National Mall, Washington DC

Loughborough academic undertakes digital storytelling research in America

A Loughborough academic has recently returned from America after conducting research that focuses on using digital storytelling as a learning strategy.

Dr Antonia Liguori, a Research Associate in Applied Digital Storytelling in the School of Arts, English and Drama , headed to the states earlier this year after being awarded the Arts and Humanities Research Council UK-Smithsonian Fellowship Program (IPS Scheme).

She was given a four month residency at the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access in Washington DC to work on a project titled ‘‘Storying’ the Cultural Heritage: Digital Storytelling as a tool to enhance the 4Cs in formal and informal learning.

The practice-led research project takes an innovative approach to better understand how to use the Digital Storytelling methodology to enhance the creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication in formal and non-formal learning.

It explored how to include Digital Storytelling in the Smithsonian Center’s Learning Lab as a teaching strategy for active and deep learning.

To achieve this, Dr Antonia Liguori, in collaboration with Dr Philippa Rappoport (Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access), organised a series of Digital Storytelling workshops.

The workshops were held in partnership with the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC, the Montgomery College in Maryland and Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia.

They invited participants - such as museums visitors, family members, teachers and students -  to explore a selection of digital resources on the Smithsonian Learning Lab.

The project trialled narrative storytelling methods and at the end of the process, participants were able to make and share digital stories (short videos with voice-over) inspired by the museums’ objects and reflect on the process, to self-evaluate their engagement. 

Of the project, Dr Liguori commented:

“Working for four months at the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access gave me the opportunity to re-think and challenge Digital Storytelling as a practice and explore the potential of using this method to enhance 21st Century Learning.

“In particular, by ‘embedding’ Digital Storytelling as a teaching strategy in the Learning Lab, we co-designed a new workshop structure to facilitate effective intergenerational dialogue, overcome language and digital barriers, and enhance participants’ learning.

“It has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life from a professional and personal perspective, and I’m deeply grateful to Dr Rappoport and all the staff I worked with at the Smithsonian, the Montgomery College and Fairfax County Public Schools, for their enthusiastic and generous help at all stages of my project.”

The Fellowship gave Dr Liguori and Dr Rappoport the opportunity to explore ideas for potential future collaborations, and they have already submitted a research grant proposal to the British Academy.

They hope to expand their work, focussing on ways of using Digital Storytelling as a teaching strategy in the Smithsonian Learning Lab, with particular emphasis on enhancing critical thinking, cognitive skills and dispositions.

The pair are also planning to pilot the use of ‘Digital Storytelling for Evaluation’ as part of an ongoing project that the Smithsonian Center is carrying out with Affiliates Museums in Florida, California and Texas.

Responding to the feedback received from participants in the pilot study, Dr Liguori is also working with the Montgomery College to develop a community of practice around the use of Digital Storytelling in a variety of contexts.

More information on Dr Liguori’s project and the collection created for the workshop  is available here.