Using video projects – in this case, a collaborative digital storytelling project – is an effective way to engage college students in a social studies class.
The combination of collaborative learning with technological advances offers better opportunities for the development of active knowledge of students. It is crucial that they have 21st century skills such as the ability to collaborate, to be critical and creative, and to be able to use technology for learning.
The Covid-19 pandemic has made the need to develop such skills even more evident. Add to that the unexpected shifts towards online learning in university classrooms, accustomed to traditional teacher-led instruction.
College students are familiar with the use of the internet, smartphones and other technological devices. Incorporating technology into a collaborative environment in the university classroom makes it easier for students to engage with the material they are expected to learn.
Our study , published in Open Access in International Studies Perspectives , on the pedagogical benefits of digital storytelling, shows that students have very positive emotional and learning experiences with projects in which they make a group video after an investigation.
Students find the digital format less stressful than a front presentation, such as traditional PowerPoint . The digital storytelling format introduces more creative ways of approaching learning tasks and enables students to express their ideas freely and confidently.
A video project involves the use of digital technology – software like WeVideo, iMovie, OpenShot – to create a 3 to 5 minute long research video. This will deal with a topic chosen by a group of students and related to the course curriculum (for example, (post) colonial history, social policy, alternatives to development, electoral studies, social stratification, gender…). Students are normally organized in groups of three to five participants.
The four stages of the work process
The video project is developed in four stages, which we illustrate in the following figure: group formation, choice of the object of study, writing of the script and final presentation. The times between stages are indicative, although the most relevant thing is to provide feedback.
Students prepared homework in both studies following the same four steps. However, students had less time to prepare homework at the southern European university. The academic period at the Nordic university was from August to December, while in southern Europe it was from October to December. This shows that it is possible to organize this task in different time frames.
A session can be organized at the end, as a discussion. In this session you can view the videos and share the knowledge acquired.
Why are video projects a good tool for engaging college students?
Creativity, innovation, and fun are the three aspects that students most often highlighted as positive aspects of homework.
The digital storytelling project facilitated the opening to more creative ways of approaching it. Students can present the results of their research by simulating a newscast, an interview with various key actors (for example, politicians, heads of international institutions …) or they can use their voice- overs based on images and videos.
Students enjoy making video and find it an interesting and original way to express their opinions. This is part of the positive effects on behavioral involvement.
Cooperation and feedback
This task also reinforces the affective involvement of the students. The students in our study had positive experiences working with their classmates, and they found homework fun.
The format of the assignment allows students to express their perspectives and points of view with more confidence. “We can describe the subject in more detail,” argues one of the students who participated in the study, “because during the presentation it may happen that due to stress, our explanation is not so understandable and sometimes important things are forgotten.”
Making a video and building the thread of the story makes them work harder to elaborate their thoughts carefully and thoroughly. This is part of the positive effects of video on cognitive engagement.
Five pedagogical benefits of digital storytelling
The collaborative digital storytelling project has a number of pedagogical benefits:
- The fact that students can prepare their research results before class allows them to critically evaluate their object of study beforehand and present their results without the fear or stress of speaking in front of the class on a potentially controversial research topic.
- A greater affective involvement of students in this task could serve to facilitate the understanding of abstract concepts and political and social theories.
- The video project contributes to the active participation of students in the learning process. Instead of teaching the students, this task makes the group responsible for the autonomous learning process.
- Due to the possibility of asynchronous collaboration –at different times–, video projects bridge the digital divide between face-to-face and distance learning students.
- The result of the research in visual format allows sharing the production of knowledge in the university with the general population. After complying with copyright permissions, the videos may be made available on popular video-sharing websites (for example, YouTube or Vimeo).
21st century skills often include the ability to communicate and collaborate, find and critically evaluate information, interpret messages from a global perspective, and most importantly, the ability to use technology to improve learning and performance. academic.
A collaborative digital storytelling project encompasses multiple components of the skill set and has immense potential to contribute to their development in college students in engaging, creative, and fun ways.
Author Bios: Gibran Cruz-Martínez is Researcher Juan de la Cierva, Institute of Public Policies and Goods, Center for Human and Social Sciences (CCHS – CSIC) and Aleksandra lazareva is Associate Professor in Education at the University of Agder