Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Digital Storytelling

There are a number of programs out there to assist with digital storytelling. The ones I've used are Photostory3, Storytelling Alice and Voicethread. Each has their specific purpose, but overall I think I'm a bit partial to Alice.

First I would like to spew a little background on my views of discourse in the classroom. Discourse is one of the most powerful learning tools that I know of.

Roger Schank, in Tell me a Story, explains that stories are what make a memory memorable; stories give life to past experiences. We are not simply memorizing a list of facts, we are connecting with the big picture. It is far easier to relay information in a meaningful way by providing explanations for the information, in the form of stories, than it is to relay a stream of facts. By doing so, we allow the recipient of the information to form connections on multiple levels. Portions of the story heard by the recipient of the information are linked to single frames of stories they already know -- similar to how words are interconnected in a crossword puzzle. Unimportant details of the story are forgotten leaving traces of the story connected to other known stories.

By examining these memory traces, not only does it allow us to recall story elements from stories (without replaying the entire story), it also assists us to predict event outcomes and merge stories together. Stories are merged when it becomes impractical to remember a series of similar stories. In this case, the basic idea of the story is converted into a script, which can be applied to the situation at hand.

Therefore, stories are important at a variety of levels from relaying thoughts through solidifying the information. So how do we apply this in the educational world, and in particular within a digital environment. That's where the digital storytelling programs come into play.

With Storytelling Alice, the story's author places the characters, story elements and props, into a frame. The author then instructs the characters on what to do in order to tell the story. This allows the author to break the story into small manageable pieces; pieces which are important to how the story unfolds. Take for example the story of how to solve a multiplication problem. One character explaining or demonstrating a method for solving it requires the author to understand each step and be able to explain it.

Listen to the podcast here

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