‘In a word, one always knows the world in the light of the perspective one has chosen (or has had imposed upon one!). There are always other ways of knowing (even of seeing) it. Those “other ways” constitute the realm of possibility.’ Jerome Bruner, 2007, Retrieved http://www.education.ox.ac.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Transcript-Cultivating-the-Possible.pdf
Digital stories as instructional devices
As a learning designer, digital platforms and stories provide rich and varied ways to contribute to the creation of learning activities and support curriculum in the higher education online environment. Stories and their capacity to deliver rich meaning, learning and insights via parable, myth, biography, autobiography or case study mean they have become a tool for the designer not only for subject areas such as creative studies but also cultural studies, management and leadership studies.
Engaging and evaluating digital stories and platforms – Questions
It has been important for me to stop and reflect on the reason why stories are an important part of what it means to be a human sharing learning experiences (Bruner, 2007). The importance of a story to communicate shared understanding, wisdom and knowledge is central to how we learn.
- How and why do stories facilitate the process of deep learning?
- Under what sorts of learning conditions can digital stories support learning and assessment?
- What special considerations do I need to be aware of during the design of a story?
I have been challenged and surprised at the variety of platforms and varying levels of multimedia adoption possible in the design and delivery of digital stories. These span from MOOCs and the gamification of education via serious games and simulations to immersive experiences which centre the user inside the story (Miller, p.221). Some of these devices and platforms I am familiar with, others such as virtual reality (VR) stories for training are far removed from my professional experiences. At the centre of all these platforms and tools is a story which drives and connects the interaction and learning.
Web 2.0 technology and tools have also provided a way for the participation of the ‘ordinary’ voice in the creation and dissemination of digital stories. According to Bruner (2007), life itself is a story where we are either protagonist or main character. Schank (2010) reminds us that stories are ancient ways of sharing wisdom and knowledge. With the ease of digital platforms creation and co-creation is now relatively easy for the ‘ordinary voice’ to share and co-create in digital environments.
Learning conditions include face-to-face and online environments where parables, metaphors and interactive engagement provide an effective way to engage with learning content. Miller (2014) cites examples where the United States military and navy have developed immersive story experiences to equip personnel using VR simulations (pp.431-433). These experiences extend problem-based learning to include the participant as part of the story which is unfolding in front of them (Miller, 2014, p.431). Virtual Iraq for example has been developed to treat PSTD in war veterans.
Bruner (2007) contends that : ‘There is not culture without stories.’ It is at the heart of what it means to be human and share our thoughts and experiences. Hall (2012) expresses this capability of technology and storytelling as a ‘synergy’ (Hall, 2012, p.98). It is this synergy that supports engagement, interaction and aids purposeful, critical reflection. Aristotle’s ‘peripeteia’ (Bruner, 2007) or the ‘twist in the tale’ introduces tension in a whole new way in the digital environment. Audio, video, images and music when utilised effectively move a story from a linear path to an immersive experience. For example, Professor Martin Rieser’s Secret Garden: A Virtual reality Hybrid Opera Interactive Installation recreates the story of the Garden of Eden via music, sound, 3D set design and motion sensing technology (Rieser, http://www.martinrieser.com/?page_id=74). As the audience engages with each scene they experience 3D animated images (avatars) and music via headsets.
Digital stories via online platforms also provide ways of disseminating, sharing, integrating and collaborating experiences, reflections and insights in a variety of ways and networks beyond oral and written texts. Murray (2012) on the design of media notes its capacity to ‘…expand our scope of shared attention…’ (p.23)
Jane Davenport, an artist who I follow online is another example of the potential of technology and story to complement and extend learning. While Jane does not deliver a story in the traditional sense, her sharing of her experiences while she instructs weaves a sense of story and instruction which are inseparable.
As with all new technologies, copyright as well usability and accessibility are important considerations. Ensuring there is alt text for images and web-based designs are responsive for a variety of devices is important for the reader experience. Sourcing images which are purchased under license or available via Creative Commons are critical to the overall integrity of the digital story experience. My selection of the wix.com platform helped to provide me with the technological support to create a responsive design for mobile as well as desktop devices.
Australian Government. Digital Transformation office. Digital Service Standard. Retrieved https://www.dto.gov.au/standard
Bruner, J. (2007). Cultivating the possible. Retrieved http://www.education.ox.ac.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Transcript-Cultivating-the-Possible.pdf
Davenport, J. Jane Davenport. Retrieved http://janedavenport.com/
Miller, C.H. (2014). Digital storytelling: A Creator’s guide to Interactive Entertainment. New York: Focal press.
Murray J.H. (1997). Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyperspace. New York: Free Press.
Murray, J.H. (2012). Inventing the medium: Principles of Interaction Design as a Cultural practice. Cambridge, Mass: MIT press.
Rieser, M. (2015). Secret Garden: A Virtual reality Hybrid Opera Interactive Installation Retrieved http://www.martinrieser.com/?page_id=74
Virtually Better Inc. (2014). Virtual Iraq. Retrieved http://www.virtuallybetter.com/virtual-iraq/