Digital narratives – story telling for learners in a digital environment

Earlier this month I attended the MELSIG Digital Narratives: (re)storying learning experiences for a digital age event which was a brilliant example of engaging practice that’s happening (mostly) in HE.  My take home from the day was to re-tell the story so it was meaningful to the other post-16 education sectors.  Much of my work and experience is with adult learners and apprentices so stepping into the blue box, because it’s bigger on the inside, here is my take on the best bits that are most transferable. dr_who_316350537

Dawn of the Unread

I’m not sure if I can actually do Dawn of the Unread justice. It really was that amazing.  Imagine you have learners who need to improve their English reading skills.  Not so difficult in the world of adult learning to imagine this scenario. Now, imagine that learner had a bad previous experience of being made to read books.  They think books are boring and really dislike engaging with text.  Even a Quick Read book is a step too far.  Now imagine that you can offer them a graphic novel (yes, I read comic books so I call them graphic novels) instead, because reading is reading right?  What if that that comic book was online so they could read it on a mobile device or a laptop?  Wouldn’t it be great if that story captured their imagination and had links to further and more advanced reading material.  How much more fun would it be if the story included gamification and encouraged more reading?  And, there’s not just one or two of these stories to leave the reader disappointed and forced back to more traditional texts too soon, at the time of writing there are 16 different comics.

I can think of plenty of learners who would have been more interested in reading a comic about zombies, Gotham or a re-telling of Robin Hood.

The best bit about this resource, isn’t the zombies, or the Dr Who references, or indeed any of the other multi-layered stories and little geeky references.  The best bit is that this is a solution that you can pick up and just share with your learners.  Inspire them, watch them go off and explore a brand new literary world.


#Phonarchem – making a lab session an event and sharing it with the world


Professor Simon Lancaster is exactly the kind of chemistry teacher you wish you had at school and wished you’d shown more of an interested in inorganic chemistry twenty odd years ago, unless that was just me.  His opening gambit is that he is interested in celebrating the beauty of chemistry in everyday objects. Simon’s tactic to engage learners and tell stories is an interesting one.  He has a hashtag, in this instance #phonarchem, that he encourages students to use.  Quite cleverly he has also created hashtag cards, physical cards like the one in the picture above, and encourages the students to take photos and tweet them to #phonarchem too.  The students start collaborating, and others following #phonarchem start commenting on the work.  A picture builds up: about the everyday chemistry that happens around us, even in a cup of tea; a digital profile of a chemistry student; what it is like to study chemistry.  Most of all learning happens.  The story doesn’t end there, using Storify Simon collates his own engagement in a range of activities including teaching chemistry.

Apprentices could do the same.  They may not work for the same employer, they might not come to the same taught sessions, if your framework even delivers  group sessions, but they could still collaborate and not feel quite so alone.  It could be a hashtag about health and safety, they could collate their own storify about safe and unsafe practices.  So, what starts as a picture of some scaffolding, some stacked boxes in an office, or some  playground equipment could develop into a piece of work demonstrating the breadth and depth of understanding around risk assessments and manual handling.  In fact, once you start thinking inside that blue box the possibilities are endless really.


Bits, bobs and digital sticky tape: using what you have to create digital stories – Charlie Davis, NTU

I participated in this workshop which provided participants with a hands-on opportunity to consider how they use the resources, digital and non-digital, that they have available to them to create short digital stories. Participants discussed how such approaches could be used in a range of learning, teaching and assessment practices.  This really was a hands on session with a quick brief and we were straight into action as small teams to retell a story using what we had around us.  Our story was intended as a discussion starter activity to get trainee teachers thinking about creativity.

It was a simple session, but I walked out of that session determined not to let the others in my group down and finish adding the pictures to text to tell the story.  How many of us hope that our learners leave the session still finishing work off?  Perhaps it is in the simplicity of the task.  Give them some tools, and let them get creative.  Who knows what your learners could create.

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