Dragon hunting at #Digifest18

Last week was Digifest, Jisc’s annual conference in Birmingham. It’s always a good opportunity to take the temperature of what’s happening in the sector and meet up with members.

This year I was running a workshop with a few people from Higher Education institutions on how digital storytelling (DS) can enhance the student experience. I called it Going Dragon Hunting, the reason for which was made clear in the workshop but will otherwise have to remain a mystery unless you want to talk to me about it. 😉

The aim was to introduce participants to what digital storytelling could achieve by showcasing some excellent practice and then giving people an opportunity to explore storytelling for themselves.

Showcasing good practice

Dr Liz Austen from Sheffield Hallam University gave a valuable insight into the results of a project coordinated by Yorkshire Universities to use DS to work with students from traditionally “hard to reach” groups such as people from black and other ethnic minority families, mature students and so on. You can see the outputs on the Yorkshire Universities website.

This has been an excellent project and they have shared guidance (pdf) for others looking to undertake a similar approach.

Richard Beggs joined us virtually having been laid low by some evil lurgy which meant he couldn’t travel from Belfast where he’s a curriculum design consultant at Ulster University. You can’t keep Richard down though and he recorded his presentation specially from his sick bed (or near it) and you can watch it below. Richard focused more on the teaching and learning aspects of storytelling and he’s helping Ulster Uni take it in very interesting directions.

From my perspective, it was great to see what is happening in the sector. Usually, I deliver workshops to people at their institutions but there’s little opportunity for detailed follow up so I seldom see where people take their skills and knowledge.

It’s always gratifying seeing people applying DS to situations and in ways that I’d never anticipated.

Exploring opportunities

Once we’d spent some time discussing the above examples, participants engaged with the raw act of telling stories and trying to visualise them. Liz and I then posed the question what opportunities could they see for DS in their institution and what things would they have to bear in mind to do it successfully.

You can see the output of the activity on this Padlet. There were quite a lot of ideas!

Jisc’s new Digital Storytelling workshop

This was all quite timely as I’m going to be running our first public online version of the digital storytelling workshop that I usually run on a bespoke basis for institutions so if you’re interested in finding out how to create your own digital stories and manage storytelling projects this is a really good opportunity.

Final reflection

On the train to Birmingham, I stumbled across an article on the BBC website where a former student was talking about trauma they had experienced as a student. This was a story about an all too common occurrence and it was a stark reminder that the “student experience” for some is not all about learning, development and growth but about something much harder to face. I wrote a personal blog post on it if you want to know more.


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