Storytelling, Creativity, and Learn By Doing

Reposted from my blog soniachaidez.com

Students creating digital stop motion stories in Jenny Banh's Anthro 211 course. 1/8/16
Students creating digital stop motion stories in Jenny Banh’s Anthro 211 course. 1/8/16

Why do we tell stories?  “To transfer knowledge” replied a student in the Anthro 211 course as he read off one of my slides.  Yes, but thinking creatively, how can we make information transfer more story-based I asked?  Crickets.  I find that teaching information is more engaging when you invite the audience in with a story. I asked students for some examples of storytelling in their everyday lives and some mentioned that they call their parents to update them on things they are working on. Others tell stories about their day at the Campus Inn where they have their meals with friends.  There are many ways to tell stories.  What about social media, I asked?  I wouldn’t consider myself to be a Yelper I continued but I had a meal last night that warranted a review because I wanted to share information, as in tell others that they should eat at this place too.  “The food tasted like it was made with love” I read from my posted online review.  That’s a story or at least the beginning of one as I described the events that brought me to that restaurant the night before.

I don’t know if students consider themselves to be storytellers but they are.  We all are.  In my workshops I often instruct that stories should be more personal and less instructional as a way to invite the audience into the story.  But how do you make an instructional video interesting with story elements?  This is the challenge for the Anthro 211: Peoples and Cultures of Asia courses taught by Jenny Banh.  Professor Banh is teaching two sessions of this course during Jan Term (one in the morning and one in the afternoon).  The assignment is for students to create digital stories using stop motion tools to illustrate the information they’ve learned on given subjects like; Pokemon, Hello Kitty, Tokyo Disneyland, chopsticks  and Power Rangers.  

Before we looked at digital tools we discussed story. Some beginning stories read like Wikipedia entries.  The interesting stories were informative with facts and figures on the subject but they also included insight and evidence of knowledge about the content taught in class.  This is an assignment that asks students to create a story using digital tools. But more importantly it’s asking them to write a well-thought out, informative and entertaining narrative.

At the end of this week we will work on storyboards and record student narratives to be used as voice overs for their digital projects.  Students then have the option of using stop motion apps on their mobile devices (one group created this in our first class: chopsticks video) or to create illustrations and edit them on WeVideo.  My hopes are that students will learn by doing projects like these that asks them to demonstrate knowledge through storytelling that is informative yet engaging and in the process they can also discover the enhancement that digital tools can provide.  I’ll post completed digital stories at the end of Jan Term.

I believe creativity is an important part of this assignment which leads me to new questions: how do you teach creativity and how do you measure it?  To be continued…