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Learning at its Best

Why is Storytelling Important?

I’ve recently become a member of the Executive Committee of the ISTE Special Interest Group about Digital Storytelling (#SIGDS on Twitter) and we’re trying to reach out to increase our membership and to “learn, share and celebrate the art of digital storytelling for learning.” We’re beginning Tweetchats this week, Wednesday at 9:00 PM ET, with our first topic being “Why Storytelling? How does it impact learning?”  Our first webinar is next week.  Here’s the promo for that:

SIGDS is proud to announce our first webinar experience!!

 Join Bernajean Porter as she guides us through ~ 

The Art and Soul of Digital Storytelling: Tapping Into Creativity, Narrative Intelligence and the Power of Story for Learning, Communicating, and Influencing the World”

April 15, 2013   8:30 PM ET

Register for this event at this link

So there is lots going on as we plan for the ISTE conference in June, as we look to involve more people and look at storytelling as an “inspiring high-impact vehicle for learning, thinking and communicating in a digital age.”

(The quotes above come from our vision and mission statements.)

I’ve written about storytelling and the importance of it in my life before–most succinctly in a meme in 2008.  What I wrote was:

 I have always loved stories. I used to tell them to my sister each night, and my brother, Rod and I used to climb in a huge clothes closet we had and he would tell me science fiction ones in the dark. My Dad wrote me letters in college that had tall tales in them.  I took my kids to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee for years, and I later took my grandson as well. I started a storytelling club at one of my schools, the Yancey Yarnspinners. I also supported the National Gallery of Art’s Teacher Institutes with digital storytelling for 7 summers, first working with Joe Lambert and Emily Paulos from the Center For Digital Storytelling, and then teaching podcasting to the participants. A story of mine, describing our county’s support of technology in the 90′s, is in the ComputerWorld archives. I was a 2001 Smithsonian ComputerWorld Laureate.

What I’d add now is that I’m beginning to want to tell those stories in print–to share not only my teaching and learning experiences, but to create a world of marvel that would entice others to escape to and visit.  

I can’t imagine a life without storytelling. I read the stories of the Catalysts here and hear their voices as they describe their learning, their frustrations, their celebrations and successes. I think of the teachers I’ve had over the years who shared personal stories and think about how that not only engaged me as a student, and as a learner, but how it increased the connections I had to that person. I marvel as I tell my own stories in my classes and listen to the silence of my students–they are engaged and listening–and I often hear them refer to my story later as they begin their own writing.

But most of all, I love the connections storytelling provides.  For me, that’s the most important piece of storytelling.

What kinds of stories do you think we should do in the classroom?  Are stories like play?  Going away because there’s no time for them?

Is there room in our standardized classrooms for storytelling, and if so, when and why and how and what kind?

Should all stories we use be instructive or connected to our curriculum??  Is there a place for what I used to call, in my Kindergarten classroom, “Weekend News,” where we all came in on Monday morning and shared something from over the weekend just to reconnect?

Is there room for creating and connecting through stories we tell digitally about our lives–stories that tug at the heart and make us happy or scared or feel incredible feelings for the storyteller?

What do you think? My bias obviously came through in my title…not IS storytelling important, but WHY is storytelling important. Do you think it is, and if so, why?  If not, why not? Share your thoughts here, and also join us April 3 for a tweetchat on this topic and April 15 for our webinar on the power of storytelling.


About Paula White

grandma, teacher, Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE), DEN STAR, Google Certified Teacher, camper, Gifted Resource Tchr, NETS*T certified, lover of learning


4 thoughts on “Why is Storytelling Important?

  1. every time we speak we are telling a story IMHO

    Posted by Peter Cox | April 1, 2013, 10:17 am
  2. I used to teach Spanish language through stories

    Posted by Maria Adela Teran | April 1, 2013, 5:47 pm
  3. I think story telling is important, it (for me) has been a way to transfer knowledge that is there in the memory bank ready for accessing when needed. For example, when I teach about experiences from the classroom, you story form for passing a key message in a memorable, entertaining, and honest story from my own experience to students. It was not until I was reading your article today that I realise that this is a skill passed on from numerous conversations with my parents and family.

    Only last week we were conveying to students learning to teach primary science, that linking in activities with the story makes it much more memorable for younger students, in fact all students to begin to build on their understanding of knowledge.

    With all the technologies available such as digital photos, podcasts, video, animation, slowmation, the options for not I need telling stories, but illustrating them have become numerous. Opens up fun opportunities for not only learning about technology, but to work on storytelling ideas through illustration. Thank you for your great topic.

    Posted by Massiel Barros-Torning | April 1, 2013, 11:02 pm

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