History is, of course, the story of human civilization. The core skill of explaining change over time – which brings in elements of context, causality, and chronology, whether you’re in AP World, DP History, or regular ole history – requires that you paint a story in broad strokes. The problem that I run into is that we cover so much history in a short time that we can rarely stop and smell the flowers. There are so many powerful stories in history that we don’t need to learn in order to understand the big picture. Digital storytelling could bring these to students’ attention, increase their engagement while harnessing their creative talent, appealing to their individual learning styles, and developing valuable technology and communication skills (The Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling).
How would this work? First would be the selection of compelling stories that fit with the content. I’d leave it to the teacher to provide a short menu to the students, with a short (140 character?) teaser for each. For example:
- Emperor Romanos IV’s crushing defeat at Manzikert
- Genghis Khan’s terrifying response to the insults of the Khwarizmid empire
- Emperor Constantine’s stunning revelation at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge
- The Fall of Constantinople
- The Storming of the Bastille
Collaboration and Sharing
Students could work alone or in pairs (our readings emphasize how digital storytelling can be a very personal affair) to create a digital story about their chosen event, and then present it to the class. We could take this a step further and have students post their projects online, then have other students give feedback and reactions. At my school we use Moodle for our courseware, so I would have students upload their videos to Youtube, embed them in a Moodle forum thread, and have the feedback be given in replies inside that thread. The advantage over using Youtube’s comments is that only registered students in the course would be able to give feedback, and students wouldn’t have to sign up for a Gmail/Youtube account to give feedback.
One approach to assessing this would be to use a rubric based on the Seven Elements of Storytelling. UH gives an even more complex rubric. Seven dimensions seems unnecessarily complex: good for planning, but poor for assessment purposes. I’d assess on fewer components:
- Content: the relevance, significance, and accuracy of the information
- Professionalism: the quality of the editing and presentation
- Creativity: the appropriateness of the music and visuals
This would be more appropriate for my 9th and 10th grade students, who need instructions and expectations broken down into smaller steps when tackling big projects.
3 thoughts on “Digital Historytelling”
I can only imagine how much more interested I would have been in history class if had been approached through the lens of storytelling rather than textbook reading! Now to think that it can be the students creating those stories and the amount of understanding, both of the subject/story and of the process, that they must have in order to produce a quality project? Truly transformational!
Sometimes I have my students engage in traditional storytelling – this works well for topics that are just “this happened, then this happened, then this happened.” It’s hard to make those interesting, so I’ll have the students divide into groups, make a children’s story book (at a 3rd grade level), and tell it to the class. It’s very silly, but all the kids find it hilarious, it still requires that they touch on the main ideas, and most importantly everyone is engaged.