Using Digital Stories Effectively to Engage Students

Using Digital Stories Effectively to Engage Students

Deborah H. Streeter (Cornell University, USA)
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-800-2.ch010
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Abstract

Teachers in higher education interested in making use of streaming media can access more sources of video than ever before: news sites, popular media sites, YouTube, and Cornell eClips, the world’s largest collection of short videos for educators (more than 14,000). Miller (2008) provides an impressive list of sources, along with a discussion of pedagogical rationale for using rich media. However, while supplies are numerous and demand from students is high, many educators lack the experience to integrate rich media effectively in their teaching. In this chapter, the author draws from her experience of building a library of digital video since the mid-90s with her eClips team and using it in the classroom. The chapter will focus on: 1) strategies and practical tips for using video inside and outside the classroom to engage learners and respond to short attention spans and 2) guidelines for educators who wish to create their own rich media collections because they need content that has a very specific focus and/or mirrors their learner population more appropriately in terms of demographics.
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Rich Media: Then And Now

Picture an instructor in the mid-20th century using educational filmstrips to enhance classroom teaching. He inserts a spooled strip of 35 mm film into a projector and then advances it frame by frame while students listen to a recording (vinyl in the ‘60s, cassette tapes in the ‘70s) in which a distinctive “ding!” signals when to move forward. Fast forward to the present and envision an instructor simply clicking a mouse to play HD-quality video in the classroom. These two images demonstrate the tremendous change in what is available in the classrooms of then and now, but don’t really tell us much about learners and teachers.

This chapter is a discussion of how new technological possibilities can be translated into effective learning tools and how instructors can effectively use new technologies such as video and audio clips—not only as the latest and greatest fad, but also as tools for active learning and effective engagement. In addition to exploring existing research on uses of technology in the classroom, digital storytelling, and effective learning environments, I draw from experiences with my eClips team building and using a library of digital video since the mid-90s as the basis for: 1) strategies and practical tips for using video inside and outside the classroom to engage learners and respond to short attention spans and 2) guidelines for educators who wish to create their own rich media collections because they need content with a very specific focus and/or content that mirrors the demographics of their specific learner population.

Technologies used in teaching can be delivered through many mechanisms: slide projectors, overhead machines, filmstrip projectors, TV, interactive whiteboards, VHS tape players, and computer projectors, to name a few. In my 23 years of teaching, I have used all of these and I believe that four seemingly small changes have created the most significant difference in the effectiveness of using technology with learners:

  • 1.

    It is no longer necessary to turn out the lights to use technology.

  • 2.

    In digital formats, the flow of information can now be easily started and stopped, enabling the instructor to deliver in bursts rather than in long segments.

  • 3.

    Delivery devices are web-based and more mobile, making content equally available to teacher and learner.

  • 4.

    Connectivity, facilitated by the Internet and the increasing availability of wide-area networks, allows for sharing of information in real time.

While this list may underwhelm the reader at first glance, consider the research on creating effective learning environments, which emphasizes that the physical environment in teaching is a critical element in creating optimal situations for student. For example, Vosko (1991), a space specialist who works on improving space for adult education, points out that when instructors pay attention to the physical space and technological possibilities, the learning environment can enhance interactivity. After teaching for 20 years with technology, I can vouch for the fact that today instructors are better able to take advantage of rich media due to changes in what is possible in displaying and manipulating the technology. These changes do not only avoid the physically disruptive aspects of earlier technological innovations (think of that dark room with a filmstrip projector and a tape recorder), but actually enhance the learning environment by creating new possibilities. In particular, these subtle changes in technology facilitate and amplify the ability the use digital storytelling in the classroom.

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