UNSW Aspire – Using digital storytelling to explore student hopes and dreams

UNSW’s ASPIRE outreach program aims to make university more accessible for students from regions of educational disadvantage.  Their diverse programs build confidence for students and put university education in reach by providing information and experiences such as mentorship, immersive career experience and more.

The ASPIRE team recognise the power of digital storytelling to be an engaging tool for working with young people, to help them express themselves creatively and also to consider future career pathways in the digital space.

Rather than commissioning Digital Storytellers to run ongoing training for ASPIRE (which would be unsustainable both logistically and economically!), Digital Storytellers worked with ASPIRE’s program officers and ran a “Train-the-Trainer” program to get them skilled up with our approach, tools and techniques so that they would be able to deliver digital storytelling activities as part of their programs with students.

As always, our approach is to learn by doing. Over two days, the ASPIRE team created and captured stories about their work and purpose. We debriefed each tool and exercise to put it in the context of how they might use it in their programs to ensure that they felt confident delivering the content.  Now ASPIRE staff delivers the Stories For Impact program to high school students in Sydney and on locations throughout rural NSW. Students get a snapshot of all the fun careers waiting for them and get to articulate their hopes and challenges through the power of storytelling.

ASPIRE are also using digital storytelling as a research tool for exploring educational access and equity. Dr Sarah O’Shea, an ASPIRE collaborator, is a Professor and widely published researcher. She works within a qualitative framework and draws upon narrative inquiry for her research.

The research team invited us to develop a short workshop for nearly 60 high school students from Central West NSW to help them share ideas about their hopes and future. We ran 2-hour workshops, focused on Finding and Making the story about their future, their career aspirations and barriers preventing them from attending university. We designed a program that involved scribing, time-lapsing, interviewing and editing. In a very short time the students developed insightful, creative and humorous videos which were screened to the group at the end of the program. Dr. O’Shea and her team will be drawing from these videos for her research into educational access and equity.

We can’t wait to hear more about her research and see what these students accomplish in the future.