Theme 4 – Development and Change

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Participants were asked questions about what they saw as the best ways of developing the capacity of Netskills and Infonet to make full use of digital storytelling. Only five of the seven people interviewed had expressed an interest in getting actively involved in storytelling activities. I’ve grouped their responses into issues around current skills and abilities, creating a suitable environment for developing skills and preferred approaches to learning.

Current skills and abilities

Owing to the variety of roles within the Netskills and Infonet teams there was quite a broad spread of skills levels. Respondents made the distinction between technical skills involved in producing the digital stories and the more creative skills of story writing. There was little elaboration on what technology might be required for producing digital stories. It was seen as being of secondary importance.

“I’m not familiar with the tools, but I don’t see this as an obstacle aside from having the time and opportunity.” SH

KV and RY rated their existing technical skills highly. RY said that her journalistic background meant she was confident telling stories using videos and that new software could be learned quickly. KV alluded to the technical training he already delivered for Netskills and the fact that learning about new technology is one of its main activities as the basis for his confidence.

“There’s still a set of technical skills I can learn but that doesn’t scare me because it’s what we do.” KV

But he added;

“The softer side is much harder and more alien. My science background…knocked it out of me!” KV

RY also said that she needed to develop her storytelling skills. Both of them felt that this was partly to do with their professional backgrounds. With KV, the required writing style of a scientific researcher was…

“…a technical writing style that wasn’t flowery, was to the point; accurate. If you wanted to progress that was the style you wrote in. If you wanted [your work] publishing, that was the style set out. It was the only type of writing I did for a long time.” KV

RY’s journalistic background might seem to be much more suited to storytelling but like KV, she said the required writing style for that profession was different from that required by the more emotionally open style of digital storytelling. Journalistic stories “focus on the facts.”

CF’s explained his situation:

“I’m comfortable with my ability to create narrative and record it. I’m less comfortable with the digital.” CF

He described recording the audio narration for a digital story during a “boot camp” training session but he said he had not completed adding a visual element. This was partly to do with skills but also “about finding the time to do it!”

Another influencing factor on some participants’ perceptions of their capabilities was linked to their personality styles.

CF saw one element of his personality style as posing a challenge to using storytelling approaches:

“I’m naturally not the most reflective of people. I tend to look forward rather than back. Storytelling is potentially mostly about something that has happened. That’s challenging.” CF

In contrast, when TG reflecting on his responses to a digital storytelling workshop noted that his personality suited the openly emotional nature of the technique.

“…[I] felt quite comfortable with it. I feel comfortable with being open quite generally – things with an emotional side.” TG

Preferences for learning

Participants were asked what needed to be in place within the organisation to make these approaches possible. Many of the responses focused on the need for skills development but methods mentioned both specialist-led, out of context training techniques as well as more peer-to-peer and contextual methods.

TG and KV had undertaken a four day training workshop some months previously on digital storytelling and KV and RY had been through a programme of video production skills with a filmmaker which all said had helped develop their skills. TG said:

“A major requirement is training, some technical training even when you are experienced. You need to rejog your memory. For people who have not done it before it [storytelling] could be frustrating and time-consuming. Training’s the biggest thing.” TG

More indirectly, TG and SH mentioned the influence of more distant figures on their thinking; Sir Ken Robinson for his talks on creativity and Simon Sinek for his presentations on leadership and influence. In both these cases the participants had accessed these through freely available web-based videos.

What was common for all the respondents actively involved in storytelling was their wish to work collaboratively and how the work of colleagues had or could influence their own practice. For SH it was important to have “…lots of chance to try it out in a safe environment.” He added later:

“I’d like to see more examples from other people. It would be helpful to see a variety. It’s valuable to be able to critique other people’s [work] but do it in a safe environment.” SH

KV talked about how seeing TG’s digital story that came out of a workshop session was an important step for his learning, seeing it as interesting and inspiring. TG was also able to pass the skills he had developed on to another colleague not involved in this study whom he was helping to use the technique as part of an application submission to a professional body.

Next page: Theme 5 – The organisational context