A short guide to Digital Storytelling

"First I thought Digital Storytelling (DST) was either about allowing people with a specific story to share it, or a media team to create a professional video. After watching a DST video, I then thought they were supposed to teach people how to develop their digital skills. After having talked with the Maks team and followed their work, I realised it was far more than that."

This is a short guide to Digital Storytelling, created after the study visit of YNTERNET.ORG FOUNDATION (YORG) (Switzerland) to MEDIA ACTION KUREGHEM CITY (MAKS) (Belgium) as part of the Study Visits Project by ALL DIGITAL

In a nutshell

Digital Storytelling (DST) comprises short personal narratives made with images and voice over by the storyteller. The main objective is to allow each one to share their opinion, with an emotional component, in order to further empower them and influence the audience. The participants have to be creative and thoughtful to make their story in an intelligible manner, using technologies as a support for that. Finally all Digital Storytelling is made to be shared and influence others, it is not to be left within the organisation.

Definition

Digital Storytelling (DST) comprises short videos made with images and voice over by the storyteller. The main objective is to allow each one to share their opinion and experience, with an emotional component, in order to further empower them. DST is also teaching people to learn how to use language to talk about their story, their thoughts on a subject, not just describing actions or events.

When people are confronted with digital skills, they often end up at home after the workshop saying they can’t remember anything they learnt. Digital storytelling is a good reminder for them about their work, that they are able to work with technologies and tools but not “for” these tools.

DST main learning goals include the development of:

  • Creativity and imagination: proposing, creating stories and finding ways to realize it
  • Analysis and reflection: analyzing event, choosing story goals, thinking how one can share these goals clearly, get to know yourself better
  • Strategy and media literacy: demystifying the digital so that people become prosumers
  • Computer science and computer skills: technical skills, use of technology, apps, mobile devices and video creation
  • Group dynamics: working and sharing within a group about their personal experience, giving advice, listening and helping each other

Format

The duration of a DST project is around 5 days (full-time or part-time) with 30 hours’ training. As already mentioned, digital storytelling are short videos (1-3 minutes long), with images/photos and voice over.                

Regarding the methodology, participants spend most of their time exploring the surroundings area with their smartphones thinking about their story and searching for creative shots. It’s based on project based learning (PBL).

Step by step plan

Each DST step by step plan is specific to the the kind of Digital Storytelling training organised. This is connected with the chosen topic or a specific audience. However, there is a general step-by-step plan, adaptable to any project:

1. Introduction to the topic

There can be a goal stated early: for example, encouraging youth creativity, empowering people to be more active, providing a platform for expression or a chosen topic, for example radicalisation. The workshop starts with an introduction like watching a video on the subject or reading an article and discussing it.

2. Group exercise

Exercise is chosen according to Point 1 above. It’s a good way to start building trust within the group to then share their personal experiences with others.

3. Introduction to visual communication

Starting with a basic question like "What is Digital Storytelling?", for example, thinking about what we have, being responsible for it.

4. Rules of Storytelling

Teaching about basic rules of how to create a story, for example where to put the emphasis to make it interesting.

5. Individual exercise

Trying to write a short digital story based on the rules they just learnt

6. Working on technical skills

Playing with light, exposure by taking pictures with a photo gear, smartphones to understand how it works, what is possible to be done.

7. Defining a personal storytelling project

Think about the story you want to share, how to make it interesting based on a 3-part story plan and emphasize the important moment of your story.

8. Group work                

Realizing your story. It can be with any material. The people in the group can help each other, for example go around to take some pictures and then to edit the content.

9. Distribution        

DST projects always ends with an exhibition. It’s the best way to congratulate participants on their effort, to give them the chance to talk and demonstrate their new skills.

The videos are then shared on vimeo, Maks website and other platforms.

Anticipated results

People spend more time on consuming the computer than producing a work, a video. They get to know themselves and others better, while learning to share in a safe environment and building a team trust.

The educator will introduce to them “how to create a story” and they will make a personal work on what they want to share and how to create the video. Finally comes the “digital”: they will have an introduction to learn how to use digital tools. It’s important to understand that the technology comes as a support tool and not in the first stage of the training. Their goal is to USE the technology to share their experiences. At the end, they acquire skills useful for their working life, as well as soft skills.           

Digital Storytelling has a proven impact because of the moving themes which are accessible to everyone. It opens doors for people to talk about the subject we normally don’t speak about.

The theme of a Digital Storytelling project can be:

  • simple, very positive: a kind of the project aim to encourage the participants, help them to get to know themselves better, develop their skills and start planning for the future

  • specific in a context such as, radicalisation or women abuse: The women can plan again this situation with a DST, which is very important for them to find others who face the same challenge and at the same time, throw away this bad memories   

  • personal: a nurse used DST to explain the problem encountered by the people working in the same hospital, and this way, improved the working conditions in the hospital

Feedback of the project “radicalisation, exclusion and respect in secondary schools” (2016 - 2017)

The choice of this theme came after the Charlie Hebdo’s attack. Maks created a digital storytelling activity on this theme: it was very important not to hide this reality and fight by talking, sharing and thinking about it in a personal way. Immediately after the Brussels attacks, this DST project became more real and the schools were glad to have a way to talk about this theme. Maks called this project "Radicalisation, exclusion and respect in secondary schools", instead of “radicalisation”.

Maks Staff started this DST activity with reading some newspaper articles and asking questions to the student, such as: What is your opinion? What do you feel about it? They also questioned the students by discussing about the source of the internet information: be careful not to believe everything on the web. A part of the Digital Storytelling made by a Muslim student was very interesting. For example, one told the story of an atheist who converted to Islam and showed a positive image of their religion like the big and welcoming families.

Every DST workshop ended with an open presentation including local and national media:  Saliha Ben Ali from Syria was invited to share her story on the topic. She created a non-profit organization called  S.A.V.E. BELGIUM (Society Against Violent Extremism), after her child died in Syria. The teachers noticed the difference between before and after this project.

Public involved in DST

Digital Storytelling can be created by everybody, we all have a story to share.  Maks got experience in the Digital Storytelling for the young people and the little schooled target groups. Various schools and organization (youth detox center for example) asked for a DST project.

The staff

To organize a DST project, you have to be a discussion facilitator, develop your listening skills and to be a good mediator to know when to stop the discussion. Most of the time, one of the workshop facilitators is a person with a degree (psychology, video, photo etc) and another is a peer-to-peer facilitator.

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