And now, may I present to you my Course 4 Final Project: Speak Your Truth: A Digital Storytelling Unit

Behind every decision and experience there is a story. Think of a moment that may have changed your life: What was it? How did it change your life? Everyone has a story to tell: What is yours and what is mine, and how did the environment shape the stories we shared? – (Harnessing the Power of Storytelling by Abeer Shinnawi)

Introduction: It is important for us to listen to each other. To hear each other’s voices and share our experience, strength, and hope. In a time of intense political conflict and disconnect, stories have the power to bring us together. To help us begin to understand, see past differences, and heal.

I have increasingly become a fan of stories over the past few years. My three-year-old son, Valentine, is a huge lover of any kind of tale. He enjoys making up narrative games, reading picture books, and talking to people about their lives. He is curious and full of wonder about the world around him and the citizens in it. And he is an eager listener too.

My son, Valentine, reading a story with a friend. We try to provide him with a variety of books about all different kinds of people. Photo by the author.

Seeing the delight he takes in storytelling, and the importance of the genre throughout history, I have decided to focus my COETAIL course 5 project on Digital Storytelling.

According to a video created by the University of Guelph Library in Ontario, “Digital Storytelling uses multimedia tools to bring narratives to life.” Here’s the video if you want to get a quick overview of the medium.

What’s my inspiration? The ideas that inspire me for this unit are, of course, rooted in the seminal TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story “that was given by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in 2009. Although over a decade old, the ideas still ring true today and have been lodged in my brain since I first heard them many years ago.

Adichie argues that reducing a group of people, a nation, a region or a continent to one single narrative robs them of their humanity. And that making broad, sweeping stereotypes and generalizations is dangerous. The example she gives, from her own experience, is the common misconception among white, middle-class westerners that “everyone in Africa” is poor, struggling, and suffering. Which is, of course, not true.

She said, “It is impossible to engage properly with a place or a person without engaging with all of the stories of that place and that person. The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.

Here is the talk in case you haven’t seen it (or if maybe you just want to watch it again because it’s that good):

In working with EAL students, I have heard the single story from my colleagues when they start a sentence with “All the Koreans…” and I have heard the single story from other students in the grade level when they start a sentence with “The EAL kids…”And it is a slippery slope indeed. It lumps all the language learners into a group and denies them their individuality.

I was upset the other day when I overheard two native English speaking students in the English Language Arts class laughing about the Magic Tree House book “Mummies in the Morning” (which, by the way, is pretty awesome) that a few of the English Language Learners were reading for book clubs. It’s like they didn’t even realize that learning a new language is hard and takes time and that not everyone in the room is at the same level of language proficiency.

So, what’s my plan? I would like to provide an opportunity for the EAL students to share their stories without being interrupted, laughed at, or silenced. My plan is to run a six-week digital storytelling unit based on these three key questions: 

  1. What do you think as an English Language Learner? 
  2. What do you feel as an English Language Learner? 
  3. What is important to you as an English Language Learner? 

I hope to give students a platform to be creative and to communicate in an authentic way. I think that members of our community will learn a lot from hearing these stories. It’s an exercise in empathy and putting yourself in “someone else’s shoes”.

HERE IS THE LINK TO MY UNIT PLANNER FOR THE GRADE 7 EAL DIGITAL STORYTELLING UNIT: “SPEAK YOUR TRUTH”.

This unit was created for grade 7 EAL students at the American Embassy School, New Delhi. You can see the unit overview below.

Digital storytelling unit overview (adapted from a template by Slidesgo).

Some Nuts and Bolts: This unit is a project-based learning (PBL) unit. I am passionate about PBL and was actually a featured guest on the Shifting Schools Podcast on PBL, which aired on October 25, 2021. You can listen to that episode by clicking here.

I used the following graphic from PBL Works to help guide my planning. It outlines the essential project design elements for PBL.

Gold Standard Project Based Learning by PBLWorks is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

The University of Houston (U of H) has an amazing Digital Storytelling Website. There’s tons of information and ideas for a newbie like me to get started. I gleaned a few of the following resources from there. I will definitely use these in my work with the students.

1. The first graphic, by Samantha Morra, shows the process of creating a digital story. I found it on a website that was linked to the U of H website.

Source: https://samanthamorra.com/2013/06/05/edudemic-article-on-digital-storytelling/

2. The second graphic shows the components that successful digital stories have. It was also featured on the U of H website.

Source: Source: https://samanthamorra.com/2013/06/05/edudemic-article-on-digital-storytelling/

3. This chart overview the 21st Century skills that digital storytelling draws upon.

21st Century Skills and Digital Storytelling. Source: https://digitalstorytelling.coe.uh.edu/page.cfm?id=27&cid=27&sublinkid=32

4. This final graphic shows the benefits of digital storytelling from a neurocognitive viewpoint. I’d like to share this one with my students at the start of the unit. I found it on Twitter a few weeks ago.

Source: OneSpot. https://www.onespot.com/blog/infographic-the-science-of-storytelling/

There! That’s a wrap! What do you think? Do you have experience with digital storytelling?  Do you have any advice for me? Let me know. Until then, take care and Happy New Year. This is Megan’s Musings, signing off for now…

One thought on “And now, may I present to you my Course 4 Final Project: Speak Your Truth: A Digital Storytelling Unit

  1. Hi Megan,
    This is a wonderful project and I love your idea. Thanks for sharing so many important resources – looks like you have a lot to draw from. I also love that your stories will inspire empathy in the viewer / listeners, which is so important, especially in the personal examples you used above. Looking forward to seeing what emerges!
    Thank you,
    Tara

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