What is digital storytelling and what is not?

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What is digital storytelling and what is not?

Digital storytelling has its origins in one of the oldest arts in the history of mankind – telling stories. It is based on creating and telling or sharing narrations using not only words, but also modern IT tools and multimedia materials like: graphics, video, audio, animation. As Silvia Rosenthal points out in her article “Digital Storytelling: What it is and What it is not”: 

“Humans are natural storytellers. It has been THE FORM of passing on knowledge from generation to generation. Storytelling existed in some shape or form in all civilizations across time. In the 21st century, which we have the luck to live in, Digital Storytelling, has opened up new horizons, inconceivable without the use of technology. Storytelling is evolving, as humans are adapting, experimenting and innovating with the use of ever-changing technology, the growth of human networks and our ability to imagine new paths”.

Nowadays, storytelling is still widely used in education and in everyday life. However, the development and the widespread use of technology has changed the tools we can use to tell a story. The use of ICT tools in creating and sharing stories has changed the range and impact that such stories might have. Further, it has allowed us to reach larger audiences and its impact might be much more effective.

It is not just about the tools. It is about the skills

Jenna McWilliams, who participates in the project of New Media Literacies, describes in a very graphic way the idea of reading with a mouse in your hand. She says that sometimes teachers encourage students to read with a pen in their hand. It is about committing themselves critically, taking notes, raising questions, thinking, rather than simply looking at the words. Likewise, when students read with a mouse in the hand they take one more step: they assume that they must actively respond to what is in front of them; they are pushed to participate, to be responsible for the quality of the information they receive and to correct it publicly, if it is incorrect.

via GIPHY

It is not about creating media. It is about creating meaning

More and more content is shared on the Internet over time. It is valuable to contribute our perspectives to a type of content but is much better if the emphasis of the stories we share create some meaning— and make that meaning visible to others — not the act of creating the content itself. We found a wonderful example with this teen user of TikTok. She expresses a heartbreaking criticism of the mass detention of Muslim Uighurs in China, in the format of a makeup tutorial. We take our hat off to her.

It is not only about telling a story. It is about contributing and collaborating with others

Thanks to the Internet educators are able to collaborate and share ideas and information all over the world. Without question, Twitter could be a very rich source of information, but the feed moves pretty fast. As a result, the information can be difficult to keep up with.

Twitter chats are conversations to add value to other people’s learning. Chats take place on a specific topic on a specific day and at a specific time. Participants in the chat use a #hashtag specific to that topic, which allows for a search to be conducted even after the chat has ended.  There are plenty of them related to education.

It is not about telling an isolated story. It is about sharing and connecting experiences and perspectives to a community

Me Too is the name of a virally initiated movement that emerged as a hashtag in October 2017. It was created to denounce sexual harassment, following accusations against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein. Many celebrities used the hashtag to tweet their experiences and demonstrate the widespread nature of misogynist behaviour. In other words, #metoo movement triggered a global cry of women, proving that the problem was not a simple aggregation of individual stories. #Metoo has been the evidence of a structural issue beyond far the film industry. 

It is not about substituting analogue stories. It is about transforming stories

Digital storytelling, because of its technological component, has allowed new forms of interactivity. Interactive stories enable us to experience different routes based on the options we choose. For example, the project CHESS (Cultural Heritage Experiences through Socio-personal interactions and Storytelling), co-funded by the European Commission, aims to implement and evaluate both the experiencing of personalized interactive stories for visitors of cultural sites, facing the important challenge of making their collections more engaging to visitors, especially the young ‘digital natives’, while exploiting new forms of cultural interactive experiences.

In conclusion

So, conceived like this, Digital storytelling is not about how to make the most professional video ever. Digital storytelling is about different types of skills that are developed in the process, that allow students and teachers to be engaged and critical digital media consumers. Just like what we do in a social innovation project in a school. The main objective is not that the student learns how to paint a patio or garden, or how to organise a second-hand market. The clue is the process during which they can develop skills. For example identifying opportunities that create social value or forming and valuing new cohesive relations and collaborations.


This article is an extract of the Teacher’s Guide to Digital Storytelling. 

