Digital Storytelling and EAP?

Digital storytelling, a great topic posed in one of the discussion forums I have been participating in lately, is the practice of using computer-based tools to tell stories. It focuses on a specific topic with a particular point of view. For example, a digital story may be about:
  • Personal tales
  • Historical events
  • Exploring life in one’s community
Unlike traditional storytelling, digital stories mix storytelling with a combination of multimedia, such as:
  • Graphics – pictures, drawings, text
  • Audio – music, recorded audio narration
  • Video – video clips
  • Other web publishing software
Daniel Meadows, a pioneer in the field of digital storytelling defines it as “multimedia sonnets from the people” in which “photographs discover the talkies, and the stories told assemble in the ether as pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, a gaggle of invisible histories which, when viewed together, tell the bigger story of our time, the story that defines who we are.”

What is it and what isn't it? To find out more, visit the video on Digital Storytelling (2015) by Silvia Tolisano at Langwitches.

So, the question is how can we use digital storytelling as a way to communicate new information to the students, or as projects and assignments that students could work on?

The closest thing I have done that comes close to digital story telling is to have students create a PowerPoint presentation telling the class about themselves or their country. As a writer, I would love the opportunity to do this more with my students. I am faced with the challenge of getting through all the required material in an EAP (English for Academic Purposes) class and not having enough time to work other things in. Also, there is the whole student-buy-in factor.

So, I did some research and I found this article showing me that it is possible... I just have to try to spin it in an academic way, and spin it in a way that makes students see the value in it.

Digital Storytelling in EAP: A Summary
24 Oct, 2015 by David Read
Why should we ask EAP students to make digital stories? They should be writing essays and creating PowerPoint presentations. Yes, but these narratives can develop other skills at the same time that WILL be useful in their future studies, such as:

Working effectively in teams: since these stories can be created in groups.
Researching and selecting skills: in creating a digital narrative, students have to find appropriate sources and make choices about what to include and what not to include.
Summarizing skills: whether in spoken or written form, these narratives will often require the students to condense ideas/opinions into a small space.

How can we make digital storytelling more academic?

You can easily choose subject matter and tasks that would be more appropriate for EAP students, such as:
  • researching a key or controversial issue in their field 
  • creating a summary of their learning over the last few weeks/months using a variety of media 
  • getting students to write ‘guides’ for key exam or writing skills they’ve been studying in class. 
  • creating a narrative around a text or article in a coursebook they’ve been studying. Students explore different aspects of a topic and create something to demonstrate their understanding. 
Read more at: Learning Technologies in EAP
I believe it does have more of an important role that just entertainment. Quite a bit of research has been done to support the use of digital storytelling in the classroom. I say, think about the skills it takes to tell a good story.

The article states that digital storytelling uses "different skills, including writing, performance, and technological skills and they must know their facts, make decisions about the key elements, and shape those within the parameters of telling a story. Such work involves high-level information literacy, critical thinking and creativity[and creative thinking skills]."

Vogel, Janet, et al. (November 2007). Research Supporting Digital Storytelling. Graduate School of Library and Information Science. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

To conclude this pitch for the use of digital storytelling in the EAP classroom, I will leave you with this. Canada is to become a leader in the digital economy “digital skills development must be fostered in all Canadians so that they have the capacity to access, use and interpret a growing and increasingly complex range of digital information (Government of Canada, 2010, Building Digital Skills for Tomorrow). Since then, and as we approach Canada's 150th birthday in 2017, the Canadian government remains committed to creating jobs and economic growth by providing Canadian businesses and communities with the skills and opportunities they need to succeed. In today's digital world, we know that Canada's long-term success and prosperity depends on it. Digital Canada 150

To prepare EAP students for the digital realities of the classroom and for the workplace, the more teachers can build these skills, the more they will succeed.

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