Digital Storytelling in the Trades-Math Classroom

I really like the idea of digital storytelling, in part because I understand that many students, particularly those with learning challenges like dyslexia, often benefit from seeing and hearing a narrative. They can follow and remember a story told to them and supported by pictures, and it gives them a framework into which they can associate and fit new information that they learn.  And a lot of students in the trades are recognizable as having learning disabilities.

However, because I teach mostly abstract concepts, it is tricky to pick out subjects which could be expressed in pictures, at least in a sustained way.  I do have the impression, though, that digital storytelling could be used to introduce students to new courses and to give them an idea of what they can expect to learn about during the course.  A slide show is an easy thing to handle on the first day of classes, when everything is strange and information is coming at them too fast and from all directions.

On Day 1 of classes I typically discuss with each new class of apprentices the important details of two course outlines (one course outline for math and one for science).  I try to put my courses into context in their current level of training, and relate it to what they’ve learned in previous levels and will learn in levels yet to come.  I tell them about highlights of the courses and try to prepare them mentally and perhaps even emotionally for some of the difficult tasks they will have to perform.  I also try to tell them a little about myself to let them know what my own frame of reference is and to help them see that I am not an authority figure who is only out to expose their lack of math skills, but that I am approachable as a human being with interests outside of the college.

All of this could be accomplished very nicely through digital storytelling.  A slide show, heavy of photos and using excerpts from the course outlines and text books, and images from classes, could make the students feel very welcome on Day 1 and make them more confident (or less apprehensive?) that they’ll be able to handle what’s awaiting them in the weeks ahead.  Showing pictures of problems solved on the white board, showing pictures of models and teaching resources used in the class, etc., would be more effective at getting the students prepared for the course than just reading and talking about the course outlines.

It would take a bit of work to set up a good digital presentation, but pictures can be very interesting and memorable, and once the slides have been created the work would be done and it could be used over and over with minimal tweaking.  And of course, one things leads to another.  With a bit of experience at telling this first digital story, more ideas will likely come to mind in which more course content could be presented in the form of picture and story.


One thought on “Digital Storytelling in the Trades-Math Classroom”

  1. Hi David…I like your approach with the digital storytelling. I agree that it is a effective way to get things across to students that have learning disabilities, or a fear of what’s coming up in class. It makes things a little more approachable and not so scary and overwhelming! Math seems to make a great deal of the trades students freeze like deer in the headlights, so anything that makes them feel more at ease with the subject is awesome in my books. I’ll have to try and implement some of your tips into my instruction.

    Liked by 1 person

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