Digital Storytelling is an integral part of NEMESIS as it is a learning tool as well as a way to document and showcase the work created in the Co-creation Labs. Is a way to document and share your social innovation project in a participative way. Read our Teacher’s Guide to Digital Storytelling for further information: https://nemesis-edu.eu/about/resources

How students’ attempts to contribute to a better society impact the school?

The previous year in NEMESIS, 8 schools, 56 teachers and 1030 students around Europe used a new and experimental educational approach to empower young people. This involved the creation of social innovation projects within schools. Co-creation labs were set up to promote collaborative relations between students and adults where they were tasked with jointly address social challenges in their school or the wider community.

The results of the first pilot period demonstrated that students can benefit from their involvement in the NEMESIS co-creation labs in terms of their emotional, cognitive, behavioral and agentic engagement:

In terms of emotional engagement, students felt that their voice was heard, valued and acted upon. This made them feel important to their school, increasing their sense of belonging there. As a result of the redefined relationships that were formed with adults, students’ confidence was boosted, making them feel like they were not being treated simply as children, but as skilled individuals capable of fulfilling their goals.

“It’s like getting out of the classroom, it’s more real. We are not treated like kids but as people” (pupil, CEIP los Albares).

This increase in their self-confidence also manifested itself as an increase in the children’s maturity.

“I like that I feel more grown-up because I am talking to adults” (pupil, Rockingham) 

On top of that, students came up with the ideas for the projects themselves, making them feel more autonomous and empowered. 

“NEMESIS gave us more independence to do things that we wanted. It made us more able to carry out our projects.” (student, IES El Batan)

The fact that the projects were of tangible benefit to their community further reinforced this emotional engagement. It positively impacted their feeling of connectedness to their communities as well as strengthening their sense of collective efficacy as a result of the new relationships that were formed with adults and peers.

“If the task assigned to the children was to start a business, it wouldn’t have the same emotional charge. It becomes even more evident these days, that we need to give back to the community. Getting children to understand this can have serious emotional benefits” (Teacher, 6th Intercultural school of Kordelio)

In terms of cognitive engagement, students greatly understood the real purpose of their learning. They took ownership of their ideas to drive their projects forward and thus felt more motivated to perform in class because it felt personal, important and relevant to them.

“I can now see my student’s willingness and passion to perform activities that they found boring before. Now they suddenly all want to become “readers” and “writers” because they see the practical importance these skills can have.” (teacher, 6th intercultural school of Kordelio) 

In terms of behavioral engagement, the inclusive environment created by the co-creation labs as well as the support from adults helped shy students to come out of the woodwork and generally built confidence among the class. Moreover, the way students behave towards each other in school has also been positively affected by NEMESIS. In working together towards a common goal, students were required to act maturely and put aside their differences.

“In some cases, I felt NEMESIS was really changing the school culture. Students that didn’t normally speak now behave differently … they have ideas, ask questions… I did not know they had their own ideas; that they thought so critically.” (Teacher, AE Maia) 

Finally, with regard to agentic engagement, it has been observed that students have been very proactive, making constructive suggestions. Such an increase in the students’ agency is connected to the strong sense of ownership and enthusiasm that they have developed in their social innovation projects and the collective effort of the co-creation Labs.

“It’s our project, we make decisions. Before we were told what to do.” (student, AE Maia) 

“We will improve the school. And I will be helping to do it. We will change it. If we all assume our responsibility, we will make it! I believe it!” (Student, AE Maia) 


Do you want to learn about other school projects in NEMESIS? Click here.

Are you a school willing to learn more about NEMESIS or thinking about joining the project? Feel free to surf the web and drop us a line (hello@nemesis-edu.eu) or fill our contact form.

Are you a social innovator who would like to collaborate with the schools in your area? Click here for more info on how to become a mentor.

