Assignment Ideas: Digital Storytelling and Ethnography

The wide array of digital resources available to students and faculty has expanded the potential uses of Digital Story Telling projects. Story telling projects can take on many forms from ethnography to autobiographical literacy narratives via digital tools such as Audacity, iMovie, Photoshop, and Windows Movie Maker. Advocates of Digital Story Telling argue the recursive composition process it entails helps students to discover ways in which their personal experiences are enmeshed in larger cultural webs. Further, because story-telling assignments are often cross platform, the projects align with the goals of those who advocate for Remix and Network assignments. That is to say that the original links students make through their hypertext stories have the potential to avoid reproducing reductive autobiographical tropes.

Further Resources for Ethnography & Digital Story Telling

Educational Uses of Digital Story Telling: This comprehensive site provides an archive of digital story projects, lesson plans, assessment guidelines, copyright and fair use information, software links and guidelines, an example assignment sequence, and DS resource archive.

Digital Writing 101: “Planning a Digital Composition.” This page provides useful suggestions on how to incorporate the use of digital storyboards into visual composition projects such as digital story telling. The author also provides several useful links to storyboard tools and videos.

DS106 Assignment Bank. Initially designed for those taking part in the DS106 story telling course, any user can borrow assignments from the site, as well as up-load their own.

Slow Violence and Environmental Storytelling. The Neiman storyboard, a Harvard hosted publication that supports narrative journalism, archives a variety of articles on craft. Of interest to those teaching environmental or ecological themed courses is Robert Nixon’s blog entry in which he provides rhetorical techniques for representing slow change climate change in white paper. The ideas presented can be adapted to fit digital composition products that use multiple tools.

Computers and Composition 29.3 (2012): This volume of Computers and Composition is dedicated to the literacy narrative in the age of digital technology. Several of the articles engage specifically with the practice of digital story telling.

Telling Their Stories: Oral History Archives Project. This project based out of the Urban School of San Francisco provides a template for video and audio oral history projects. The site archives a variety of projects in which students record the experiences of people who witnessed and participated in “key historic events of the twentieth century.”

Beyond project archives you will find links to web and print resources, descriptions of assignment sequences, production guides, and sample projects. The following may offer further inspiration for digital oral history projects: Storycorps, Tell Me Your Stories, and Oral History in the Digital Age.