Enhancing Teaching and Learning with Digital Storytelling

Enhancing Teaching and Learning with Digital Storytelling

Shuyan Wang (The University of Southern Mississippi, USA) and Hong Zhan (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jicte.2010040107
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This article intends to help educators interested in technology integration in the classroom acquire a firm theoretical foundation, pedagogical applications, and step-by-step technical procedures for infusing digital storytelling into the curriculum. Through illustrations of digital storytelling projects completed in the authors’ undergraduate and graduate classes, this article discusses the benefits along with the challenges for using digital storytelling as a means of engaging students in reflective, active, and personally meaningful learning.
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2. Traditional Formats Of Storytelling In Education

Prior to the advent of the writing systems, storytelling was the only tool available by which individuals within their communities could pass down their beliefs, traditions, and historical culture to future generations. After the invention of the printing press in 1450, storytelling became even more important to society because printed stories became more available and accessible to many people who could learn from the historical stories and pass down their knowledge and heritage to future generations (Abrahamson, 1998).

As the oldest form of education, storytelling contributes uniquely to children’s language and literacy development in speech and written composition, as well as language development in both reading and listening (Trawick-Smith, 2003). Therefore, as an instructional strategy and learning tool, storytelling was initially implemented mainly in early childhood education. By creating and narrating personal stories or fables, young learners can acquire content knowledge and develop language skills in the process of plotting, writing, revising, and narrating their stories. Abrahamson (1998) observed that, in addition to language and literacy development, literature also shows that storytelling, as an instructional strategy or a learning tool, has been applicable to other disciplines such as communication, social studies, and even math.

Nowadays, the power of storytelling has been widely recognized as an effective, meaningful, enjoyable, and creative way to enhance teaching and learning. Storytelling is found in all types of teaching, thus storytelling is viewed as the foundation of the teaching profession (Abrahamson, 1998). By telling stories of what happens in the world, teachers expose learners to the existing world of knowledge where learners can learn, construct, and further develop their own knowledge by organizing complex elements in a given context, and by reflecting on their learning processes and life experience.

Storytelling is not only effective in early child education, but also effective in all areas of higher education. When applying storytelling in higher education, McDrury and Alterio (2003) presented a five-stage model on Reflective Learning through Storytelling, which involves both tellers and listeners of the stories in connecting the story with their own experiences. Each of the five stages (i.e., story finding, story telling, story expanding, story processing, and story reconstructing) engages students by encouraging them to reflect on learning processes and experiences of their lives. Through these five stages, students can improve their learning because storytelling, as a pedagogical tool in higher education, seriously takes the needs of students to make sense of experiences and seek meaning from their lives (Wells, 1986, cited in McDrury & Alterio, 2003).

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