The student experience of NEMESIS: cultivating self-positivity in the classroom

Having had the privilege to take part in and closely observe pilot period 1 of NEMESIS at Rockingham Junior and Infant School, I realise how important the power of self-positivity is. We all know what it means to be positive, and how this can sometimes be a struggle. So when ‘positivity’ becomes an intrinsic part of someone’s mentality, it can be extremely powerful. While ‘self-positivity’ may not be an element you can tap into in every part of your life, that does not mean it is not attainable. Even if you are only experiencing positivity in one aspect of it, this can be harnessed to permeate your whole mindset!

A new driving force

‘One parent noted that it made her son feel worthy – a powerful sentiment – which I know from my teaching career can increase motivation, engagement and feeling good about oneself.’

During the 9 month NEMESIS project, children took the lead in restoring the caretaker’s house at their school. The trends in behaviour visible over the course of this project were complex and intriguing to say the least! It seemed that the children’s motivation within the programme came from being given ownership over the project. Activities such as teaching adults how to record on tablets encouraged the students to see how valuable and important their work and ideas truly were. One parent noted that it made her son feel worthy – a powerful sentiment – which I know from my teaching career can increase motivation, engagement and feeling good about oneself.

Praise can take many forms

NEMESIS gives students a voice and we can make decisions” – a NEMESIS student.

As a teacher, I also understand that different forms of praise must be given depending on the child and situation in question. The children’s participation in the NEMESIS project, however, seemed to create a form of praise all of its own. The pupils were left feeling “valued, worthy and important“. This is because, in getting the chance to take charge of the operation themselves, they were not only being listened to… but heard! They were not merely dismissed as token children. As one 9 year old boy commented: “NEMESIS gives students a voice and we can make decisions.” The fact that their decisions were taken seriously became an implicit form of praise – implicit because praise didn’t always have to be verbal. Carrying out the ideas that the children had come up with was praise enough. As the adage goes ‘actions speak louder than words.’

Real life = real feelings

Working on something real to create a positive outcome for yourself and others brings about a sense of achievement, happiness and positivity. Knowing the project was really happening, and not just an abstract concept to write about in class, had a significant impact on the children: ‘it was interesting because we got to see the proper house,’ ‘I really like the house and hope it will be finished,’ ‘it’s not how I thought it would be – it’s bigger and better. Students would be comfy here.’ Children could take pride in the knowledge they were doing good for themselves and others. The contribution that they were making acted as motivation. It encouraged them to carry on…

 

Students at Rockingham School, In Sheffield (UK)

That communal spirit

“I can help alongside other people.”

Working with children and adults of all different ages and backgrounds was a novelty for the students of Rockingham. Despite the Junior and Infant school being a newcomer to the programme, however, the educational programme proved to be a resounding success. The collective feeling of working together towards something positive nurtured good feelings and positive results as the children, and adults, saw how two, three, four… (you see where I’m going with this) minds are better than one! The children all said that they enjoyed working with people more as the project went on while one adult noted the joint collaborative effort to be “very powerful.” It seems it’s not only the children that are motivated by this shared approach to improving the world.

All these important things, feeling empowered, valued, listened to and important, interlink in complex ways, mirroring the complexity of the human mind to bring about that wonderful feeling of positivity. The combination of emotional, cognitive, behavioural and agentic engagement was different in every child, usually comprising more than one element, to produce a combination that made them feel good. This, when sustained over time, can become innate in the child – making them happier, more motivated learners. Imagine if all education made you feel this good!

Author: Jen Wall

Author’s note: the research conducted was on a small group of 7 children aged 6 – 11 years old hence my qualitative findings are not generalisable. I am not suggesting this would be the same for everyone, merely sharing initial insights gleaned from my research.


NEMESIS is a Horizon 2020 project bringing together education and social innovation to empower the changemakers of tomorrow. The project started in 2018 and it will continue until 2021. At the moment there are ten schools involved from five European countries and a second pilot will start in September 2019, for which we invite more schools.

 Do you want to learn about other schools projects in NEMESIS? Click here.

Are you a school willing to learn more about NEMESIS or thinking about joining the project? Feel free to surf the web and drop us a line (hello@nemesis-edu.eu) or fill our contact form.

