Few people could argue with one simple truth: There’s something inherently powerful about a good story. Think about how many times you sat mesmerized on your grandfather’s knee as he wrapped you in words or that you listened intently during story time as your grade school teacher wove a tale of surprise and adventure.
There was nothing better, right?
From the time that we’re born, we connect through stories. We sympathize through stories. We understand through stories. We communicate through stories—-and if we’re really good, we influence through stories. In the high-touch world that Daniel Pink describes in A Whole New Mind, storytellers hold kind of hold the keys to the kingdom, don’t they?
But here’s the hitch: Storytelling is changing.
Paralleling the rapid expansion of broadband Internet access, the availability of mobile devices, the rise of digital video recorders, the growth of the gaming industry, and the decreasing costs of personal video and photography equipment, access to—and engagement with—visual content has exploded in the first decade of the 21st Century.
Companies—-recognizing that consumers are increasingly plugged in and far less likely to pick up printed material than previous generations—-are investing in digital advertising campaigns built around short, interesting stories. Whether it’s Evian’s roller skating babies or Zappo’s super-fast nudist, clever marketing directors are tapping into the attention of the 75% of online Americans who are watching 17 billion videos on sites like YouTube and Hulu each month (Lipsman, 2009, Lipsman, 2010).
What implications do these changes hold for educators? Given that digital storytelling has become commonplace beyond our schools, should lessons on visual influence begin playing a more prominent role in our classrooms?
How do we balance the skills necessary to craft a good story—which haven’t changed in generations—-with the skills necessary to produce a final product in a medium that will reach the most listeners? Are we doing enough to introduce students to the changing nature of storytelling or is this another area where schools and teachers are falling behind the times?
Finally, what are the barriers to integrating digital storytelling projects into our classrooms? Are we limited because we don’t have access to the right equipment? Is pressure to produce results on standardized tests the demon in the closet yet again? Are our own skills and preferences getting in the way?
Interesting questions, huh?
Lipsman, A. (2010, January 5). November sees number of U.S. videos viewed
online surpass 30 billion for first time on record. comScore. Retrieved
Lipsman, A. (2009, March 4). YouTube surpasses 100 million US viewers for the
first time [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Press_Releases/2009/3/YouTube_Surpasses_100_Million_US_Viewers