Written by: Denisse Albornoz; Edited By: Gioel Gioacchino and Maria Paola Wong (Program Manager at Casa – Pueblito)

Too often students do not get to influence their education. And trust us – they have lots to say. Inviting them to create digital stories about their experiences in school is a great way to break the ice. This technique was used as part of the PAR project ‘Voices for Change: Developing Leadership in Inclusive Education’ designed and implemented by Casa-Pueblito in the Winter and Spring of 2016.

Our experience using this technique:

The Casa – Pueblito team used this technique to engage Latinx high school students in conversation about their experiences in school. The program was 12-weeks long and consisted of a series of workshops in which students achieved two objectives. First, they got to meet other Latinx students and share stories about how their Latinidad was shaping their identities, relationships and learning experiences in school. And second, they learned digital skills – photography, video filming, video editing and voice recording – to translate these stories into powerful short films.   

This is an example of how participatory video can help youth can reflect about their place in the world and their ability to make change in it. 

Research and Development

What are we trying to understand about the community?
40% of Latinx and Portuguese students drop out of high school. 40%. So Casa – Pueblito devised a project to improve the retention rates and success rates of Latinx students. By asking students directly, they wanted to understand the underlying reasons behind this alarming number.  In a past iteration of the project we found out that students are dropping out due to prejudices and stereotypes, lack of representation in the curriculum and lack of academic support, among others. However, every year yields different stories – and with them, new and different barriers.
Why is it important for the community’s development?

The main objective of the program is to create a platform where students voices are heard – and where they matter. This is crucial to develop the skills of youth as community leaders and build a community of support between students facing similar challenges in the classroom. However, these barriers have real life stakes for the students and community. The dropout rate feeds a cycle of unemployment and poverty in the Latinx community in Toronto. Understanding these barriers is the first step towards addressing them.

At what stage(s) of the research cycle is this method use
Data collection, data analysis, and research dissemination.
About Casa - Pueblito

Casa –  Pueblito is a non-profit, international organization that facilitates community development and intercultural learning with a focus on youth in Canada and Latin America. One of our programs, Voices for Change: Developing Leadership in Inclusive Education (2014 – 2017) , is a Toronto and Peel-based program working to increase Latinx student success and retention rates by providing a space for Latinx secondary students to champion for diversity and inclusivity in our schools and communities through the Youth Change-Maker program.

It’s doing this in two ways:  a) By providing professional development opportunities to teachers in inclusive education and culturally responsive and reflective pedagogy; and b) by providing a space for Latinx secondary students to champion for diversity and inclusivity in their schools and communities through the Youth Change-Maker program.

Throughout the 2015-2016 school year, 6 Youth Change-Makers (coming from both the Toronto District School Board and Toronto Catholic District School Board) created digital stories to bring awareness to issues contributing to the shocking 40% dropout rate among Toronto-area Latin American students.

Voices for Change is generously funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, an agency of the government of Ontario.

Learn more about Casa – Pueblito at www.casapueblito.org



What do I need?
  • Pens and pencils
  • Cameras (photo and video)
  • Voice recorders
  • Video editing software
How long does it take?
This is a 12 week program consisting of 2 hour after-school workshops. We’ve also found it can be adapted into a 6 week program of 4 hour Saturday workshops. In the event that you work with out-of-school youth then the timeline can be shortened to two weeks working with the group 3 times a week.

Step-by-step description
1. Facilitators lead discussion workshops about theme of the program (in this case, the impact of their Latinx identity on their education )
2. Students share their stories through a story circle
3. Students write their script and request feedback from peers and facilitators
4. Facilitators train students on photography, video making and video editing
5. Students build a storyboard to visualize the stories
6. Students take pictures and videos
7. Students record their voices reading their script
8. Put everything together in a video editing software!
9. Plan a screening to show friends and family

Benefits and Challenges  

What are the benefits of using this technique?

This technique creates the following opportunities for participants:

  • Participants get to reflect on their experience as Latinx students
  • The act of sharing personal stories is cathartic and inspires feelings of empathy and solidarity
  • The digital components allow participants to express themselves through different mediums. This creates a more inclusive, accepting and creative space than what they experience in the classroom.
  • In the 12 weeks students can develop meaningful relationships with one another and build a community
  • The digital stories are easy to share on social media and can be used for advocacy and fundraising purposes
What are the challenges of using this technique?
The act of sharing stories leads students to revisit painful memories in which they felt excluded, discriminated against or as one of the students put it, invisible. Creating a safe environment and developing trust between students and facilitators is key for the success of this technique. However, if this is achieved – the students leave the program not only having created amazing digital stories, but also with increased awareness of their power to change their own narratives.


How to adapt the technique
It is a good technique to start conversations about identity, social belonging and community building. It can be adapted into a format that fits the interests, concerns and realities of participants.

Learn More: Interesting links/Audio visual material

Toolkit for Inclusive Education

Toolkit for Inclusive Education: Developed in 2012 by Casa – Pueblito in collaboration with practicing teachers from the Toronto Catholic District School Board and updated in 2014, the  Toolkit contains lesson plans and professional development resources that are designed to help educators create more inclusive and diverse classrooms that better engage Latinx secondary school students.

Our Voices in School

Our Voices in School: The first digital storytelling project ran by Casa – Pueblito in 2012.  Watch it on vimeo. Password: OVIS private screener.

Digital Storytelling Toronto
Digital Storytelling Toronto: Digital Storytelling Toronto helps participants use digital media tools to craft, record, and share the stories of individuals and their communities. Digital Storytelling training offers a structured group process that helps participants create their own two to four minute digital story in order to promote learning, action, and positive change in the community. DST mentored and trained students who were part of the Voices for Change program.

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