Thursday, 9 April 2015

Digital Storytelling - creativity, reflection and 21st century skills

A great article by Grete Jamissen and Goro Skou puts into words some of my instincts about digital storytelling and why reflection using creative media differs from that using a traditional essay form.

"A digital story is an example of a multimodal text where various semiotic resources and
modalities (Kress, 2003, Løvland, 2007, Liestøl, Fagerjord & Hannemyr, 2009) create meaning and involve our senses in various ways, and we believe the combination
strengthens students’ learning processes. Written text and images affect our visual
sense; spoken language, music and sound affect the auditive sense; images and music
affect our feelings, separately and in combination. We are “touched”, and in a digital
storytelling context this engagement involves the producer, the peers taking part in the
process and the audience of the finished product. Multimodal texts can be found in both new and old media, but digital media have brought opportunities to work with stories in new ways. New technologies make new semiotic resources available and influence our ability to express and interpret meaning through multimodal interaction (Løvland, 2007)."

They also discuss how the "art" of working in health and social care field is about a preconscious activity - what I would probably describe as empathy - which lies at the heart of reflective practice. The health and social care practitioner needs to develop skills in interpreting human behaviour - "reading" multilayered messages about needs, desires, fears etc - and can best be trained to do so by becoming attuned to their own. Certainly this is what provides the foundation for the training and supervision of counsellors and psychotherapists, for example.

Counselling and psychotherapy training and supervision often make use of creative media - art, poetry, storytelling, drama - to arrive at transformative understandings of human behaviour which cannot always be portrayed simply through the written word. When I trained to be a humanistic counsellor, for example, role play ("empty chair" work) drama, story telling, painting and music played a major role in the workshops.

Understanding others through an understanding of our own behaviour is one aspect of the learning available to us through storytelling, another is the act of reflection which itself leads to the creation of new possibilities for action. As Norman Jackson pointed out recently in the Lifewide Magazine, in reflecting we are often motivated to create artefacts to help us remember and make concrete our learning:
"Reflection is inherently about creation since we create new understanding through the thinking process that causes us to pay attention to the detail of what we have learnt in one situation, that might be applied in future in another situation. The new insights we gain through reflective thinking gives us the confidence to put ourselves into new unfamiliar situations which in turn will demand our creativity. Furthermore, reflective thinking may motivate us to make artefacts to record or document our experiences and represent our learning for example in diaries, scrapbooks and blogs, and this perhaps is where social media plays an increasing role."

The digital element adds yet another dimension: the student isn't "performing" in the traditional sense in front of an audience especially if the digital artefact is locked down so that only a selected few can view it. The process is more akin to 1:1 supervision or a conversation with one's mentor. The development of a digital artefact requires skills that may be unfamiliar (most of us have painted, modelled clay, acted, sung - however inexpertly - at some point during our school days). Creating a Prezi, recording a soundtrack, editing a video is not something we all have practice in and added to the usual reticence about performing or sharing our creations with another is the sheer technical difficulty to be overcome in doing this in a medium with which we are not familiar.

However as Bernard Robin (2009) points out:
"This creative work provides students with a strong foundation in what many educators (Brown, Bryan, and Brown, 2005; Jakes, 2006; Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2004) have begun calling 21st Century Literacy, Digital Age Literacies, or 21st Century Skills. Regardless of the specific term being used, these skills are being described as the combination of:
Digital literacy—the ability to communicate with an ever-expanding community to discuss issues, gather information, and seek help;
Global literacy—the capacity to read, interpret, respond, and contextualize messages from a global perspective  
Technology literacy—the ability to use computers and other technology to improve learning, productivity, and performance;
Visual literacy—the ability to understand, produce, and communicate through visual images;  
Information literacy—the ability to find, evaluate, and synthesize information.
Digital storytelling can be a potent learning experience that encompasses much of what society hopes that students will know and be able to perform in the 21st century (Jakes and Brennan, 2005). "


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