At the core of the Moving Stories App project is a belief that stories matter. As humans, stories are at the fundamental to who we are—sharing them with an audience that listens validates our experiences. By creating a space in which our students’ stories can share their histories, we are telling them that they matter.
Storytelling is part of an exchange between a speaker and an audience. It is important to remember that while speaking is an important part of the transaction, listening matters just as well. When we hear about someone else’s experience or read about other people’s perspectives, we are learning. We may learn something new, or it may reinforce what we already know. Literature teachers often talk about the importance of books as windows and mirrors – windows to new worlds, and mirrors to our own experience. Stories can work that way as well.
In a review of the book On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction, Steve Denning notes that at the height of the scientific revolution, “Narrative was seen as either infantile or trivial.” Yet, “storytelling…lived on in the cracks and crevices of society—in the cafeterias, the corridors, around water-coolers, in bars and restaurants, living rooms and bedrooms.” Indeed, “storytelling is a universal feature of every country and every culture.”
Noted historian Yuval Noah Harari, the author of Sapiens: A History of Human Kind concurs. We humans are unique, precisely because of our capacity to relate to one another through storytelling. He writes:
Sapiens rule the world, because we are the only animal that can cooperate flexibly in large numbers. We can create mass cooperation networks, in which thousands and millions of complete strangers work together towards common goals. . . . The real difference between us and chimpanzees is the mysterious glue that enables millions of humans to cooperate effectively…This mysterious glue is made of stories, not genes.
In the classroom, while many students will find telling stories engaging, it is sometimes helpful to provide a framework for sharing stories with others.