Storytelling: Open Your Classroom to the World

Learning, PreK-12 / by

Documentaries have been my favorite genre of film for a long time. I think it was Hoop Dreams, back in 1994, that truly got me hooked. It wasn’t an action film or thriller that I typically chose to see with my friends at the theater, but, still, I was mesmerised by these two boys playing basketball and surviving life by focusing on their love for the game of basketball. I truly loved it because it was storytelling at it’s absolute best.

Great documentaries introduce us to incredible people, amazing events, and exciting places. They draw us in, touch our emotions and leave us feeling inspired. The best documentaries teach us new information in such a palpable way we are inspired to get involved with the story AFTER simply watching the film. We leave wanting to do more.

Inspiring: International Documentaries

When I think about my classroom, my main goal is the same as the effect of a great documentary. Like the audience of such a film, I want my students to be drawn in and, at the same time, feel inspired to get involved in the world around them. I want to flatten the classroom walls, give students a true sense of this world and arm them with the knowledge and confidence it takes to get involved. I strive to offer them “entry points” when it’s time for them to search for the place they fit into the world. Hearing the stories from around the globe in the form of well made documentary could really empower them to relate to other cultures and become inspired to do meaningful work.

In my search to find resources to pull into class for global awareness, I  came across this documentary that will not only shrink the world for my students, but  help raze some of those classroom walls, as well. In my search, I focused on the education crisis in Africa and how many of the countries there are trying to find the support and funding to find solutions. One of those organizations working towards a solution is the non profit, The Nobelity Project, founded by writer and film maker, Turk Pipkin and executive director, Christy Pipkin. Their latest film, Building Hope, tells the story of The Nobelity Project’s partnership with a community in rural Kenya to build the area’s first high school.

Just from the trailer, I can already feel the power of this story: the music, the voices, the setting, the message. I’ve already purchased my copy of the movie and can’t wait to share it with my students. I can’t wait to hear their reactions, to brainstorm their ideas and initiate their actions toward bettering our global society.

Connecting: Technology is Essential

Without a MacBook, high speed Internet, and a networked Twitter account, it seems it would have been impossible for me to have discovered this incredible film. I’m not sure how else I could manage to connect my students to other students like them across the globe. I believe technology is the key to an education that opens the doors to an international connection. BUT only when technology leads us to real people, real stories and real relationship,does our willingness to invest in those stories enable true understanding of how the world works.

This type of access to international cultures was unimaginable back when I was a student in middle school…watching a film and feeling I could truly connect to what students my age in Africa were feeling? That seems almost unthinkable back then! Today, technology connects communities that we could have never accessed before and opens the world up to our students. It gives artists, film makers, teachers, and even students the tools to capture the human experience and share stories worldwide. We need to take advantage of this in every way possible! Technology, in so many ways, leads to real relationship and real inspiration for action- and that is why I feel so compelled to integrate these experiences into our classroom learning.

Alison Anderson

Alison Anderson

Alison Anderson is a Media Specialist at The Madeleine School. Follow her on twitter at @tedrosececi.

3 Comments

Norman Constantine /

So do it!!! I would suggest you look into http://www.flatclassroomproject.org/ for a wonderful opportunity to do this. Tell your students to take out their connectable devices (cell phone?:) ) and connect them. Be the center of ferment and reform!

L Eaton /

Hi Alison,

I agree that through technology we can create awesome experience for the student and capture them with storytelling. However, I’m always concerned about this because, while we can them to learn, I don’t think we do well with just helping to learn emotionally. Storytelling is a great learning tool, but if it isn’t tempered by critical analysis it can be problematic. In utilizing media, particularly documentaries to enhance their learning, it’s important to make them also aware of the ways they are being swayed to “see” but not necessarily to think. Such things as music, shot frames, etc are part of the narrative shape to compel to accept the truth and importance of the message, but we do our students a disservice if we don’t draw attention to the medium as well as the message.

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