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Pictured are the gardens at The Smithsonian Institution Building during the spring season. It is situated in the National Mall in Washington DC, which is home to 11 of the Smithsonian’s museums and galleries.

The Smithsonian Castle in Washington DC.

Transatlantic partnership will improve understanding of the role of digital storytelling in education

Representatives from the Smithsonian Institution – a network of 19 museums and research centres based across the United States – are to visit Loughborough University’s School of the Arts, English and Drama to formalise a partnership that looks to improve the understanding of the role of digital storytelling in education.

The five-year partnership between the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access (SCLDA) and the University will facilitate several areas of collaboration, including joint research into different narrative approaches and the Smithsonian Learning Lab; exploration of the use of digital storytelling and other participatory methods to evaluate education programmes; and the use of the Learning Lab to teach visual culture.

The partnership has been developed by Dr Antonia Liguori, who was awarded a Fellowship at SCLDA, in Washington DC, earlier this year. The pilot research project focused on the use of Digital Storytelling as a teaching strategy to enhance active and deep learning within the Learning Lab.

Dr Liguori said: “During my four months at the Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access, I had the opportunity to share ideas with the Smithsonian’s staff about ways in which digital storytelling can be applied in cultural and heritage education as a way of making information come emotionally alive in a learning process aimed at improving 21st century skills.

“Having had access to the Smithsonian digital collections, explored how the centre is developing new learning resources and been involved in the SCLDA community programmes, I identified a unique opportunity to test, both face-to-face and virtually, the effectiveness of digital storytelling in enhancing ‘the 4Cs’ [Creativity, Critical thinking, Collaboration, Communication] in formal and non-formal learning.

“The experience suggested that the role of emotion in the digital storytelling process is central to the promotion of ‘embodiment’, a specific form of knowledge that exists in ‘the telling of stories with emotional meaning’.

“Furthermore, it demonstrated that digital storytelling could generate and facilitate a new kind of knowledge, especially when considering the distance between the contemporary learner and the historic object or event.”

During her residency, Dr Liguori began drafting ideas for the partnership, which brings together elements of the Smithsonian Institution’s strategic plan and key areas of research within the School of the Arts, English and Drama, such as Storytelling and Heritage.

As part of their visit, the Director of SCLDA, Stephanie Norby, and the Centre’s Manager of Community Engagement, Philippa Rappoport, will meet academic staff from the School to discuss specific research projects in development and deliver a talk titled ‘How to inspire the discovery and creative use of rich digital collections to deepen learning?’.

Professor Alison Yarrington, Dean of the School of the Arts, English and Drama, will formalise the agreement by signing a Memorandum of Understanding. Professor Robert Allison, Vice-Chancellor of Loughborough University, will close the visit.

Students, staff and members of the public are welcome to attend the talk, which will take place 4.30pm-5.30pm on 25 September in the Stanley Evernden Studio in Martin Hall. Entry is free but those wishing to attend should reserve a place.

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