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Tapping into Better Brain Learning with Digital Stories

Posted on 04/29/2015

"Have you ever had a friend tell you a story and then a couple of weeks later you mention the same story to him or her as if it were your own story in the first place? Research says, 'A story is the only way to activate parts of the brain so a listener turns the story into their own idea and experience.' "

– Educational Technologist Kathy Schrock

Think of the last time you were watching TV—or online videos—and saw a commercial that really stuck with you. Why did the commercial stay in your mind? Most likely it was one of the commercials that follows the current advertising trend of telling stories.

At March's annual Computer Using Educators External link opens in new window or tab (CUE) Conference, educational technologist Kathy Schrock External link opens in new window or tab advocated for implementing advertising's use of storytelling in education in her spotlight presentation “Telling the Story: Lessons Learned from the Outside World External link opens in new window or tab .” She cited research demonstrating that when listening to a digital story, more areas of our brains are activated because we relate to not just facts and figures and process words, but also relate to the experience. This greater brain involvement leads to greater retention. Schrock provided several examples of both teacher- and student-created digital stories and described some popular tools, showing how presenting content using storytelling can be interesting and convincing, thus helping students learn better.

What exactly are digital stories?  Digital stories combine images and/or video, animation, music and/or sound effects, with optional text or voice-over narration. Typically digital stories are personal narratives, but they can be used for many more educational/instructional purposes.

Digital stories can be powerful, engaging ways for teachers to introduce new topics or clarify specific course content. Digital stories can be employed in any discipline to make course content engaging. In Schrock's presentation, she exhibited several instructional digital stories.

Read more about learning with digital stories in this month's Web-based Class Activity article.