Digital Storytelling:
Reflexive Practice
in the University Classroom

Panel: Digital Storytelling and Educational Pedagogy
Sixth International Digital Storytelling Conference
Northampton/Amherst USA
27 September 2015

Presentation: PowerPoint (PDF 1.3MB)


John W. Higgins, Department of Media Studies, University of San Francisco USA;  US Fulbright Scholar, Cyprus, 2010. 
Email: Jhiggins [at]     Twitter: ProfHigginsJ
Facebook: Prof Higgins     LinkedIn: John W. Higgins
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A basic tenet of storytelling is that humans use stories to understand their world(s) – and themselves.  Students in particular lead very busy, structured lives that leave little time to think deeply about meaning – in their own lives, or within the culture – or to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena.

Reflexive practices offer the opportunity for learners to contextualize personal and social experience as a part of the lifelong processes of self-reflexivity and learning.  Digital storytelling is a particularly valuable process that encourages the kind of personal reflection discussed by Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, guided by approaches from Brenda Dervin’s Sense-Making Methodology.

The presentation draws from examples of pedagogical practices and student personal stories since 2006 in university classrooms in the US, Cyprus, and Turkey. 

Student stories and work are available at: 

University of San Francisco  Digital Stories 2011-2015 

University of San Francisco  Comic Books/Graphic Novels 2015  
(using Comic Life by Plasq)

Nicosia, Cyprus Digital Stories 
(Uof Cy, NEU, EUC  2008, 2010, 2011, 2013) 

Cypriot Voices:  Oral Histories 1996 & 2010

Menlo College, Atherton CA  Digital Stories 2005-2010 



Higgins: Cyprus-Peacebuilding-Community Media-Digital Storytelling GMJ-ME_Spring_2011  (pdf)
"Peace-building Through Listening, Digital Storytelling, and Community Media in Cyprus."  Article describing Fall 2010 Fulbright project using community media and digital storytelling for peace-building in Cyprus. Global Media Journal, Mediterranean Edition 6.1: Spring 2011

Higgins: Cyprus-Oral History  (pdf)
“Self-reflexivity in Oral Histories: Pedagogical Practices in Cypriot University Classrooms."  Chapter in Challenging History: Oral History Work in Cyprus.  Ed. Holger Briel.  Nicosia: U of Nicosia Press. 2014.

Higgins: Paulo Freire  (pdf)
“Paulo Freire and Social Transformation."  Peace Review 9.4: 571-577. 1997.


John W. Higgins is a communication consultant in San Francisco and adjunct professor of Media Studies at the University of San Francisco. He has been involved in community-based radio and video for over three decades, including service as President of San Francisco public access cable TV’s board of directors. John has taught and developed communication facilities and programs of study at colleges and universities in the U.S. and overseas.

In 2010, he was a U.S. Fulbright Scholar in Cyprus, using digital storytelling, oral history, self-reflexivity and community-based media for peace-building between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities. He continues peace-building and training projects with groups across the island, involving the US Embassy, the Cyprus Fulbright Commission, United Nations Development Programme, and the Cyprus Community Media Centre.

Higgins holds a Ph.D. in Communication from Ohio State University; his research interests include community-based, grassroots, “alternative” media; media production; communication technologies; critical pedagogies; digital storytelling and oral history as art and social science. John’s background includes thirty years as a professional puppeteer and street performer.

Additional information: Higgins


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updated 25 September 2015