The Changing Face of Storytelling


Storytelling has been with human beings since the beginning of the history; and it has played a crucial role in the society. With changing of time, so it has had on the storytelling evolvement and more to meet the demands of the modern society. This paper looks at storytelling and its benefits for the society. It analyses the art of storytelling. The paper also discusses the aspect of the modern storytelling methods in as far as digital storytelling is concerned and its usage in the EFL learning.


Storytelling is the oldest art in the history of mankind. It is said to be as old as the language itself. Storytelling has grown and evolved through some time to occupy a unique position in the world today. It plays the role in every niche of the society. This role cannot be ignored. It is the part of the human culture; and many forms it occupies in the modern society reflect the growth and the development of the human culture. Storytelling reflects the growth of the society, and it tells a story about its people, its values and its vices. In doing so, it passes the information about that society.

Today storytelling has many fundamental benefits that it brings to the society. As an art of expression, it takes many forms and cuts across every forte. Storytelling is mainly the art of conveying events, which could be done through words, sounds and images. The traditional forms of storytelling were synonymous with the idea of chanting, the use of music, the song or epic poetry. The history of storytelling has begun long before the discovery of books and pens. Thus, the storyteller performed an essential function of providing teaching to the society, entertaining the masses and systematically maintaining an oral record of historical events. This role of storytelling has not changed much in the present society as the art found a place in every aspect of human life, ranging from the modern society of business to the education sector and even the religious world. The stories are used all over the world, and they remain relevant in every single aspect of the society (Lipman, 1999).

The outstanding element of storytelling is that it is better told where the audience is listening themselves. In this form, the audience can respond and even participate in the story while it is being told. The story, therefore, serves for the purpose of connecting the audience with the storyteller in the way that is unique and memorable. Thereby, a bond through the story is established in such way. It is essentially a unique human endeavor, which is done in order for human beings to bring a change, to educate and transmit culture. In doing so, it passes the wisdom obtained from previous generations to other people and young generations.

Storytelling also has the role to play in the field of education as it provides a unique teaching strategy, which helps to create the vivid mental images and to open up their thinking capacity. Here, the use of stories in learning helps students to develop a deeper understanding of concept in the manner that is beyond any fact, any description or an outline given in the course of the book. This is enabled by the ability of any story to take the concept out of isolation, and to put it into the context being more meaningful and, thus, to become easily comprehensible. The use of stories for teaching also creates an emotional connection with students. Thus, this increases the students’ concentration spans and allows them to build some interests during a lesson. The emotional connection opens the door in the heart of listeners, providing with a chance for listeners to experience the variety of emotions without being under these emotions themselves. For instance, while telling a sad story to students, they experience the emotions of sadness; when the story is scary, the emotions of fear will take above all other, even despite the fact that they are listening to this story in safety (Sawyer, 1977).

The storytelling also fosters the social understanding. It promotes the understanding of other people and their culture, as it brings the feeling of connection to the story regardless of the part of the world from which the story has been derived. Thus, storytelling promotes tolerance, compassion, respect and responsibility to others. Listeners are able to evaluate different ideas, which are used in the story, and to understand the behavior of other people through stories. This enables the cohesion of the society through understanding being developed through these narrated stories. Stories have been used to encourage a peaceful coexistence among different communities through the spirit of tolerance, understanding and acceptance of each other’s faults and the appreciation of their strengths.

Storytelling promotes intimacy among different groups of people. The emotional connection established allows people to share the struggles that characters in the story go through, and which they are able to relate to their today’s problems. This establishes an intimate relationship with the characters of the story. The intimacy created can be correctly manipulated to inspire individuals for actions. This aspect of inspiring action is particularly relevant in such cases where a manager or an entrepreneur wants to encourage his or her employees, or even further to convince the investors in business. The telling of the moving and inspiring story will draw the compassion of investors into investing into business. Storytelling, therefore, serves a crucial role in every aspect of the human life (Simmons & Lipman 2006).

The Art of Storytelling

As an art, storytelling takes the number one slot as the oldest highly treasured mode of communication in different societies. The art of storytelling takes many forms depending on the storyteller. Each form is unique and equally enjoyable. There are various types of story tellers including those being literal tellers. Such tellers use rotten word to remain faithful and true to the authors of manuscripts. Other groups of story tellers are those that change the authors’ literary language. In this form, they adjust the language and their own emblements. In this way, they recast the story into the other inventive approach. All these forms represent different means that storytellers can take. There are many other forms that storytellers can accept including the paralanguage and folk storytellers.

