Using storytelling to increase student engagement
What do great educators and Hollywood directors have in common? They're great at telling stories. This is important in — but not limited to — visual mediums like video. But, before we talk about video let's take a quick look at why storytelling works so well in teaching.
Why is storytelling a great teaching method?
Incorporating storytelling into teaching — either by using stories and anecdotes to support facts, or by finding ways to work entire topics into a narrative — is a great way to engage with students. Because of this, many educators intuitively incorporate elements of storytelling into their day to day teaching.
Our brains are actually wired to remember a great story over a simple list of facts or numbers. Joshua Foer's fascinating TED talk (Incredible Feats of Memory Anyone Can Do) explains some of the science behind this.
In short: Finding a way to build memorable, contextual links between topics and pieces of important information you — or your students — need to learn is an extremely effective way of making any subject matter easier to remember. One of the easiest ways to do this is to weave these elements into a story.
In fact, TED speakers commonly frame their topic in some kind of narrative, and it works — people love watching, learning from and sharing TED talks.
Storytelling makes for fun learning
Now, more than ever, great educators understand the need to keep students engaged. Sophomore student Gregoris Kalai sums it up bluntly:
“What most professors fail to realize is that every time they stand in front of an auditorium and begin to lecture, they are competing for our attention with the infinite number of tabs we have open on our browsers.”
I’m sure many professors and teachers will be sympathetic to this example. Kalai argues that students switch off from lectures because, all too often, the material isn't presented in an engaging way, and that incorporating a little storytelling magic is a great way for professors to address this.
So, if you're concerned about student engagement and aren't already thinking about some way to incorporate storytelling into your lesson plans or assignments, it might be time to start. Thankfully, there have never been more tools available to help us tell stories than there are today.
Technology helps you (and your students) get creative with storytelling
Storytelling itself is an art that has changed remarkably little over the last several thousand years. However, creative people have always found new ways to take advantage of technology to tell stories in innovative and exciting ways.
Much of the time it's not only the content of stories themselves that excite us, but how they're told. iPad storyteller Joe Sabia's short TED talk on the evolution of storytelling hints at some fresh ways to tell stories using the smartphones and tablets found in classrooms the world over today.
Video is an easy, effective visual storytelling medium
So, back to video: Thanks in part to those good old Hollywood directors, the moving image offers a proven and effective way to tell stories. People are familiar with video as a storytelling medium, and students love it as a learning aid.
Through straightforward lecture and content capture, and various approaches to blended, flipped and project-based learning, educators everywhere are finding fresh ways to incorporate video into their teaching, and their students' learning. The availability of internet–connected mobile devices and great creative apps mean that it's never been easier to create, share and repurpose video.
In fact, schools and universities using MediaCore frequently surprise us with the creative new ways they’re using video to enhance their teaching and learning. Many of these involve creating, documenting or re–telling stories in some form; from capturing and editing events and drama to creating stop-motion animation on smartphones, and everything in between. We’re keen to find out what what comes next.
Do you use storytelling in your teaching with video? What has (and hasn’t) worked for your students? We'd love to hear from you.