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Digital Story Telling and Ed

Digital Storytelling as an Educational Tool

Apr 13, 2018 2018-04-13

By Jason Ohler

In this installment of our Digital Storytelling Series, Jason Ohler provides a framework for using digital storytelling (DST) to enhance educational standards. He also suggests ways to incorporate new media development into future versions of those standards.

Current educational standards, or the information that is considered vital for students to learn within a specific content area based on grade level, are often lacking in their inclusion of new media creation and DST. In this digital age, we must incorporate these principles into how we teach to ensure students have the education they need to face the modern world.

Digital storytelling is important to the following four types of standards: content standards, technology standards, language arts standards, and Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts.

1. Content Standards
The content standards that currently exist focus mainly on outcomes rather than methodology. They address what each student must know within a content area and at what grade level. However, they don't offer a strict layout of how educators must achieve those results. This offers some flexibility to incorporate technology into the curriculum.

DST is generally considered a methodology. It is an effective tool that can be applied to topics across most content standards including, but not limited to, language arts, math, and science concepts. It also opens the door to connect these topics to broader concepts like culture and personal significance. However, for this to be an option, students must have access to technology, as well as the training and time to use it.

2. Technology Standards
Like content standards, there are technological standards for students, which are outlined by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). Previous versions of their standards focused on how to effectively operate and use technology. ISTE’s new and refreshed standards focus on developing creativity and innovation using out-of-the-box methods.

DST teaches students creatical thinking (merging creativity and critical thinking skills). It encourages the creativity and innovation ISTE's standards promote, while also learning emerging literacy skills. Because the digital world is social, connected, and aided by narrative, students learn to navigate through the mix of text, images, graphics, video, sound, and other elements to find the message of the story.

3. Language Arts Standards
The standards for English language arts, developed by the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association, directly discuss the production and understanding of narrative. This provides a great opportunity to use new media development and DST to enhance students' comprehension of concepts like reading, writing, and grammar.

DST is both a writing and reading process. To create effective new media, students must understand the basics of language structure, crafting narratives, researching and analyzing data, and the language translation process of changing script to media. Conventional writing techniques form the blueprint for new media development. Students are also able to bring text to life by adding supporting elements, like music, graphics, photos, or video. Whether they are participating in an online discussion or enjoying a multimedia digital story, they must learn to grasp all elements of the narrative.

4. Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts
The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts appear to view literacy strictly as a means of communication. Unfortunately, this can limit the creativity and innovation we have seen in other standards. The Common Core State Standards also do not include much direction for art or creativity.

This set of standards does allow educators to use their own tactics and methods in the classroom, giving educators some flexibility to incorporate DST. They also mention “non-print texts,” which is a nod to the new media landscape. Within some subsections for specific skills and grade levels, the standards actually suggest the ability to craft narrative through DST, which is an excellent opportunity to explore DST as a tool for deeper learning.

Incorporating Digital Storytelling and New Media into Future Standards
While the various standards currently offer some opportunity to utilize digital storytelling to enhance the curriculum, we need to see more direct references to digital literacy, media grammar (the guidelines that should be used when creating media), and some specific direction for art, which is an important part of DST and new media narrative. All of the standards should include art, creativity, and innovation, while valuing the production of quality media.

Finally, because the digital landscape is ever-changing, so must the standards for education. Development of the standards should be a never-ending research project that will continue to grow as the world, and our knowledge of it, evolves.

Dr. Jason Ohler is a professor emeritus, speaker, writer, and a lifelong digital humanist who is well-known for the passion, insight, and humor he brings to his writings, projects, teaching, and presentations. He has been helping community members, organizations, and students at all levels understand the ethical implications of being digital citizens in a world of roller-coaster technological change. His most recent book, 4Four Big Ideas for the Future, reflects on his 35 years in the world of educational media and innovation in order to chart a course for a future. He is first and foremost a storyteller, telling tales of the future that are grounded in the past. Find Jason on Twitter @jasonohler or visit his website:

Digital Literacy Reading/English/Language Arts Media Literacy Technology Educational Technology Common Core

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