What is digital storytelling?
Digital storytelling simply means the use of something digital when telling a story. In essence digital stories are those that make use of photographs, videos, animation, sound, music and text.
Storytelling can, of course, be about the production of an existing story or creation of your own.
For a child, this allows the coming together of skills they are learning in English, art & design and computing, providing endless opportunities.
Is digital storytelling something to encourage?
Should it therefore follow that we should encourage children away from digital and screens wherever possible? In the case of digital storytelling, I would say no.
It is absolutely appropriate for parents to be concerned about excessive use of digital and screens. There is no doubt that excessive screen-time, encouraging children to communicate largely via a screen rather than in person and children becoming sedentary and insular, have very serious consequences. Should it therefore follow that we should encourage children away from digital and screens wherever possible? In the case of digital storytelling, I would say no.
In this case, digital storytelling in many of its forms avoids several of the criticisms of screen-based play. It typically gets children moving (taking photos, shooting video) and interacting in the real world both to create their stories and deliver them. Developmentally digital storytelling offers huge opportunities (see below) as well as being something children find great fun and extremely engaging.
What opportunities does digital storytelling offer to children?
Digital storytelling can take so many different forms from simply reading a story out and recording the performance on video to creating a fully-fledged digital production of their own brainchild.
In practically all its guises digital storytelling is a great way to build a child’s confidence. For example, if a child is too shy to perform in public, recording a performance on a mobile phone and playing it back for friends and family can be a much less daunting starting point.
Creating something as a team or alone is equally a wonderful way to support self-esteem development as children discover they really can come up with and/or deliver their own stories.
The breadth of digital options means that children aren’t restricted by their ability to draw, write or act, as there are so many other options to explore too.
Being creative is incredibly rewarding at any age and so important to a child’s development. It helps to build invaluable life skills from problem solving to self-expression. It enables children to explore their personality, develop confidence and practice all sorts of skills often touching on social, emotional, cognitive, physical and language along the way. Story creation in any form is creative, empowering for the imagination, and digital storytelling opens up a huge range of additional creative avenues.
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Preparation for adult life:
So many roles in society use skills developed through digital storytelling. There are of course obvious roles like film directors, actors and actresses, producers, photographers, authors, journalists and many others from sales and marketing to graphic design. In reality the skills required to put together a good story and present it in any way are useful in virtually any role and digital storytelling is a really fun way to practice these.
Language and literacy:
Digital storytelling in some forms could be criticised for taking children away from writing and language development but this does not have to be the case. We would encourage digital storytelling to retain a written element and look for other opportunities to extend writing, spelling and language skills through digital storytelling. For example, at Fundamentally Children we are currently reviewing the Night Zookeeper platform which encourages story creation through an online tool that helps to inspire creativity and challenge the writer with missions, requirement to use particular words within the narrative and similar.
Ideas for digital storytelling
If you are keen to get involved with digital storytelling, here are a few ideas to try:
- Start small: Get your child to read or perform their favourite book and record it on video to share with friends and relatives
- Photo stories: Give your child a camera and challenge them to take five pictures and turn it into a story. Or you can turn it into a game to play together – one takes the pictures and the other person makes up the story to go with them. Inspire them to take pictures of unusual or disconnected things and see if they can join them together into a narrative
- Stop animation: There are a variety of stop animation tools (available for computers, mobiles and tablets) that offer a great opportunity for digital storytelling.
Products like Stikbot and Hue Animation Studio can be great ways to encourage children to create their very own stories as can a range of apps such as Mr Glue, Seedling Comic Studios, The Traditional Storyteller, Easy Studio and even coding apps, which encourage story making like Scratch Jr.
I also recommend encouraging your school to trial the NightZookeeper programme to inspire the next generation of creative writers.