Storytelling has been present throughout the ages and the digital surge of the 21st century has created an evolution in the mode and nature of storytelling. With technology now prevalent in the majority of households and classrooms, alongside it’s increasing ease of use and affordability for users, storytelling tactics have seen a rapid expansion. Important to consider here is the impacts this has on education and learning, particularly in early childhood. A good piece of research that explores such impacts is by William O’Byrne and colleagues in their recent article ‘Digital Storytelling in Early Childhood: Student Illustrations Shaping Social Interactions’
O’Byrne highlights in the article how digital storytelling can be a valuable tool in education as it encourages students in engaging with the content and the subsequent uptake of the information they are learning. He discusses how digital storytelling makes learning easier for children as it takes these new abstract ideas they are learning for the first time and presents them in a more enjoyable, fun, and approachable way. In contrast to more traditional storytelling, the combination of images, audio, and video, alongside written text in digital storytelling accelerates children’s understanding and increases their motivation to connect with the material and find learning interesting.
In their study, O’Byrne and colleagues investigated the effects of digital storytelling on young learners through challenging the children to create their own digital stories. O’Byrne found that digital storytelling provides a number of advantages. For example, strengthening the children’s storytelling abilities, improving their literacy and reading skills, establishing their ‘voice’ in the classroom, and expanding their connections and friendships with peers. O’Byrne also makes the point that through the activities of researching their topic and creating the appropriate images and audio to bring their stories to life, children showed an increased excitement and enthusiasm for learning.
O’Byrne also highlights four key stages young children go through in the digital storytelling process. These stages are important for teachers so they can identify where students are at in their storytelling ability.
Stage 1: Pre-storytelling – At this stage children initially find difficulty in creating a story. This stage is characterised by random scribbles and the story changing repeatedly as the child tells it. Children also struggle to grasp how their work will become digital.
Stage 2: Developing storyteller – students are now able to stick to a consistent but basic story i.e., good guy vs bad guy. Storytelling at this stage also follows similar narratives to that found in kids movies and cartoons. The children also show excitement at turning their ideas into digital stories, however, they still lack understanding.
Stage 3: Emerging Storyteller – Students become more creative with their storytelling, with their stories often increasing in length and becoming more personal. They are also more confident in retelling their story to the classroom, and show better understanding of digital storytelling, with children now storyboarding and creating images on the computer.
Stage 4: Early Storyteller – In this final stage, the children can confidently work on their storytelling abilities and need little to no guidance from teachers. Students have a great understanding of storyboarding and how this helps digitalise their story.
Furthermore, O’Byrne and colleagues found through their research that digital storytelling did in fact aid students’ learning. The use of colourful images and sound effects captured the children’s attention and boosted their motivation. The children also enjoyed listening to their fellow classmates’ stories and were quick to memorise each. By the end of the study, children were also able to confidently create and retell their own stories with little guidance and felt increasing comfortable navigating digital software to produce a digital representation of their story to present to their peers.