Learning through Narratives: The Impact of Digital Storytelling on Intergenerational Relationships

Article excerpt


Scholars have studied the impact storytelling has on community involvement (Davis, 2011), family connectedness for young children (Aarsand, 2007), cultural awareness (Lambert, 2006) and the role narrative plays in the construction of our self-identity (Hull & Katz, 2006). Educational perspectives involve the pedagogical elements involved in the teaching and learning process and how digital storytelling (DST) may be used to promote learning (Porter, 2012; Roby, 2010). To further understand the impact digital storytelling has on college student's perspectives of family and the relationships in the family unit, the following research questions were proposed:

RQ1: How does the process of digital storytelling impact family interaction?

RQ2: What are undergraduate student's perceptions of the digital storytelling process?

Background of Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling (DST) is a multimodal approach that brings the ancient art of telling stories to life using technology. While the art of oral history has been around for thousands of years, the incorporation of multimedia has added another layer of understanding to the narrative voice. The ability to personalize stories with pictures, personal narration, video, animation, artifacts and music, supports a deeper level of understanding and meaning of the story for the listener and audience. At its core, the DST process of creating narrative is completed to create or support community building (Fields, 2008).

The original motivation for DST providing a voice for community groups came from the early 1990s at the University of California at Berkeley's Center for Digital Storytelling (Lambert, 2007). Since then, a stream of work has developed in community-based DST around intergenerational storytelling environments where student researchers work with older storytellers (Davis, 2011). In many contexts, these efforts of intergenerational storytelling center on the mediated construction of identity and community and articulation for collective history within those communities (Allan, 2004). DST emphasizes a participatory nature in the process of emerging stories, which builds the relationship between the storyteller and listener. The outcomes of DST can create new opportunities for dialogue by mediating the different communicative practices among intergenerational participants. According to Burgess (2006), this mediation of vernacular creativity, "is a productive articulation of consumer practices and knowledge (of, say, television genre codes) with older popular traditions and communicative practices (storytelling, family photography, scrapbooking, collecting)" (p. 207). The relationship that is built may be a critical piece to the success or failure of the specific DST project, but it has implications for the personal relationship between the participants. The process of DST, start to finish, can stimulate discussions and dialogues that go beyond the subject. The transmission of values from the elders to the younger generations is invaluable and is an excellent tool for intergenerational connection (Lambert, 2006).

Pedagogical Significance

Pedagogically, the process of DST is an opportunity for students to apply knowledge about a topic and be engaged in their own learning. It provides meaning to learning through the use of a variety of learning styles, such as auditory, visual and kinesthetic skills. Narrative as a pedagogical strategy is seen as an authentic, digital-age approach for diverse learners (Rose, Meyer, & Hitchcock, 2005) since storytelling allows students to access their analytic and creative capabilities while demonstrating understanding (Pfahl & Wiessner, 2009; Speaker, Taylor, & Kamen, 2004). Hands-on application of course content through the DST process requires students to use higher order thinking skills in their creativity of how the narratives will be articulated and presented (tech4learning, 2007). …


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