Four Tips from a Storytelling Master

August 22, 2017 / By

Digital storytelling and the recognition of its power as a technique for active engaged learning may seem new to many of us, but it has a long and rich history. Among the most remarkable centers of this movement is StoryCenter, an organization born in the 80s as the theater company, Life On The Water, and then emerged in the 90s as the Center for Digital Storytelling, at a time when educators and artists worked hard to change the perception that arts were the private preserve of only the gifted and professional.
Joe Lambert was one of the organization’s founders and today serves as its Executive Director. He worked as a theater producer, director and writer, and took his community-based art skills into the digital age with the creation of the methods of the now well travelled Digital Storytelling Workshop. He and his StoryCenter colleagues have worked with hundreds of organizations and trained thousands of people to make storytelling a continual part of their lives in education, community activism, health and human services, business, art and much more.
Joe is a passionate believer in putting accessible digital storytelling tools like WeVideo in the hands of students as a way to spark interest, engagement, and active participation in their learning about their world. We asked Joe to comment on some quick tips that come to mind that he thinks would help educators who are bringing digital storytelling to their classrooms and schools; suggestions that might smooth the way toward achieving success and meaning. Here is what he shared:

  1. Recognize that not everyone learns and creates the same.
    Paying attention to differentiated learning needs and strengths is so important to encouraging people to tell their stories. Some learn by focussing on words, some by focussing on pictures. What might be effortless and intuitive for some are out of reach for others. Tools like WeVideo that offer multiple pathways to get the same thing done enable the budding storyteller to focus on the story and not fall into technical rabbit holes.
  2. Make organization a priority.
    Keeping your materials well organized is one of the tallest hurdles students face in all aspects of their working with digital documents in education. Digital files have a tendency to get misplaced. This has always been a challenge for beginning digital storytellers and video makers. I’ve seen students and teachers alike give up in frustration. File management–keeping one’s various clips, photos, audio and graphics–accessible, organized, and easily findable is vital. The Cloud goes a long way toward solving these issues. Teachers, students and their peers can collaborate on organization to keep things in order. Best of all, modern, intelligent systems that are born in the Cloud do most of the work for you, again keeping the focus on the story and not on processes.
  3. Don’t be afraid to push creative boundaries.
    Features like compositing and green screen, things that studios might spend millions on, are right there at your fingertips. Students who embark on digital storytelling have notions of Spielberg, Bay, and Ken Burns fueling their enthusiasm. A stable tool that includes a broad creative palette is invaluable because it will naturally lead people in the direction of the more advanced bells and whistles. Encourage it! The tools are right there in WeVideo, so don’t hold them back.
  4. Go big and expand projects beyond the classroom walls.
    Collaborative tools like WeVideo are not just for classroom group projects at assessment time. There is a huge community of educators and other programs actively using these tools. They can serve as a gateway to connect your classroom to other classrooms, to collaborators out in the community, not only for discussion, but to enable active participation in eye-opening projects that expand horizons. Students can go in and out of collaborative projects with anyone, anywhere, while teachers and administrators maintain total oversight. Now that is distance learning!

We are so thrilled to have access to this amazing, experienced storyteller and we have only just scratched the surface of what he has to share. Be sure to visit the StoryCenter website, especially its amazing blog, and keep an eye on the WeVideo blog for more from Joe in the very near future.
StoryCenter is offering all WeVideo education community members an extra special 25% discount, through December 31, 2017, on all their public workshop offerings. Just add the code “WEVIDEO” when registering.