Story Circle Chapter 7

I chose to read Chapter 7: Radio Storytelling and Beyond by Marie Crook. In this chapter, Crook explores the ways in which storytelling workshops can have benefits that extend beyond the end product of a digital story.

Crook describes how implementing a digital storytelling program allowed the BBC to engage communities in new ways, and how those who participated in the program found it personally transformative. Because radio stories do not include images, they require fewer resources, making such a model more readily adapted and implemented in different communities. The challenge for BBC was to adapt the storytelling model to radio without “diluting its impact”. The result was a 3 days workshop in which participants 1. shared their stories during story circle and chose the one they wanted to tell, 2. finalized their scripts and recorded audio, and 3. learned to edit the audio to create the final piece. The successful pilot of this model was then implemented in multiple communities where participants found the experience to be one which built up their confidence, and.

Crook goes on to describe how this piloted model was then further adapted to have even more impact and benefit for participants. The BBC partnered with the Learning and Skills Council and the National Institute for Adult Continuing Education to find out if storytelling workshops could be an effective way to encourage more adults to access formal learning programs. In one program, ESOL (English for learners of other languages) tutors were trained to facilitate storytelling workshops to see if the experience might encourage participants to access underutilized ESOL programs. The workshop was held in a community center where participants felt comfortable attending, and when the workshop was over the participants requested to take a creative writing workshop (this time held at the community college). In this case, a storytelling workshop proved to be a helpful entry point into more formal education programs. In another program, Crook describes how storytelling workshops were employed to engage “hard to reach learners” in literacy programs.

Crook singles out the aspects of storytelling workshops which she believes makes the experience so transformative (and therefore potentially helpful in engaging participants in further learning):

  1. Participants are treated as experts in their own story and trusted to choose which story they want to tell
  2. Participants get to tell the story in their own way
  3. The facilitator helps participants to recognize the skills they already have for telling their story
  4. The story circle creates a bond among participants which allows them to share stories and give each other feedback in a comfortable and respectful setting

I found this chapter especially interesting because I have done some community organizing in my professional life and in volunteering. It is always exciting to hear about programs that are successful in engaging community members in some way, especially when the result is for them to have a positive and empowering experience. This chapter also furthered my understanding of digital storytelling as an act that is perhaps more valuable for the process than the final product. It seems that participants in digital storytelling workshops gain a lot from the self-examination involved in the process of telling their story, particularly a greater sense of self-confidence and encouragement to keep nurturing their skills. While the final product of the stories themselves is valuable, as texts through which people to share and connect, a good final product cannot exist without the process behind it. Since that process often seems to be a very personal and introspective experience I think that the act of making is as or more important than the final piece.

This understanding is shaping up to be the key theme in my essay about digital storytelling as I explore it as a process of preserving personal/family histories.  Storytelling is such a personal process and the desire to preserve one’s or one’s family is also very personal. Of as much or even more importance than the final document is the storyteller’s emotional journey of making their mark on the world by choosing to create something which documents their existence.

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2 thoughts on “Story Circle Chapter 7

  1. Huh. That’s fascinating – the ripple effect of storytelling… What a NEAT way to engage ESOL learners and invite them in as participants into a community. In a world that can feel foreign to them, telling their own stories would surely be something comfortable and familiar and safe for them.

    I think what you noted about the self-examination part of the digital storytelling process is so significant; there is indeed something about developing a story for *others* to hear/see that makes you articulate things to and for yourself in new ways.

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  2. This chapter sounds very interesting! I find it very inspiring to see national organizations helping others tell their stories. I’d like to know more about how they chose the people they decided to work with as well as how the people they worked with struggled to adapt to the technology. In my ideal world, everyone would want to tell their own stories, but I know that isn’t the case. I’d like to see how they encouraged some to share their stories. Adding to this, I want to know a bit about the people who decided not to share.

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