5 Ways to Use Technology for Family Storytelling

Technology has dramatically changed the way we communicate, create and collaborate with each other. It makes our world more connected and amplifies individual stories. And yet keeping up with the latest apps and gadgets and learning how to use them can feel intimidating and overwhelming. One of the things we love the most about technology and the digital age is that it encourages us all to be curious, forever learners. Embracing technology and experimenting with new devices and platforms in your home makes you and your child co-learners. It is okay not to know everything. It is liberating for your child to see you as both a learner and a teacher and above all an open-minded explorer. Here are five ways to use technology for family storytelling.

1. Make visual literacy meaningful.

Learning how to tell a story through a photo, and how to see the story within a photo is an important part of literacy. A fun way to incorporate visual literacy and technology is to use some of the great photo sharing apps to give out positive affirmation. LitWorld's Story21 Family LitClub uses 23snaps to express love and praise within families. Every week families take portraits of each member and caption the photo with one nice thing about that person or one thing they did well that week. At the end of the program we'll be printing photo books of their pictures and writing using the app. It is important to publish and celebrate the artistry and thoughtful work you are doing as a family, and the photo book captures precious moments in your family's narrative.

2. Decide what you stand for.

At LitWorld we are constantly thinking about our mission statement and core values. What are we "for"? What change do we want to see in the world and what practices and mindsets define who we are as an organization? This practice is a valuable exercise to do as a family. Defining together what you value and believe in is an important process to go through as a family. Your resulting mission statement or core values will provide touchstones for your child as he navigates the world.

A great app that we've found for this type of activity is CloudArt. It's an app for making word clouds and for brainstorming. Use it to think together about a concept or big idea. We have found that this visual way of writing really brings kids with varied interests, strengths and needs together. Start by making a family word cloud about each of your core values. This way each family member can share their personal understanding of every value. Don't forget to come back to these word clouds regularly to review, revise and to talk about the specific ways that everyone is exemplifying the core value.

3. Collect and share inspiration.

The internet gives us the extraordinary opportunity to learn from people around the world and to benefit from their experiences, creations, and wonderings. Of course it is also an opportunity to share our own inspiration and ideas out into the world. Pinterest is a great way to curate all of this inspiration. If you're unfamiliar with this platform, it is a website that allows you to create digital bulletin boards by "pinning" images, quotes, articles and more to your personal Pinterest page.

Open a family account and create some categories together that you will "pin" artifacts to as you come across them. For example, you may choose to make inspiration boards titled, "Places we want to explore;" "Things that make us laugh;" "Books we love;" "People we care about." Make sure you come together as a family regularly to review new additions to each board so that you and your child can share what it was about a particular quote or image that inspired you to pin it to a particular board.

4. Imagine and create together.

Not all family storytelling has to be non-fiction. Writing together is a wonderful way to explore curiosities and to learn about each member's creative process. Of course the stories you create can be based on real experiences, but they do not have to be. There are some great apps that can structure the writing process and bring your stories to life. We love Toontastic, an app we've used in our Story21 program to write superhero stories, and stories of friendship. This app teaches elements of story (character, setting, plot, build, resolution, mood/tone) in a really fun way. Once you finish recording and creating your story, you can play it as a movie too.

We also love Scribble My Story, which is a storybook creating app. The families of our Story21 program appreciate the freedom the app gives them to create whatever they can think up. It's also great to use with younger children because it has story templates where children can add elements to a pre-written story such as key words and their own illustrations.

5. Go offline. 

Technology and the internet do not have to be synonymous. While it's wonderful that we have the power to share everything that we create, not everything belongs online. Use a video camera (or your iPhone or tablet) to record family interviews. Have each member take time to think about the questions that they are really curious about and then hit record. Make it truly inter-generational by involving grandparents, great-aunts and even lifelong family friends. Have a private viewing party and debrief afterwards by talking about what was the most surprising thing that each family member learned, and what their favorite and least favorite part about the experience was.