2 July 2013

Summer Stories with New Storytelling Tools

Summer and the freedom to read, reflect, re-design. 

At times I close my eyes and wonder : when was learning ever to be a simple, straight-forward process? Learning is messy, chaotic, demanding and fulfilling. How can teaching objectives fit neatly into little boxes? 

Then again, for me, that is not the question I focus on. Yes, there needs to be a flow in a lesson, connections,  and like a well loved recipe, a delicious outcome. Yet even the flow of a lesson may differ according to class context.  Hence, my more immediate question is, how can my learners learn? How can they achieve that outcome with the ingredients (e.g. syllabus, learning objectives) that they have? How can their learning through the messy chaos become more significant, more relevant to them?

Learning through story-telling. 

Learning by focusing on the tale to be told, the story to be shown, heard. 

Learning through reflections of going through the story-telling process. 

Learning through one's voice. 

Holding pieces of information, processing them into one's world view. 

This holds true in particular for L2 learners. As they focus on the task, their use of language goes far beyond what is often required or even expected. 

Summertime is a time for stories, for creating stories, for living stories. 

And so today, once again I turn to three suggestions for story-telling. 

StoryPlanet may not be the simplest platform to create digital stories, but is definitely worth exploring. Still in Beta, begin by requesting an account, then continue with the tutorials, which help visualize how to create a story with grids. 

I wouldn't use StoryPlanet with learners who are just beginning to learn with digital tools, but definitely with learners who are more at ease, experienced and enjoy a challenge to express their creativity. 

Populr is another way to create a webpage and tell a story.  Essentially for micro-blogging, a POP is a page where you can embed different media (video, images, PDF or other file) and share easily.

The video below is set within another context, but isn't a learner's product also a pitch to the teacher and class that the learner has a learning message to share?

Populr video tour from Populr Team on Vimeo.

Picture Teller can be found among E2BN Tools.  After registering and logging in, you will find a simple screen which is easy to navigate and create a visual story by adding images and sound.

One feature I particularly like is how you can also pan and zoom in.  The interface is simple and easy to use - and, as one today expects, it is possible to download and/or embed.

For both story-telling or presentations (and what is a presentation but a different kind of story?), this is another tool which learners can easily use to narrate their stories.

 Despite the many choices of online tools and apps becoming increasingly richer and broader,
it may be challenging to  initially incorporate digital storytelling in lessons.
Nevertheless, glitches too are part of learning. As Seth Godin reminds us,

"Anyone who says failure is not an option has also ruled out innovation".

It never fails to amaze me at sometimes how little education learns from other fields, namely business, where innovation is a regular feature. Within education too, there are moments of failure and these need to be regarded as learning steps toward a goal. Learning is a process - not a product, after all.

In his post on what makes a great teacher, Johnson points out project-based learning and performance-based learning - two of my favourite approaches, but equally two approaches, which in my eyes, will accept that glitches and momentarily failures are part of learning.

And on that note, I would like to end here with Johnson's words:

" ... great teachers do not teach. They stack the deck so that students have a reason to learn and in the process can't help but learn mainly by teaching themselves. This knowledge then becomes permanent and cherished rather than illusory and irrelevant."

Learning through storytelling is part of stacking that deck.

How do you encourage storytelling?


Godin, S. , 2013, The Lab or The Factory

Johnson, B.,  2013, Great Teachers Don't Teach

Further Tools for Storytelling:

Breezi - Create a website

SrollKit - Create a webpage


The above poster with quote can be found on Design Different, which has a wonderful collection of minimalist posters with quotes.

With other images I borrow, you only need to pass the cursor on the image to know the sources (unless they are mine)

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