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Digital storytelling toolbox for diversity training in schools

Dr Abigail Gardner, Associate Professor of Music and Media, University of Gloucestershire, is the lead researcher on an award-winning Erasmus-funded project, which aimed to address issues of diversity common across the European Union through digital storytelling. ‘My Story’ (MYSTY) was a digital storytelling project involving the collection, editing and uploading of stories about ‘food, family and festival’ to the project website.

Digital stories are short ‘videos’ with photographs, images and audio. The storytelling project provided a means for teachers to share and embed innovative teaching practice to enhance awareness of cultural diversity. 

The project had eight partners from Higher Education, secondary schools and NGOs, across four countries (Austria, Hungary, Italy and the UK), with a network of teachers, media and education academics, and technicians.

Dr Gardner said:

“Rapid migration into Europe has revealed growing distances between different cultures and communities, including in educational settings. In order to help children and young people become responsible, open-minded members of our diverse society, the MYSTY Project provides a means for teachers to share and embed innovative teaching practice to enhance awareness of cultural diversity.

“The project stimulated pupils to use familiar digital tools in different ways. Following this, it challenged teachers to co-work with pupils whose personal histories they had not known, increasing affective empathy and intergenerational dialogue. Further, parents learnt new things about how their children viewed key moments of family life. Teaching staff and school governors learnt that digital tools could be positively used for less academic students.

“MYSTY is one of a series of digital storytelling projects that the University of Gloucestershire School of Media has led over the last decade. We aim to spotlight under-represented lives and communities.”

A parent from St Edwards School, Cheltenham said:

The MYSTY event “was delightful as well as enlightening. My son’s peers shared tales of feasts, adoption, music festivals and loss. We learnt a lot about the children and the other families lives and customs in a succinct and entertaining way with all the accompanying photographs.” 

Dr Elizabeth Pöltzleitner, teacher at Gibs International School, Graz, Austria said:

“For me the most interesting aspect of this project is the deep level of personalisation and engagement. I had done all kinds of digital work and story writing projects with my students before, but this project was different. The students engaged on a more personal and deeper level and got to know one another much better – even though they had been together for five years. It is this sharing of personally important stories, that makes this project stand out for me.”

Further information on MYSTY is available on the project website and as an eprint on the University of Gloucestershire website.