Harnessing the Power of Digital Storytelling in Education

Storytelling matters in education.

In many ways, storytelling is the original classroom. Ancient myths and oral history traditions used stories–like myths, legends and folklore–to convey lessons that were critical for a culture’s survival.

Even now, great teachers are gifted storytellers, no matter their subject or discipline. They engage and motivate students to see the value and impacts of the curriculum by building creative context.

Stories can encourage creative problem solving and reinforce otherwise difficult subject matter by following a pattern that comes naturally to teachers and students alike.

That is why it’s vital that storytelling be at the center of the entire design process when creating digital learning experiences.

Focus on Storytelling

An effective design process will enhance the benefits of digital storytelling in education, but that means making storytelling the crux of your development.

At Disco, each stage of our projects answers to the central story we are helping our clients tell through the digital learning experience.

Here’s a peek at how we check in with storytelling goals at each stage in our design process, using Resourcefulness: An Introduction to the Water-Energy Nexus as a guide:

Observe:

The inspiration for Resourcefulness was sparked by the looming STEM gap. The STEM gap is an issue in STEM industries where older generations of workers are retiring, and there aren’t enough highly-skilled new workers to fill these positions.

Dr. Michael Webber saw an opportunity to connect the importance of STEM curriculum to the role of energy industries and environmental science: by telling the story of the relationship between energy and water.

With an anticipated deficit of more than 3 million qualified STEM workers in the United States by 2018, Itron sought a way to create a meaningful and impactful program to combat this gap.

By creating a public-private partnership between Dr. Webber and Itron, we were able to embark on a project that would break down misconceptions and myths about the relationship between energy and water and how it impacts human survival and the environment.

Ideation:

Our philanthropic partners at Itron loved Energy 101, but given the focus on the relatively unknown connection between water and energy, we all wanted to push the boundaries established by Energy 101.

In our ideation process, we asked “How can we tell this story?”

What we envisioned was something beyond a standard print or online textbook, featuring interactive tools, such as games, videos and graphics that enhanced Dr. Webber’s curriculum.

Prototype:

Resourcefulness was built using the Rakaten Aquafadas e-publication platform and then tested with internal stakeholders.  This process helped provide feedback on how successfully we had integrated the story and allowed us to easily make adjustments where needed.

Resourcefulness has now been launched at various schools across the country, including the Energy Institute High School in Houston, Texas. And, thanks to the philanthropic support of Itron, the Resourcefulness curriculum available free of charge to K-12 students worldwide.

Test:

Using a mobile application for digital storytelling allows us to routinely take feedback and improve the app. As we continue to improve Resourcefulness, we plan to further enhance the curriculum with lesson plans, discussion questions, glossaries and quizzes to provide a deeper dive into the story of water and energy.

The Power of Storytelling

There are plenty of practical benefits of focusing on digital storytelling in the design process.

A strong story can help control scope creep and mitigate common project management issues, thereby serving clients more efficiently.

Storytelling is the key to creating memorable products that enhance curriculum and empower educators. Technology platforms and creative digital design are tools that can transform a great story or curriculum into an adaptive, engaging resource for learners and teachers.

But more than that, storytelling helps students learn how to communicate and motivates them to problem solve at higher levels.

The need for creatives with critical thinking skills is growing across every industry and the key to fostering these traits is by developing story-centric learning experiences.

At Disco, we support learning. And the best learning experiences are ultimately a result of great storytelling, which is why we focus on storytelling throughout our design process.

Harnessing the Power of Digital Storytelling in Education