The art of storytelling is totally the work of mastery being required from the side of the storyteller. How good the story is depends on the storyteller and on his ability to choose the compelling story that suits the audience, times his ability to tell stories, controls the environment, uses gestures, ends the story well, and many others. Therefore, while preparing to tell any story, the teller must be able to assess his audience; and, thus, to select the story being appropriate and relevant to the occasion, putting in mind the interests and the age difference of the audience. The storyteller must, therefore, select the story with a complete precision and careful attention to the length of the story and the phraseology used. A talented storyteller will pick a short story with repetitive phrases. These will help for the memorization of the story, which will be easier. Similarly, the teller must select the story that he likes as this will be detected by the audience if he tells anything that he does not like at all. The interest of the story teller will determine whether the audience enjoys the story or not (Denning, 2005).

After the selection of story, the teller must then commit to memory of the entire story, memorizing every phrase, noticing every comma and exclamation mark used in the story. Missing anything may be detrimental to the flow of the story. The teller must be able to draw mental pictures of characters in the story, and, thus, to visualize the vents in the story with ease. This helps in the memorization of everything and also while telling the story to the audience. The ability of teller to memorize the story has to be good as he is required to have remembered threat least different stories that he can tell. He has to be careful not to mix up the details of stories for this will completely the end of the session.

In the process of memorizing the story, the teller must keep a record of time. Usually, the storyteller narrates the story to himself in the mirror timing his pauses, changing the speed of delivery, changing his pitches, varying the emphasis in the story, building up the climax and assessing the time spent for delivering the story. When the time spent appears to be too long, the teller may realize that he is telling his story too slow. If the time spent is short, then the narrator is telling his story too fast. The teller must also ensure that he is controlling the tone of his or her voice masterfully.

The aspect of confidence from the storyteller is beneficial while telling the story. The teller must, therefore, be confident, audible and to maintain an eye contact with listeners through the story. In displaying confidence, the storyteller can employ the use of gestures to bring the l ifeinto his story. Where gestures are used, the special care must be taken not to overuse them as this might end up turning the storytelling session into the skit. Similarly, the gestures used must be relevant to the story that is being told. The environment, in which the story is being told, is crucial as it can break or make the storytelling session finish. The storyteller must, therefore, ensure that he has a considerable control of both the internal and external environments out of which the story is being told. The place must be correctly enclosed and protected from the external disturbances such as noise and other forms of interruption that might affect the concentration of audience. In addition, the sitting area must be comfortably furnished with appropriate sitting materials, which will help to enhance the concentration and attention of audience (MacDonald, 2006).

Finally, when ending the story, the teller must ensure that he has achieved the climax of the story with the precision and certainty. He should not ask for a moral lesson, neither should he suggest a new story to be told. The ending of the story should be designed to make the audience wish to hear the other story.

Digital Stories

This refers to the use of computer based materials to tell stories. Digital stories are, therefore, short and brief, may be in the forms of multimedia sonnets being similar by their nature to the tales created by individuals everywhere. These stories relate to any matter and are shared electronically around the world. This can take the form of web-based images, recorded audio narratives, text and video clips, and music. Digital stories are, therefore, a unique venture, which essentially describes the practice of ordinary individuals employing the use of multimedia tools to tell stories. They range from web-based stories, hypertexts, and filmmaking and may also be used in the field of advertising and product marketing by some commercial or non-profit making companies.

It can be described as the practice of merging narratives with a digital content to tell the story. The digital content may include images, sounds and videos. The stories told through the combination of narratives and digital content have the characteristics of strong emotional components as they are able to incorporate different aspects to deliver the story. The digital stories are also used to serve a crucial purpose, as they can be used to offer instructions, persuade or even dissuade. This may also be applied in order to encourage the moment of reflection and to allow a historical analysis of different events in the world and how they have shaped the society up for today. They have the advantage of using the unlimited content being available in the internet. This facilitates the creation of digital stories being unique in their own way and which are drawn from the present society (Aitken, 2002).

The growth and development in the field of technology has seen the increase in the production of many multimedia products facilitating digital stories. Today, there are many techniques of production, software and hardware, including digital cameras, digital voice recorders, movies, Movie Makers and final cut expresses. This all has allowed individuals to share with their stories by the internet. These digital stories have been further enhanced by the existence of social networking sites and other multimedia tools as the Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and many others.

In digital storytelling, unlike in the ordinary storytelling, one must have a script. The development of digital story requires the script to develop a coherent and understandable story through the use of digital technology. Once the person has the script, he or she can then employ the use of multimedia tools to support the ideas and emotions that he has developed in the script. These digital aspects used may include music, audio effects, personal images or even web-based images, which have been properly cropped and fitted into the script. Animations and other electronic elements also support the script (Walsh, 2003).

Digital storytelling plays a pivotal role similar to that of the traditional storytelling. Just like how the traditional storytelling has been used to teach the society, digital stories employ the use of dynamic media components to achieve the same purpose. It teaches the beliefs and values to recipients of stories in the manner being unique by nature. Digital storytelling, therefore, presents a new form of storytelling in the modern society that conforms to the current trends of modernization and development. It is the aspect that has received much attention in many institutions of higher learning. Most tutors have used digital storytelling to offer lessons to their students. It is the form of storytelling that should remain.

