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Wunderbar! Using digital storytelling to teach German economics students

Alumni News

Curtin mass communication graduate Jerome Goerke has played a key role in trialling an innovative online, soap opera–style series of short videos about commerce and trade in Germany.

The character Ayse from the German state-funded DiNöB program.
The character Ayse from the German state-funded DiNöB program.

The videos were implemented as part of the German state-funded Digitale Narrationen als innovativer didaktischer Ansatz für eine ökonomische Bildung im Handel (DiNöB) program (‘Digital Narration as an Innovative Didactic Approach for Economic Education in Trade’ program) at several commerce-focused educational institutions across Germany.

Students follow the story of four young characters based in the trendy Berlin suburb of Neukölln, who face unique economic or trade-related challenges. After watching each video, students are required to answer questions relating to the challenges the protagonists face, as part of their lesson plans.

“I think the program was initiated by the government as a way to help institutions keep up with the times,” explains Goerke, who was responsible for evaluating how students interacted with DiNöB at the bbw University of Applied Sciences in Berlin.

“The proliferation of content has forced creators and those who provide ‘knowledge offerings’ to supply compact, concise and attractive parcels of knowledge to ensure their message cuts through the digital noise. Chunked information, such as what is used in the episodic nature of the digital narratives developed in DiNöB, follows on from this trend.”

A consortium of seven different German organisations helped develop the program, which resulted in the production of 17 sequential ‘episodes’ and their associated questions.

These episodes were developed in a way that the students could form an emotional connection with the characters, and then ‘grow’ with them as they progressed through the story.

The first few episodes addressed relatively simple trade-related concepts suited to first year bachelor students, but then increased in difficulty as the plot developed.

Now in its final stages, Goerke says the project has been well received by participants who have been impressed by DiNöB’s innovative and digital approach.

“Across the board, students said they found the material more engaging than learning from a book, and the mix of listening, watching, thinking and interacting has stimulated them much more than traditional methods,” Goerke explains.

“What has also been insightful is that the students are not necessarily interested in the backstories of the characters, but they do become very attentive when one character is in the process of learning something from another character, such as calculation or market analysis techniques.”

Want to test your German? Check out the ‘trailer’ for the first stage of the DiNöB program.

Working in the German education sector is the latest opportunity for the Perth-born and bred mass communications graduate, who made the decision to move to Berlin in his mid-20s after falling in love with the city during his overseas travels.

While he originally pursued a career in text-based communication, and following a period in the news room at German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle TV, Goerke says that the internet’s shifting focus to video convinced him to set up his own digital storytelling and production house, Wivern Digital.

Wivern’s first contract was to revive the iconic Pittiplatsch, a mischievous yet loveable goblin who appeared on German television screens from the 1960s–90s, for a social media campaign announcing new merchandise.

Goerke has also developed his own creation, an enthralling transmedia fantasy world for children that young readers can explore across both digital and analogue devices called Addison’s Tales.

Jerome Goerke designed his own musical storyworld, Addison’s Tales.

“The aim of Addison’s Tales is to give young readers the chance to enjoy stories in different formats, such e-books, apps or audiobooks. In 2015, I added my first paperback to the mix by creating a way readers could scan the paperback page with their phones or press the screen if they were reading on a Kindle whenever the main character, Tom Thorneval, sings during his adventure. Readers could magically hear him singing his song,” Goerke explains.

Goerke believes there’s no better time than now to pursue a career as a storyteller, whether in the analogue or digital space.

“There are so many ways of teaching yourself new skills that you need not be disappointed if the first medium you choose doesn’t bring you satisfaction,” says Goerke.

“My advice for people considering mass communications or any similar field is the same as what I put at the bottom of my Wivern Digital webpage. It is given by one of my all-time favourite storytellers, Jim Henson [the creator of the Muppets and voice of Kermit the Frog]: ‘Life’s like a movie, write your own ending’.”

 

Note: ‘bbw’ is an acronym for the Bildungswerks der Wirtschaft in Berlin und Brandenburg (‘Educational Institute of the Economy in Berlin and Brandenburg’).

Graduate snapshot

Jerome Goerke

Name: Jerome Goerke

Studied: Bachelor of Arts (Mass Communication)

Graduated: 2002

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