Tales from Real Life: Seeing it Differently: Digital Storytelling
My capstone history research seminar traditionally ended with student trios presenting a synthesis of their individual research papers. All too often, these presentations failed to capture either the insights or the excitement students found in their research.
Frustrated, I experimented with a new multimedia format, using simple technologies (such as PowerPoint or iMovie) and inspired by materials from the Center for Digital Storytelling. The new small group assignment required students to combine an essay with images and sound (including their own voices) to make a 3—5 minute video story that integrated their individual research papers.
This digital storytelling assignment transformed student learning. Not only did students identify important and creative connections between their individual research projects to tell meaningful stories, but their thoughts about their work in the course also changed. When we viewed digital stories in class, students engaged in vigorous and thoughtful discussion, and many asked if they could have copies of each others’ projects (something that never happened with traditional presentations and papers). Students even invited friends, parents, and other faculty to class when digital stories would be shown. Instead of viewing projects as something only their professor would care about, they wanted to share their digital stories and research more broadly. Integrating images and sound into their work allowed them to see historical research and analysis in a new way—as part of an on-going, public conversation, not just something confined to the class.
—Deandra Little, University of Virginia and Peter Felten, Elon University
THRIVING IN ACADEME