The Use of Digital Stories in the EFL Classroom

Digital stories are a contemporary form of traditional storytelling. These are the stories that use photos, a recorded narration, video clips and music to create the multimedia narrative. The advent of digital storytelling has allowed an integration of new technologies within the curriculum. Thus, providing both teachers and students with the attractive learning activity to substitute or at least to complement the traditional ones is a good idea. Digital storytelling provides a good way of engaging students into both traditional and innovative ways of telling the story, since students learn how to combine some basic multimedia tools, i.e. graphics or animations, with the activities as doing a research, writing, delivering presentations, using the technology, interviewing, improving interpersonal skills, learning some problem-solving techniques and the assessment of expenses (Fog & Budtz & Yakaboylu, 2010).

Digital storytelling as a tool of teaching in the EFL classroom plays an extremely essential function. Firstly, it helps to develop the student’s own point of view during the research. Digital storytelling does not encourage the situation in which the student picks work from other writers and presents it as his own paper. It helps the student to integrate his own personal opinion aside from that presented by other writers or even by teachers. Therefore, while doing the research using digital storytelling, the final product must reflect the student’s way of perception, interpretation and final transmission of the knowledge gained through the research. This is a unique characteristic differentiating this method of learning from other genres.

Digital storytelling, therefore, encourages learners to design their own information. It presents the innovative approach to researching and teaching, whereby learners are requested to present their work through the incorporation of digital content making the work look more attractive  and as well more educative. The growth in the technology industry has enabled the access to all multimedia products by the institutions of higher learning. This has promoted the concept of digital story telling (Lipman, 2006).

Digital storytelling also allows the growth and development of skills among students. During the process of digital creation, a number of skills are required for the well developed digital story. These skills include the research skills, writing skills, organization skills, presentation skills, interpersonal skills and the ultimately problem-solving skills. The students will need the research and writing skills in order to develop a decent script that can have a strong digital representation. Since digital storytelling takes the form of the short movie lasting from 2 to 5 minutes, the students will require some excellent presentation skills to put across his ideas in the manner being appealing, entertaining and educative at the same time. The students will require a good organization to plan the events in the digital story in the manner being both coherent and cohesive. Interpersonal skills help the students to be able to have a good rapport with other students or even teachers that may be able to help in the preparation of the story. All these skills help students to enhance their knowledge of digital, global, visual and technological literacy. The students are, therefore, able to integrate all these skills to design the information rather than just to write what others have already researched and written. The students develop multiple skills through the aspect of digital storytelling, which results into the complete training of individuals after school due to many skills.

Another use of digital stories is that it helps in the land acquisition by students. One of the main purposes of making students use digital storytelling is to enable them to grow in their command of English. This is because digital storytelling allows students to practice both the written and spoken language. The learners preparing a digital story usually get many opportunities to interact and use the language in the authentic and meaningful manner. In the process of these interactions, they meet the challenges that require them to understand different meanings of new words. They, therefore, acquire the knowledge as they participate in story building and attempt to develop their respective scripts. They explore the narrative genre; and they are able to learn the new vocabularies. Once they have developed their scripts, they will start to narrate their stories with the careful attention given to the spoken genre of English. This is especially of the case where the digital story is narrated through the recorded voice, which will require the students to speak. The development of language gives students the confidence in language and allows them to develop more interest in learning the language. The development of language is in line with the objectives of the EFL module, which encourages the improved communication across all cultures, in the language that is understandable to all. It is, therefore, more advantageous when it comes to teaching languages as students will be more conversant and more prepared (Simmons, 2007).

Digital stories are also used to promote and enhance the intercultural communication among peer groups. The basic concept under the EFL is to promote and facilitate communication and understanding across many different cultures. The use of digital storytelling serves this goal in the way that no other method could have achieved. The fact that digital stories can be exchanged across the web to all parts of the world is a fundamental aspect that enables the intercultural communication and interaction.

In the process of story building, the students are able to exchange their ideas, videos, photos and even graphics. This exchange is usually done via online communication by the use of internet. Thus, digital storytelling promotes the cultural association and interaction. This leads to the appreciation of other cultures and, thus, to promoting the peaceful coexistence and tolerance among the cultures interacting. Indeed, the development of technology has technically made the world a global village, which has facilitated the intercultural association and interaction regardless of the borders, distance, time or even accessibility. With the use of internet, the person can be able to interact with another person being in India or Africa despite the time difference and even the distance. Such is the power of digital storytelling that people can be able to engage in the live interaction all over the globe without having to move an inch further (Muller & Denning & Walsh &Shigeo, 2012)

In conclusion, digital storytelling presents a new dynamics in the education sector, which promises to be covered with real benefits that every serious learning institution must be careful not to ignore. It cuts every aspect of human life, presenting the dynamic and entertaining approach to the art of teaching. In the society where everything has to be entertaining, the use of digital storytelling in the EFL classroom is not only timely but also relevant.

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