Community of practice explores digital storytelling in the classroom

Digital storytelling as a teaching strategy holds the promise of democratizing use of technology, empowering storytellers, and providing practice in digital literacy.

This fall, the Center for Teaching Innovation (CTI) is coordinating a community of practice featuring workshops led by faculty to explore digital storytelling methods.

“The community of practice sessions will bring interested instructors together to explore storytelling as a tool for connecting with audiences in meaningful ways,” said Melina Ivanchikova, CTI’s associate director for inclusive teaching and facilitator for the community of practice. “Digital storytelling, both the creative process and the stories themselves, offers ways for students to challenge dominant narratives and reflect on their own position in relation to the influence of global systems.”

The community of practice will meet at 12:00 p.m. on October 15, November 12, and December 2, 2021. Each meeting will feature faculty presenters sharing various formats, sample assignments, and discussing the challenges they encountered.

In October, Gerard Aching, professor of Africana and Romance Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, Austin Bunn, associate professor in the department of Performing and Media Arts and director of the Milstein Program in Technology and Humanity, and Maja Anderson, program manager for the Milstein Program, and two of their students will discuss their history mapping project, Voices on the Underground Railroad. The project consists of audio stories about important underground railroad sites in Central and Western New York, written by students and voiced by actors. Secrecy for those traveling the underground railroad to escape slavery means there are few accounts of their struggles. As a result, the students wrote fictional stories informed by research to capture the emotion of this important history. The public launch of the project website is scheduled for mid to late October.

In November, Lori Leonard, professor and chair of the Department of Global Development in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, will discuss a podcast from her Global Garbage course. She assigned students to create podcasts exploring the concepts they studied. She will present her reasons for using the podcast format as well as the process she used to have her class develop podcasts.

The November session will also feature the use of short videos as assignments by Amy Kuo Somchanhmavong, associate director for community service-learning and partnership at the David M. Einhorn Center for Community Engagement, who co-leads the Global Citizenship and Sustainability Program with Shorna Allred, professor in Natural Resources and the Environment and Global Development in the College or Agriculture and Life Sciences. Somchanhmavong and Allred used digital storytelling as a reflective mechanism for students to share their experiences in a story format. Somchanhmavong will show examples, describe the process she used, and discuss considerations for video assignments.

The December meeting will feature Atlantic Travelers and Atlantic Commodities, the outcomes of an assignment created by Ernesto Bassi Arevalo, associate professor of History in the College of Arts and Sciences, in which students created online exhibitions about people who navigated the Atlantic Ocean and commodities that were shipped on it from the 16th to 19th centuries.

“Turning the classroom into a workshop where we all work together toward a collective goal offered a new source of motivation and inspiration,” said Bassi Arevalo. He will discuss opportunities as well as the limitations of the assignments.

The community of practice sessions are an opportunity for instructors to connect with colleagues interested in this inclusive teaching strategy and learn ways to use it in their own classes. Instructors interested in joining any or all sessions this semester can register on the CTI website.

Contact CTI for more information about the digital storytelling community of practice.

Dave Winterstein is a communication specialist at the Center for Teaching Innovation.

Read this story in The Cornell Chronicle.

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