essays and blog posts, create infographics and videos, and then share these with your local and global communities. Student engagement will increase dramatically and your students will become ambassadors for the learning that is occurring in your classroom. Try and connect your course content to the UN SDGs and advocacy to add another layer of active global citizenship to your assessments. I did this with a high school course I taught called Global Development Studies and the impact was incredible. My students cared much more deeply about demonstrating what they were learning because their products were being delivered to an authentic audience. This resulted in increased digital literacy, civic readiness and action, advocacy and reflection.
6) create a digital storytelling platform: there are so many easy and free ways to build websites in 2022. If your school uses Google, Google Sites is intuitive and easy to use. Microsoft Sway is another option. And sites like Wix and Weekly offer free plans for website creation. Creating a site to tell your classroom or school-wide stories is a powerful way to equip your students to create and share digital stories, and to build cultures in your classroom or school that value storytelling, the SDGs, active global citizenship and more. Here is an example of a fifth grade digital storytelling platform involving all learners and linking language arts and social studies learning to the SDGs and the school's vision for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.
These are just a few ideas to get you started with digital storytelling for 2022/23. There are so many possibilities for using this engaging and effective method to transform your teaching practice this year and beyond!
In the video below, you'll hear high school English teacher Anique Kruger talk about how she transformed a grade 9 English unit using digital storytelling. During the Covid lockdown in Shanghai in late spring, 2022, Anique used digital storytelling to engage her students and turn her assessments into outward-facing advocacy tools. Thanks, Anique, for sharing your story!