Illuminated Texts

Illuminated texts, otherwise referred to as digital storytelling in my Cybertexts class, at its most basic core is the practice of using computer-based tools to tell stories. Digital storytelling revolves around the idea of combining the art of storytelling with a variety of multimedia, including; graphics; audio; video; and web publishing.

Like traditional storytelling, most digital stories focus on a specific topic and contain a particular point of view. However, as the name implies, digital s usually contain some mixture of computer-based images, text, recorded audio narration, video clips, and/or music. The topics used in digital storytelling range from personal tales to the recounting of historical events, from exploring life in one’s own community to the search for life in other corners of the universe, and literally, everything in between. Researcher and digital culture consultant, John Seely Brown described digital storytelling this way:

“I’m particularly interested in Digital Storytelling, in new ways to use multiple media to tell stories and in the ability of kids, who are now growing up in a digital world, to figure out new ways to tell stories. They have the ability to build interpretive movies very simply and to lay sound tracks around the content. They condition or “sculpture” the context around the content. The serious interplay between context and content is key to what film—and rich media in general—are about.”

Today the use of digital storytelling is being practiced in neighbourhood community centres, schools, libraries and businesses, by novice technology users to those with advanced skills. In the field of education, teachers and their students, from early childhood classrooms through graduate school, are using digital storytelling in many different content areas and across a wide range of grade levels. 

There are several ways that digital storytelling can incorporated into classroom practice, a notable example being Inanimate Alice. Inanimate Alice is a new media fiction that allows students to develop multiple literacies (literary, cinematic, artistic, etc.) in combination with the highly collaborative and participatory nature of the online environment. The media is interactive, requiring the reader to drive the story forward at their own pace, encouraging them to co-create their own versions of the story, either filling in the gaps or developing new strands. It uses text, images, music, sound effect, puzzles and games to illustrate and enhance the narrative. The story itself is episodic, at the time of writing four episodes are available and they can be read on any device capable of running Flash Player. The website also provides a lesson pack with suggestions on how to use the media in the classroom over four lessons.

Another effective application for integrating digital storytelling within the classroom is Tellagami. With Tellagami, you begin by creating a character, after that, you can select a pre-supplied backdrop or use one from your pictures. One teacher, Richard Byrne, takes a picture of the front of the classroom and has his character introduce him to the class. After customising your character and background, you can choose how you want your character to talk, which can be done by typing or by recording your voice (with recording your voice however, you will only have 30 seconds to relay your message). Some ideas that Byrne puts forward are: having your character tell a story; pick a person in history and have them introduce themselves; use a plant cell as a background and have the avatar name and discuss the function of each part of the cell; recite a famous poem or speech; read a poem they wrote; take a trip or go back in time and describe the location/time period; speak in Spanish, French, Mandarin or any other language. Tellagamis can also be linked into the class blog, if there is one, by using the embedding function to embed the video into the page. Sounds like something fun that all the children can sink their fingers into, right? The only drawback with this program is its accessibility, unlike Inanimate Alice, which can be displayed on the class whiteboard for all to see, Tellagami is an app, which needs a suitable platform to work the app on. Although the videos can be viewed through the class smartboard, in order to create an animation their selves, the learners will need to be able to access a phone or tablet that has the app on it.

Of course, there are many more strategies and applications that can be used to integrate digital storytelling into the classroom and it’s something I personally would be interested in doing. What about you? Do you think there’s a place for digital storytelling in the classroom?

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2 thoughts on “Illuminated Texts

  1. I think there is absolutely a place for digital storytelling in the classroom. Despite my personal and unfounded disagreements with young children using technology rather than going to play outside like “the old days” I think its best to cater for what the kids want in order to maximise learning potential. If its going to be a more interesting and inspiring way of learning for the new generation compared to a good old textbook I’m all for it. There was nothing more depressing at school than being told to “turn to page 176”, haha.

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