Are you a social innovator who – as those mentioned here- would like to collaborate with the schools in your area? Click here for more info on how to become a mentor

The assessment of Social Innovation Competences at CEIP Los Albares: qualitative and quantitative tools

Authors: Ana Cristina Blasco-Serrano (Zaragoza University), Teresa Coma (Zaragoza University), Ana Echevarría (Los Albares School)

CEIP Los Albares is a state school of  Early Childhood and Primary education, situated in La Puebla de Alfinden, a small town, close to Zaragoza city. The educational identity of the school is based on the values of democracy, respect, solidarity, critical thinking and commitment to the community. 

Through its participation in NEMESIS, a European project, the school aims at developing social innovation skills in pupils and, therefore, improving the social innovation responsibility. To do so, teachers have worked together to integrate and embed social innovation principles in their teaching practice.  

With a strong focus on co-creation and other participatory methodologies, teachers, students and parents have joined forces to develop a set of social innovation competences: vision for a better world, responsible and critical thinking competences, empathy, self-efficacy, collective and creative problem solving, embracing diversity, collective efficacy, social resilience, digital social innovation competences, take the leap for value creation, organisation and mobilisation of resources, social communication competences, reflective learning, collaborative planning and democratic decision making. 

Teachers want to understand their practices and improve them. For assessing pupils’ competence development, the teaching team collaborates with Zaragoza University researchers in what qualifies as an action research project (Kemmis & Mctaggart, 1988). 

The research is a mix of qualitative and quantitative methodologies that complement each other, favoring the triangulation of information.  Qualitative data is mainly collected through participant observation (Merrian, 2009) and a questionnaire yields quantitative information. 

Qualitative tools

The qualitative research includes a wide range of tools. Teachers, as natural participants, and external researchers observe the action taking place in the Co-Lab sessions and in other NEMESIS activities. The external researchers keep a low profile so as not to disturb the interactions between participants. Teachers and researchers collect data in a field diary, in a reflexive way, analyzing the data from the first moment (Gibbs, 2012). 

Data collection is complemented with semi-structured interviews. This tool allows in-depth exploration of the data collected by participant observation (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009). In the interviews,  teachers, pupils and families express their perceptions, experiences, insights and feelings, and delve into the issues raised during the investigation (Spradley, 1979). 

In this study, children are active agents, so narratives are another important tool to collect data (Prout, 2002; Punch, 2002). The narratives give children the opportunity to freely express their opinions and perceptions about the NEMESIS project (Hyvärinen, 2016). In combination with narratives, this study will also analyze children’s drawings and productions so that all children, even if they can not write, can express their perception of reality.

Quantitative tools

From a quantitative approach, a questionnaire (Creswell, Plano Clark, Gutmann, & Hanson, 2003) will be used to analyze the development of social innovation competencies at the beginning and at the end of NEMESIS project. The questionnaire will measure children’s self-perception of their competences, and this information will be compared with teachers’ perceptions. 

The questionnaire has been co-designed with the management team of CEIP Los Albares. During 5 sessions we defined indicators for each competence and converted statements to pupil-friendly language.

The survey was created using Google Forms, which allows viewing and managing responses in a functional and immediate way. This research instrument could be used by other schools to, in this way, generalize the findings.


References

Creswell, J. W., Plano Clark, V. L., Gutmann, M. L., & Hanson, W. E. (2003). Advanced mixed methods research designs. In A. Tashakkori & C. Teddlie (Eds.), Handbook of mixed methods in social and behavioral research (pp. 209–240). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Hyvärinen, M. (2016). Narrative and sociology. Narrative Works, 6(1), 38-62.

Kvale, S., & Brinkmann, S. (2009). Interviews: Learning the craft of qualitative research interviewing. Sage.

Kemmis, S. & McTaggart, R. (1988). Cómo planificar la investigación-acción. Barcelona: Laertes

Merrian, S. B. (2009). Qualitative Research. A guide to Design and Implementation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Prout, A.  (2002). Researching  children as social actors: An introduction to the children, 5 -16 programme. Children & Society, 67 -76.

Punch, S. (2002). Research with children. The same or different from research with adults? Childhood, 9 (3), 321-341.

Spradley, J. P. (1979). The ethnographic Interview. N.Y.: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.