One of the ways that we can help students learn is by tapping into the values of their culture. Stories are important to any culture, and the means and methods of recording and sharing those stories have evolved over time. In many cultures though, oral storytelling specifically is a hugely important tradition and a rich way of transferring information, from spoken word to chants to songs to the epic orations of historic greats like Homer (the Greek poet, not Simpson). When my husband and I visited the newest Smithsonian museum this summer, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, on each floor of the History Galleries experience (a three-level experiential trip into the depths (literally - you ride an elevator underground) of African American history in the United States) they had booths where visitors could enter and record their stories and reactions to video prompts. The recordings were then shared on the walls for all to experience.
So how do we utilize this type of powerful narrative in the classroom? We give students a chance to tell their own stories. We give them a chance to capture the mood and rhythm and tone that make an oral story so powerful and captivating. And how do we do that? I have a few tools in mind.
FlipGrid is a video discussion tool that is provided free to all educators by Microsoft. Creating grids allows a teacher to provide a prompt and students to record their responses in anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. Why is this one so powerful? I love that it provides the opportunity to "speak to" others with the safety-net of a draft or "re-record." I can see your face and hear what you're saying and watch your expression as you tell the story. Students can respond to teachers and each other, can contribute to another student's thoughts and ideas, and the video responses can be shared with the class or even the world. Many educators are already using FlipGrid in their classrooms, and it's a great way to connect beyond walls and class periods, but I challenge you to use it to intentionally capture the rich tradition of oral storytelling.
Synth is a free micro-podcasting platform, providing users with the opportunity to share stories in 256 second increments. Synth provides classrooms with the opportunity to capture and share short stories, ideas, and learning opportunities, threading them together into a playlist that can be shared with others. There are different levels of privacy, as well as an opportunity to turn on video and record, and also attach links and files, but I appreciate the "true to form" version of the podcast most.
While the classroom version of Soundtrap is not free, the robust platform including collaboration, music creation, audio creation, and remixing and sharing is definitely worth the $250 price tag for 50 users (teachers and/or students) for the year. If you're ready to invest in the complete package of digital storytelling, from creation of original music to enhance the mood of your story to professional downloading and publishing to share with your audience, this tool is worth considering. No, I don't get a cut of sales, but the fee includes not only the tools, but meets online safety rules and regulations for kids and privacy. I don't typically opt for the paid apps, but once in a while you come across one that is worth the cost for all that it offers, and this is one of those.