Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Teach Story Thinking

Digital Storytelling made it’s way into the classroom as an engaging way for students to interact with the new media tools around them. It became a great way for students to tell a story and share their thoughts through a mix of audio and visual. Along with this strategy came some new skills that students needed to be successful. A strong sense of visual literacy and visual thinking, an understanding of storyboarding, and the ability to create tension and emotion through sound were just a few of the new concepts that needed to be added to the learning roster. Today, we shift in another direction with digital storytelling, as it enters into the world of marketing and business and is even appearing as a prerequisite in job postings.

Storytelling Resumes 
How does this impact the classroom? It’s more important than ever that we teach students the art of story thinking. Today’s marketing strategists spend a lot of time on branding their products. Hooking into today’s culture and connecting with an audience is vital to a brand’s success. Job seekers are even using branding as a way to differentiate themselves in the job market. Creative resumes tell a story about the job prospect that is memorable and connects to the viewer. If you look closely at successful branding, it’s all about telling a great story. The same elements come into play. Jonathan Gottschall writes in The Storytelling Animal, “We are a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.” Pulling these strategies into the classroom might include creating their own or a famous person’s resume, developing a brand for a scientific element, creating a new product or service through design thinking and then coming up with a marketing plan. Students could also mock up the social media components that would be needed, a Facebook page, Twitter feeds, and a Pinterest board. Highly engaging activities in their native language.

Infographics offer another trend in digital storytelling with data. Creating a successful infographic requires students to have a good grasp of visual thinking and a basic understanding of graphic design. Blending timelines, graphs, and pictures together to craft a story that is laid out like a poster is a challenge for many. Understanding the point of view that is imposed is necessary for students to analyze and evaluate resources as creative infographics are showing up in the news and everywhere. Using data as a creative means to influence people has been an often used strategy, but today, that data is often disguised by fancy visuals and elaborate designs, creating connections to the viewer and telling a story. Peter Guber writes in Tell to Win, "Non-stories may provide information, but stories have a unique power to move people's hearts, minds, feet, and wallets in the storyteller's direction."
Helping students understand and navigate social media is becoming an important emphasis in classrooms. Helping recognize story elements within those settings, as well as being able to create those types of stories is important for today’s digital learners and future consumers. Again, Peter Guber writes, "Stories emotionally transport the audience so they don't even realize they're receiving a hidden message. They only know after the story is told that they've heard and felt the teller's call to action.”

Crafted properly, stories don’t just sell, they simply tell and teach by example. Add story thinking to the learning roster.

By Kami Thordarson, Innovative Strategies Coach

Twitter: @kamithor

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