Learning Through Stories

Stories are what kept us around the first campfires and made us paint on cave walls. They entertain us. Stimulate us. Educate us. Give us a sense of connection. The social element of stories allows learners to see things from new perspectives. Storytelling has been long-recognized as a powerful learning tool.

Going through the process of creating a story, digital or not, promotes self understanding, concept understanding, information literacy, communication literacy, and interdisciplinary learning.

"Digital" is just another broadly-defined medium through which to tell stories. Digital storytelling can take on many forms, but has become generally associated with a short video overlapping written and recorded voiceover with still and moving images, and often a soundtrack. These are often told in the first person, and based on personal experience.

Teachers at UW-Madison have used their own stories, and student stories to teach course concepts and build authentic classroom community. Through the use of student produced digital story assignments faculty offer students a way to reflect on and articulate their understanding of course concepts.

Digital Storytelling and Learning

Digital storytelling uses multimodal literacy concepts to create knowledge and enhance learning. The process of writing a story, molding it to a specific audience, fitting it within technical and assigned constraints, researching and collecting supporting assets, and crafting it all together requires considering the topic from a number of angles, and promotes a deeper understanding of it.

Research tells us that the process of storytelling, based on reflection and communication of personal experience, can increase retention and promote meaning as well as bring clarity and understanding to complex topics. Digital storytelling provides avenues for experiential learning, reflective practice, effective communication, and building community in the classroom and beyond.

Digital Storytelling at UW-Madison and Across the State

Featured Video

<a href="/digitalstorytelling/golfs-water">Golf&#039;s Water</a> <a href="/digitalstorytelling/light-change">Light Change</a> <a href="/digitalstorytelling/harlem-renaissance-librarian-regina-andrews">Harlem Renaissance Librarian: Regina Andrews</a> <a href="/digitalstorytelling/strong-line">A Strong Line</a> <a href="/digitalstorytelling/my-home-town">My Home Town</a>

Margaret Nellis

"Digital storytelling provided a vehicle for enhancing what I was already trying to do, which is to help students connect around their commonalities and differences. I no longer had to "pull teeth" to generate discussion in my classroom. The process gave students a reason to naturally want to share their experiences. Students had a much easier time connecting with the course content, to self and to each other. It brought a kind of humanity into the classroom."

Margaret Nellis, School of Human Ecology, and University Health Services.

Caton Roberts

"I had students who got fired up about this digital storytelling assignment. My first year students come to college with a new set of pressures: parental, social, and financial. Digital storytelling was a fun and freeing device to push them into self discovery, learning how to be authentic and take risks."

Caton Roberts, College of Letters and Science.


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