Life Planning by Digital Storytelling in a Primary School in Rural Tanzania

Article excerpt

Introduction

Storytelling is an ancient human activity (Miller, 2008). In many cultures, people use stories to make sense of their world and to pass knowledge on to future generations. Making use of stories in education usually starts already during early childhood, when parents teach their children values and understanding of the world using a language and metaphors that can easily be understood by the child. Educational stories are typically told by the educators in order to convey certain values or information to the learners. In many African cultures oral traditions are current, and promoting growth of the African narratives has been proposed in order to support literacy (Chinweizu & Madubuike, 1983). This study shows how technology can renew the use of storytelling in education, and more surprisingly: in the African context.

The use of stories in education has been found to be most useful in language learning, with emotionally-laden subjects, and for encouraging students to share personal experiences. Woodhouse (2008) listed a number of advantages and disadvantages of storytelling (Table 1).

We have successfully experimented on digital storytelling methods earlier. Together with secondary school students in Iringa, Tanzania, and the Finnish Evangelic Lutheran Mission FELM, we developed a booklet and an animated digital platform, which were based on students' real life stories about HIV and AIDS, and we have used that platform for education and counseling of youth in the region and in the country. The platform called "Sura ya UKIMWI" ("the face of AIDS") has shown to be a useful tool for secondary school students and for counselors working with secondary school students (Duveskog, 2009a), and it won an award in EdMedia 2009 conference (Duveskog, 2009b).

During our work with the Sura ya UKIMWI platform, we learned about the challenges of effective HIV and AIDS education. One aspect that we specifically noted was that efforts to disseminate information on HIV and AIDS lack focus, presence, and personal connection to the issues. HIV and AIDS education is often taught in ways that may have much more contact with medical professionals' reality than with students' reality.

Currently research of one-to-one computing (each student has a laptop computer) in developing countries is only emerging (Tedre et al., 2011), there is a lack of literature in digital storytelling, and there is no report of an attempt to combine those two. In order to develop the use of one-to-one computing in storytelling, and in order to develop the contextually relevant aspects of HIV and AIDS education, we developed our digital storytelling approach further and tested it in a workshop that used one-to-one computing as a platform and catalyst for a number of pedagogical changes.

Digital storytelling workshop: Technology as an agent of change

The first change that we tested in our computer-based workshop was the direction of storytelling. Usually teachers tell educational stories to children. We turned the situation the other way round: students were the storytellers and researchers were interested in their stories and in how the story-creating process helps students to develop various skills and insights. The storytelling process was not only individual, but also collective, as students needed to work together to create various parts of the storyline. In general storytelling in groups benefits the participants by offering contextual grounding, bonding individuals, validating and affirming experiences, and educating others (Banks Wallace, 2007).

To change the direction of storytelling, instead of lecturing to the pupils about HIV and AIDS, the researchers listened to pupils' feelings and knowledge about the sickness. We used the trigger effect of one-to-one computing (Apiola et al., 2011) to activate students, to break the taboo around HIV and AIDS, and to keep students motivated. …