Humans tell each other stories as a way of making sense of the world. One of the profound deficits of social isolation is that it puts barriers to our ability to share stories. Storytelling is a two-way process. The storyteller requires feedback from the listener to know that the story is being heard. Furthermore, we often lose sight of the story that is unfolding across the entirety of our courses. The small stories have to make sense in the overall narrative.

In the end, the student is the ultimate storyteller because they are forming impressions and ordering the story as they see it, not necessarily as the teacher intended to tell it. If that part of the process fails, it’s all for naught. The audience is the author.

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Designing a digital narrative

Our classes are often by their very nature collages, but they must be carefully constructed to highlight and not obscure the intended pathway to the end. Simplicity of the meta-narrative is crucial here. Everything in my class is oriented toward a single goal: a tangible work product at the end of the semester. How my students get there is less of a concern to me than whether they get there. However, it is my responsibility as a teacher to show them the way there through my design of the narrative.

The temptations of the digital canvas are to provide a wide range of activities and opportunities for exploration. However, there is a danger here of leading students down alleys and then having the class become about the detour, not the intended thoroughfare.

About the Author:

Tom Haymes is a technologist, photographer, teacher, social scientist, project manager, and educational technology leader. He was design lead for Houston Community College’s West Houston Institute and is author of the forthcoming book Discovering Digital Humanity (ATBOSH Media). His website is ideaspaces.net and he tweets at @ideaspacesnet.


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