Digital storytelling- integrative learning for leadership in the class

I first came in contact with this tool in Turkey, Izmir, meeting the expert guests of the Erasmus KA2 project on Emotions & Robotics. I want to offer credit to their work, their dedication, and their research effort. 

There was an important experience in which once more it revealed: when it comes to digitalization, we SHOULD pay attention 99% to the human process ( and keep/care for that process). Without caring for human capacity, digitalization lacks transformative power, it misses purpose (meaningfulness).

What do we understand by the transformative power of digitalization?

Digitalization (technology) would positively impact the way students and teachers learn together, and by “positive impact”, we mean it supports their inquiry of what is meaningful in their learning (lessons) together, in other words, students and teachers know why they learn what they learn, and they see how that learning can “work outside of the classroom”, there is a continuum. As this happens there is also a certain increased level of care for students and teachers’ attention, and education and learning “no longer feels like we are multitasking and running out of time all the time”.

picture belongs to Brian, a teacher from Spain with these words “sharing my photos of that moment… remember to connect, observe and see things from many perspectives”, March 2022

We need Human Technologies…

We need human (social) technologies that would allow us to tap into what technology is able to do today- truly connect and I don’t refer to Nokia, yet truly connect people. In the words of Otto Scharmer, MIT professor for systems thinking and systemic change “ we cannot do it alone”.In all teachers’ training that we offer, we say and stay with this: “learning happens in relation”.The more I learn to tell my story (my learning/action) authentically with others the more I learn because this kind of experimental clarity of learning ( in the 21st-century creators of knowledge, of meaning) I get if I talk to you and you and I listen from a place of skillful listening ( centered, generative in which we have the opportunity to practice and sense to suspend own ideas and judgments so we keep space). We suddenly have specious classrooms- inner and outer space and digitalization that supports that. Such tools help us work on human ergonomics or Inner skills.   

Learning relations as ARTFUL Communication 

Brian’ s photo from digitalstory, with these words ” when I was a child I wanted to be a cartoon, I wanted the freedom to express..”

With artful communication, you create the space and pedagogy of mutuality, co-creating, and co-learning, WEQ (intelligence of the group), a wider intelligence. Kirsti Lonka, Head of Phycology of Education, at Helsinki University, mentions in her book “ Phenomenal learning”- “the time of lonely genius is over.” Artful communication (Thomas Hubl, 2020) is through mutual learning ( the learning that happens in relation) we create a wider container (context) in which one can process and digest information. We prepare a space for:

  1. personal updates/new learnings; 
  2. emergency ( allowing ideas from the future to inform our learning).

 In the end, we are skillful and artful communicators, meaning we practice being better translators between the worlds (multiliteracy), as we become open to work and learn together with the awareness of many different cultures and traditions, and points of view.  

Leadership in the class

Leadership is not taking others further/somewhere yet looking back in time and space to oneself in deep awe. With a program with teachers in Ivalo, Lapland, called Integrative Practices-Leadership in the classroom we actually practiced that leadership is of the many not some skill of the few. In the words of Otto Scharmer, MIT U-School, “when I use the word ‘leader’ I refer to all people who engage in creating change or shaping their future.” We also practiced staying with the root meaning of education, “educere” meaning “to lead out”, “begin moving/the movement”. This is very close to the meaning of the word leadership, the root meaning of leadership is “to bring forth”, to leap forward (which means to act in a certain given situation in a different way with a new perspective. We practice and we notice developing the ability to HOLD during uncertainty. For students, it is practicing BEING CREATIVE ( what we preach for 21st-century education). Yet behind being creative the emotions in this progresive order are 1. tolerating confusion; 2. dwelling; 3. caring. Teachers cannot avoid their own inner skills practices, as only one that knows how it personally feels confusion (and tolerating) develops the facilitation ability to move with the class through confusion, resisting “jumping to save students from confusion” and getting back to “terra ferma”, the controlled known way of teaching and learning”.This is courageous work of teachers ( Coeur-ageous, work that comes from the heart). 

