You Know That Place Between Sleep and Awake…

Photo courtesy of mooglet via Flickr
Photo courtesy of mooglet via Flickr

When reading about presentation skills I kept coming across the advise to tell a story. To be honest I pictured Boy Scout dads telling scary stories around the fire, or Native Americans long ago telling hunting adventures in a teepee.

When thinking of my own presentations, I had a hard time conceptualizing how to tell a story when my presentations were meant to inform or teach my audience. However, after reading about digital storytelling, I’m realizing we tell and listen to stories all day long for a variety of purposes.

An article in the New Yorker by Andy Gopnik, breaks down a book by Jonathan Gottschall called the “The Storytelling Animal.” He begins by explaining :

Gottschall’s encouraging thesis is that human beings are natural storytellers—that they can’t help telling stories, and that they turn things that aren’t really stories into stories because they like narratives so much. Everything—faith, science, love—needs a story for people to find it plausible. No story, no sale.

Furthermore, in an Interview for PBS Gottschall explains what he means when he writes, “Neverland is our nature, we are the storytelling animal.”

If you start adding up the hours that you spend in imaginary worlds you get to a pretty astonishing figure. We spend four hours a day watching TV, our children make believe, we spend hours and hours, actually about eight hours per day, lost in day dreams. We dream in stories. When you add all this time up, for me it was a startling conclusion, that humans aren’t really Earthlings. We’re more like citizens of this weird omni-dimensional world called Neverland. We spend most our lives wandering inside imaginary worlds.

Photo courtesy of abear-anabow via Flickr
Photo courtesy of abear-anabow via Flickr

Stories are everywhere, and I’m starting to see that humans do in fact communicate mostly in narrative forms. Listeners try to experience what has happened to the story teller, in a way existing right where Peter Pan says he will always be, “that place between sleep and awake.” Ironically, reading back through what I have written so far, I’ve actually just told you a story about my confusion and investigation into story telling.

In my elementary school, we have recently put in a lot of time defining our purpose for student portfolios; basically boiling it down to the simple idea that a portfolio should show a student’s learning journey. I read Jodee’s post this week on Digital Storytelling and made the connection that the work of documenting growth and discovery, that we have been asking the teachers and students to collect in an ePortfolio, is a great lead-in to digital storytelling. Using the pictures, videos, and reflections collected (already completing 2 steps in the process laid out on the University of Houston’s Digital Storytelling site), students can digitally create a story of how they learned a skill or concept in school. When thinking of sharing our work with a wider audience, I think it would be more interesting and inspiring (to people beyond mom and dad) to post a student’s digital story about their learning processes and achievements.

Story telling isn’t just for campfires, and when mixed with digital tools, it can be a powerful way to inform, persuade, and entertain. And as Jonathon Gotschall explains in his TED talk below, “We’re all a lot more like Peter Pan than we know; we never really leave the land of fun, imaginative simulations, the land of make believe.”

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