Tell Me Your Story: Building Engagement and Inclusion in Online and Hybrid Courses with Digital Storytelling Methods.

Concurrent Session 6
Equity and Inclusion

Brief Abstract

Digital Storytelling is a meaningful way to build engagement and inclusion into courses, empowering students from a variety of backgrounds and learning modalities with transferable skills in media making and communication.  This presentation will demonstrate various digital storytelling assignments that educators can easily adopt into their online and hybrid courses.


I am the Instructional Technologist at Whittier College. I work as part of faculty and staff development to drive and inspire the effective and ethical integration of educational technology. I provide specialized instruction, advice, and guidance in the application of educational tools and techniques. I build programming and projects that focus on digital pedagogy, media & digital literacy, and blended learning. In 2021 I helped launch The Center for Teaching & Learning at Whittier College. I also produce and host a new podcast called Teaching at Whittier. My specialty is teaching digital storytelling to engage students in higher order thinking, deep learning, and to build digital literacy skills. In 2020 I contributed to a chapter in the book Digital Storytelling: Story Work for Urgent Times on digital storytelling in higher education. I also work on a series of multilingual PhotoStory projects, the most recent called 'Life During Pandemic/La Vida Durante La Pandemia.' My research and teaching interests include partnering with community-based groups to create learning spaces (physical and virtual) that provide opportunities for diverse populations to participate in digital media making projects like digital photo archives, story maps, multimodal storytelling & podcasts, and augmented reality tools. Equity and inclusion are at the forefront of every digital initiative that I engage in. The ethos of reflection, education, and social justice greatly influences the dynamic of my workshops and partner projects. I believe that through creative and collaborative projects, participants are invested in a learning community that together we have helped to build by contributing to digital platforms for the diverse populations that will use them to continue the cycle of life-long teaching and learning.

Extended Abstract

Digital Storytelling is a creative and meaningful way to build engagement and inclusion in online and hybrid courses.  Digital Storytelling is the use of computer-based tools to tell stories.  These can include digital media essays, photography exhibits, story-based mapping, and podcasts.     

Stories are powerful educational tools. Learners connect on a personal level and cognition skills are improved through writing narratives that are enhanced with the use of digital media methods.  The student of the future is a maker and it is imperative to have knowledge, skills, and capabilities around content creation and communication.  Digital storytelling assignments give students transferable skills that are applied to a 21st century job market.

For educators,  incorporating digital storytelling assignments is a compelling tool for developing relationships with students in online environments.  Students are engaged in a process where they feel a connection in sharing stories.  Digital storytelling assignments also provide a constructive and effective feedback mechanism for gauging student progress in acquiring 21st century skills that include the use of technology tools leading to the production of rich content that includes video, audio, animation, and editing along with an understanding of digital citizenship and copyright knowledge.  Additionally, students are engaged in a process that involves critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, and community.  

Digital storytelling also utilizes inclusive teaching practices that address the needs of students with a variety of backgrounds, learning modalities, and abilities.  Students are empowered to communicate their stories in a variety of formats that best fits their learning capabilities and in their own words and language. We have used these methods with multilingual, intergenerational, and neurodivergent learners.  Digital storytelling assignments can be crafted to focus on spoken word, not necessarily writing and can utilize templates with short exercises that can help to overcome literacy challenges in learners.  This process challenges the notion of who is or who are the expert learners by creating an inclusive process of communicating knowledge and experience by sharing stories in multiple formats. 

Digital storytelling assignments can range from personal narrative videos to audio-based episodes in podcast form to using the PhotoVoice method of participatory photography for advocacy and social change to creating StoryMaps to illustrate place-based storytelling.

In this session, presenters will demonstrate various digital storytelling techniques and projects along with templates, rubrics, and media applications that have been applied to online and hybrid courses that have included students from diverse learning communities made of multilingual,  intergenerational, and neurodivergent participants. These strategies have proven to contribute to an overall inclusive learning environment in which all students perceive to be valued and continue successfully in their process of life-long learning. Session attendees will join in a digital storytelling activity to sample how to facilitate similar assignments and projects for easy adoption into their courses.