Powerful relations and listening in the class

We co-create a space where the following 3 aspects of the human capacity for mutual learning become possible, it is an everyday practice : 

  1. Openness & skillful listening 

The ability to suspend not to stay without thoughts but to recognize own thoughts and internal theater of emotions ( this is essential to scientific thinking according to Kirsti Lonka(2019) and the team of researchers focusing on scientific thinking and thinking skills. They bring forward the importance of teachers’ ability to facilitate the class around proprioception (David Bohm).  This is also awarness, the practice of noticing and training the mind not to be jumpy and immediately have a reaction, a judgment, yet prolonging that need of “informing” so we can continue listening to the other and co-create new learning as we listen.

  1. Listening to others, with open heart learning ( no cynicism yet with curiosity).

We train listening skills of generative dialogue, generative scribing, or journaling to track new learning- an idea, a new meaning shaped by the interaction. A new idea that is shaped between us does not belong to one of us, it is the spacious intelligence of WEQ. This kind of listening to others in this way supports the image of the one learning, key to lifelong learning according to the team of researchers from Helsinki as well as the image of us learning as a collective. 

  1. The capacity (ability) to establish meaningful powerful learning relations. 

We educate how to become leaders in 21st-century education. We are part of a sustainable curriculum, which in the end is about students and teachers learning what is truly meaningful to them. This way we bridge class learning with real life and classroom openness to the world as students not only learn and reproduce abstract information or knowledge but train the willingness (and strengthen imagination) to impact the world around them with that knowledge. 

We move from Power Relations in the class ( which is all learning from the past) to Powerful Listening Relations (which creates space for future foresight skills and future thinking) in the class and the school.

With tools and pedagogies as such for facilitating the classroom, learning is accelerated. By accelerated learning, we understand here the Joy of learning, that too is a sustainable curriculum, as with the Joy of learning, there is no burnout for teachers or learnout for students. They come with a certain amount of energy in school and leave with the same; learning is not depleting their resources. We can conclude and reflect that digital technology is the technology that supports well-being in school, “we all have the right to learn and work in peace”.

with Integrative Practices, Leadership in the classroom, teachers practiced as they shared their story, throwing a small rock in the river and looking for ripples, both of their own action; as well as circles of ripples meeting one another, so do our story ripple and co-create

The invitation to a short practice

 You can practice your inner process, as you come to this moment from a place of rest. For the next step, I invite you to 2-4 min of silence and relaxation in the present moment whatever that means for you where you are. A true story comes from the present moment.

Then you can reflect and write alone or in a group of 5-6 peers on the following prompts yet with no preconceived thoughts: 1. When I was a child I wanted to be…? 2. In the future my job would be /look like? 3. In the present I would like to…? and for this job/activity, I would practice (need/develop) the following skills ( and allow 2-3 skills to come to you). Short answers, or drawings. Allow a moment of pause once more. and then record this story (you can record your voice and footsteps as you walk in the nearby nature, or film nature. This will not be longer than a few seconds or one minute. We will add here a playlist with teachers’ digital storytelling.


I would like to pay tribute to teachers from Integrated Curriculum Teaching Global Skills, March 22, and Integrative Practices Leadership in the classroom, October 22 with whom we have deepen the practice.

  1.  KA 2 project “Emotions and Robotics- A Study Across Different Cultures, Educational Systems and Populations”
  2. We can practice levels of listening daily curiosity and image of the one learning and we can use this model from U School, MIT Kelvy Bird, and Otto Scharmer
  3. Inner skills
  4.  A short example of what could mean practically learning happens in relation, here in the words of education advisor Marjo Rissanen from the Finnish National Evaluation and Skills Development Network, “it is a child’s right to clarify their point of view and teacher to respect them (Convention of Children Rights); to have reflective interaction with the child, where the interaction is horizontal – in which you are on the same level as the child and are interested in the child’s thoughts”.
  5.  I wrote in more detail about Carol Sanford’s idea of “as change [that] could happen through the almost invisible work of developing the capacity to hold/contain many people to see things in different ways”
  7.  Otto Scharmer, Theory U-Leading from the Future as it Emerges
  8.  Kirsti Lonka, Phenomenal Learning, 2019
  9.  Well-being defined in a school I visited for many years in Vantaa, Finland.

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