Guest blogger: Mercedes Bell
“the medium is the message.”
— the great Canadian theorist Marshall McLuhan
More than a century ago, German composer and operatist, Richard Wagner, strove to transform musical drama into a “gesamtkunstwerk,” or “total work of art.” His controversial ideal called for the subordination of music to theater, which he felt to be the superior artform. While Wagner’s radical ideas did much to irk many of his musical contemporaries, the flawed concept of the “total work of art” has had a tremendous impact on the practice of storytelling.
Today, digital storytelling tools could become this generation’s “gesamtkunstwerk.” We say this because today’s audiences have access to enormous amounts of highly specific, interactive content online. (We’re talking about the technology used to build the New York Times’ Snowfall project, not your Facebook timeline.) So if you’ve got a story to tell, you can afford to start dreaming–there’s never been a better time to find ways in which to enrich your work with multimedia storytelling tools.
What is Digital Storytelling?
Simply put, the art of digital storytelling is all about telling stories using digital media. For example, a student may want to create a digital story using a video camera and simple video editing software to discuss a major event in their life, or even their own family history. Digital tools empower us to bring a new and vibrant dimension to our stories and the ways in which audiences experience them.
Of course, with so many tools available, sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start. In addition to effectively relaying your story to a wider audience, digital storytelling can convey a sense of innovation and mastery of several different creative tools on the part of the author/creator. Below are a few examples of how digital storytelling tools are making a difference today.
Digital Storytelling in Primary and Secondary Education
The University of Houston provides an excellent resource for using digital media in educational storytelling. The primary goal of the site is to show students and teachers how digital storytelling can be used to augment various educational activities. In addition to tools and other relevant pieces of information, Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling showcases several digital storytelling projects, such as The Reality of Television, which uses digital video to explore the effects television has on life and society.
The National Writing Project and the Pearson Foundation are currently collaborating to find out how digital storytelling can help students improve their literacy and writing skills. Together, the two organizations have been hosting workshops and professional development programs to help communicate the educational benefits of digital storytelling throughout the country. This great documentary produced by the Pearson Foundation provides a glimpse at how powerful digital storytelling can be as an educational resource.