Place-based Storytelling

In the latest issue (August, 2007) of Learning and Leading with Technology, the article on The Power of the Mashup appears. In that article, it shares the story of Jerome Burg and his use of Google Earth.

[Burg] heightening global interest in literary road trips by creating a resource that combines a new technology with a time-tested instructional approach. Google Lit Trips harnesses Google Earth as a powerhouse teaching tool for literature studies. The interactive Web-based application allows users to literally search the globe, using satellite imagery, maps, terrain, and other three-dimensional images. Burg has designed custom files so that literature student virtually travel along with a literary character, using Google Earth to explore the key locations of a story.

As exciting as this is, I was fascinated to read this email from Brenda Dyck on place-based digital storytelling. She shares the following (I've quoted her text in blue):

"Placed-based storytelling enables a connection between the past and the present that enriches both; enriches our understanding of both. Not only in terms of how we view them, but especially in terms of how we use both the past and the present to guide us into the future." ~
Elizabeth Lay, Historiographer, Teacher

Here is a new project for you and your students! I've had my eye on a new morph of digital storytelling, called digital place-based storytelling. Digital placed-based storytelling (also called StoryMapping) uses easy to use online digital mapping tools like Google Maps or Community Walk and combines it with the narrative to produce a learning product that helps the student to make a connection between the past and present and understand how community shapes who we are.

Using the "Find a Story...Tell a Story... Map a Story" project, you can create a project with your students as a class or you can have the students identify a "place" that has meaning for them and using Community Walk, find the map of that place and add place markers of important locations. From here they add a photograph (one they've taken themselves or ones they've downloaded) and write a brief memory or explanation of why this is an important place... and the story unfolds through geographical location, story and image. For the project, I created an example, a memory map of the first neighborhood I lived in as a child. There is a project rubric included and an abundance of ways you could use this project context:

- in LA: have students create a storymap of their neighborhood, sharing markers of significant places from their childhood, a storymap of their family's immigration from Russia/China/India.

  • create a storymap of a novel that has a trip or of a historical novel. A biography would work well too. I've seen the Grapes of Wrath novel used as the basis of a storymap.
  • create a historical narrative using a map to place the story in context
  • students could create a short biograhical narrative about a historical figure
  • students could identify makers of key industries in their state and add an explanation to each marker of its significance to the economy of the state.
  • science teacher, Joselyn Todd wondered about having students use place-based storytelling to relate the migration or extinction of a species

The possibilities are endless. Look through the "Find a Story...Tell a Story... Map a Story" project web site below. If you'd like to join my project, please email me at and I will add you to my place-based storytelling discussion community in September and will post your student's project work in a student work gallery once its done.

"Find a Story...Tell a Story... Map a Story"

You can reach Brenda Dyck (Sessional Instructtor), Faculty of Education, University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta via email at

This is a nifty idea and one worth exploring! In a similar vein (working with stories), my school district is embarking on Online Literature Circles and Global Collaborative Projects. I encourage you to check that out as well at!

Place-based Storytelling presents another approach that takes advantage of new technologies.

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