Why digital stories have value for learning

August 2015
In any area of learning – educational or workplace – digital stories help to engage people in their learning process and enable them to meaningfully interpret new knowledge, consolidate it, and then express it with their voice.
A few months ago, I struggled to believe that story writing using multimedia and web 2.0 technology would be as cognitively engaging as it is when using conventional writing tools. What I harboured deep down was the belief that writing was a superficial experience if technology was centre stage in the creative process.
Then I began to research digital stories and web 2.0 stories, to understand more about the creative process involved. From this study, I found that imagination doesn’t have to lie in the content of a narrative (the weird and wonderful plot, and the careful selection of words to show but not tell the story). Imagination can also be in the form in which the narrative is presented.
What technology is doing is enabling narratives to be presented in exciting new ways and to give a whole new meaning to writer voice.
But what does this have to do with learning?
Read on …
A summary of findings
At its core, a story is “a representation of a series of events” (Diermyer & Blakesley, 2009). The fundamentals of oral storytelling and printed stories carry over into digital storytelling, but there are also some unique characteristics of digital stories.
Alexander & Levine (2008) reported that these stories are often personal (although they can carry universal themes) and are ‘open’ because the web makes them accessible to a large audience. Another characteristic of digital stories is their use of ‘microcontent’ (Alexander & Levine, 2008), around 3 to 5 minutes of viewing time or about 300 words of text (Diermyer & Blakesley, 2009). This microcontent is easily repurposed when ‘ripped’ from one site and ‘hashed’ with content on another site to create a ‘new voice’.
Alexander & Levine (2008) claimed that digital stories use more powerful media than oral or print stories do. It’s one of the reasons for the rising popularity of digital stories in education. Educationalists have known for a long time that students innately create stories to ‘filter’ their experience of the world (Bruner, 1985). Now, students can use new media to construct digital narratives to organise, construct and reflect on information and experience (Pachler & Daly, 2009).
Blogs, multimedia slideshows and digital movies are all examples of technologies used for learning reflections. I’ve used these tools myself as an adult learner at Master’s level, to synthesise new knowledge, present research findings, and summarise a learning journey.
In any area of learning, educational or workplace, digital stories have the means to engage people in their learning process and enable them to meaningfully interpret knowledge and experience, consolidate it, and express it with their voice.
View more in my video, and feel free to add a comment.

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