Posted by: lindapemik | February 8, 2013

Digital Storytelling in Academia? You’ve got to be kidding!

This was my first reaction to the current topic focus in #etmooc.  I couldn’t imagine how digital storytelling fits into the academic milieu.  In fact I suspected that there is a lot of resistance to digital stories as a pedagogic method.  A new found colleague of mine, Carol Rowan, wrote, “ I believe that stories engage the mind, warm the heart, and open us up to the possibility of resisting institutionalized normality” ,  and what is more institutionalized than education, at all levels, but especially at the  post-secondary level.

So I did what I usually do when I want to know more about a topic, I goggled it.

How is digital storytelling used in higher education?

My search turned up a wealth of information and I learned a lot that challenged my assumptions about the usefulness of this methodology.  I learned that some institutions of higher learning are encouraging their faculties and staff to embrace digital story telling:  to teach, to research,to engage the voices of the oppressed, and to promote organizational and professional development.And some are not.  I found an informative little story about Neanderthals at the Ohio State University website.

Scroll down in the stories menu on this page to meet my new friend, Bruce the Neanderthal.  He’s kind of cute and maybe one of my ancient relatives. Or maybe yours? After watching this short digital story,  I learned and can remember more about Neanderthals than I imagined possible.

I found wikis, and how-to sites galore; so many that I was overwhelmed about where to start in crafting my own digital story.  But on one of the sites I visited and I’m sorry I didn’t make a note of which one so I can’t give credit where credit is due, I picked up two pieces of advice that helped me get started on writing the script for my story.

Tip # 1                   Pick a topic that you feel passionate about

Tip # 2                   Take four index cards, label them:  Context, Crisis, Change and Closure; then do a quick write on each card elaborating on the Card title.

The four cards then form the outline of your story and you can start scripting it.  Now the real fun begins.

After digging deeper into my question about digital storytelling and academia, I am now convinced that digital storytelling has a legitimate place in higher education when it is used appropriately.  Like any educational technology, you use it to further learning, not just because it is the “in thing” to do.

Please leave me a comment and share with us how you are using digital storytelling in higher education.  And if you are interested in further dialogue about digital storytelling as a tool to disrupt colonial discourses join our new google+ community, Connected Arctic Educators.



  1. Although I teach in elementary, I feel some of your uneasiness with digital storytelling as, in the US, we move to the Common Core standards. In elementary that means a move away from narrative texts. Through this MOOC, I am beginning to more appreciate the power of telling any story with not only words, but visual and auditory accompaniment. However, I need to integrate digital storytelling into my curriculum in ways that correlate well with the new standards.

    Fortunately, we will still be teaching persuasive writing and I think this is where the advice you picked up may fit in well.

    • Hi Mary Lee, As the week progressed and I dug deeper into the topic and tried on a few simple stories, I found that my “productivity” in other areas of my life improved, especially at work where I spend a good part of every day problem solving. I needed this lesson to remind me how important it is to exercise our “creativity muscles”..I don’t really understand the many challenges that you face in the class room but I am guessing that incorporating opportunities for creative storytelling in your class will help your students learn better, resulting in improved test scores in the long run. I’d be interested in knowing the outcome if you decided to integrate digital storytelling in your classroom.

  2. Be sure to tune in for Alan’s session, I think you’ll be further convinced of the place of story in HigherEd. I’m really happy this methodology is making headway into these spaces – it’s a wonderful way to learn and share.

  3. […] reaction about how could I use this in my maths class was reflected by lindapemik ‘s post Digital storytelling in Academia? You’ve got to be kidding! Reading her post made me reflect that maybe it wasn’t such a […]


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