By Michael Hilkemeijer
Digital storytelling is first, storytelling and second, digital with the point of technology being that it is not to tell the stories but for us as the educator to craft stories that engage people on many levels. This can involve images, video clips, music and narration. It can also be complex as a short film or as simple as a narrated slide show.
Today, new technology such as ‘talking books’, multimedia and talking word processors allow children far more independence from the teacher in literacy tasks and free you as the educator to focus teaching on the distinctive features of reading and the written process.
Digital technology in early childhood education such as digital cameras and multimedia composing tools has the potential to transform children’s storytelling and writing. It provides support for emergent literacy with features such as images, sound and text that all engage the children as learners.
Let us now examine other benefits of digital storytelling for students.
Benefits of digital storytelling
The use of digital storytelling in early childhood education brings with it many benefits for young children. Storytelling itself, makes us feel part of the community which is also important in the early learning setting. It teaches the story of life and shapes mental models. The benefits of digital storytelling include:
- Promotes competency in technology in early childhood education.
- Promotes collaboration and communication.
- Amplifies the storytelling through images.
- Supports students' learning by encouraging them to organize and express their ideas and knowledge in a distinctive and meaningful way.
- Allows you as the educator to gain an insight into children’s learning.
- It can inspire you to engage with the children in your care.
- Promotes and actively supports student involvement in their learning process.
- Transform storytelling activities into a dramatic and entertaining magic show.
- Inspire children to make their own digital stories.
Digital storytelling in early childhood education encourages children to become creators of content, rather than just consumers.
How to use digital storytelling in the classroom
When integrating digital stories into the curriculum there are several best practices that you should apply. The first thing that you need to do is to make coherent stories. This means activating knowledge and using materials to build new narrative sequences. By doing this, you will allow children to acquire new knowledge about the world and/or consolidate the knowledge that they already have. What is also does is enable them to acquire or consolidate both their digital and narrative skills through action. An opportunity such as this promotes active participation and autonomy for children as they gain different experiences with rich material support.
Throughout this process, it is important that you provide a constructivist learning environment that is rich in teaching-learning methods and materials, and that will allow your role as a facilitator to enable young children to actively participate. This should provide more autonomy to the child both in the storytelling process and in the use of digital technology. The autonomy of the child must be ensured not only in the process of digital story creation that includes narrating skills and grammar development, but with the process of integrating these skills with the technology as well.
It is important to avoid seeing the digital storytelling practices as just a digital product creation process as it could prevent the digital stories to emerge in meaningful contexts. The digital narratives should be included within the framework of the main goal and the construction of the learning process should also be able to meet the initial goal of child autonomy to develop throughout this process of product creation.
Well-planned learning environments is your key to enabling spaces that support children’s cooperation, communicating, sharing, and collaborating or working individually. The best educational practices of digital storytelling in early childhood education can be defined as below (Contini, et al., 2015):
What you can do?
- Encourage children’s discovery and invention skills in a constructivist manner as a facilitator. Also, to offer young children a non-judging context and supervise the children during the DST activities using guided questions, preparing the environment and the materials, and ensure that there is the consistent use of digital technologies.
- Support young children’s active participation in story’s construction process as designers of each story’s component. Also, plan to be responsive in your approach to each child’s interests, abilities and knowledge.
- Promote young children’s resulting in a coherent story in terms of story grammar and use the three-phase development process of “Verbal-Visual-Technology” in the digital story development.
- Include versatile ways of using digital technology and making use of the affordances of digital tools in an effective way.
- Promote young children’s autonomy in the use of digital technologies in the digital storytelling making process by offering them technological tools and applications with “touch user interfaces” which are more convenient for preschool-age children and motor development.
- Become part of a professional learning community to result in both enhanced knowledge and skills on contemporary initiatives (new early childhood pedagogy in technology integration, use of technology in early childhood education), and provide improvement and development in children’s learning.
Digital storytelling examples
Here are some examples of digital storytelling ideas that you might find useful.
- The lifecycle of an apple – can be produced after visiting an orchard with images, sound and narration from the child.
- Recreation of favourite stories – children can choose their favourite story and you can help them recreate the characters and narrate the story.
- Original stories – children can come up with their own stories which you help them develop.
Digital storytelling in early childhood education is a great way for young children to not only develop their emergent literacy but also to develop their digital literacy or ICT capability.