Using Technology to Tell Stories

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Notes from Presentations about Digital Storytelling at SITE 2008

Posted by hickstro on 5th March 2008

This week, I am at SITE 2008, preparing for a presentation on Project WRITE tomorrow. Today, I will try to blog from some of the sessions (as wifi will allow). Here are three sessions on digital storytelling that I attended this morning. (I will also cross-post on my Digital Writing, Digital Teaching Blog):

An Instructional Design Approach for Integrating Digital Storytelling into the Classroom Using iMovie
Patrick Bell, University of Nevada, Reno

  • Project for Catholic Schools in San Francisco
    • Pre- and post-surveys for teacher indicated interests in storytelling
  • The effective digital story:
    • Uses only a few images, a few words, and fewer special effects to powrfully communicate meaning
    • Flows naturally and is limited to 2-3 minutes
    • Is supported with effective teacher training
    • Focuses on the writing and communication proess rather than just digital effects
    • Is solidly grounded in curriculum and expresses relevant content knowledge (Question: what counts as curriculum? Is this only for expository reports of content?)
  • Goals of the project
    • Implement teacher training on effective and efficient methods of integrating digital video editing technology into the classroom
    • Enable students to creat enhancements to traditional written/oral assignments using digital storytelling
  • Pedagogical concerns
    • Time contra inst on tech access
    • Availability of digital media equipment
    • Copyright issues
      • Technology, Education, and Harmonization Act (Note: See NCSU Library site on the TEACH act for more info)
        • No more than 5 images by a single artist of 10% of a collection of images may be used from an internet or copyrighted source, if attributed
  • Design, Development, and Implementation
    • Curriculum Overview
      • In proceedings paper
    • Teachers
      • 2 hour workshop using a whole group setting with guided practice and interactive group work
      • Printed materials with step-by-step guides
      • Learned on how to import, sequence, an editing music and images
      • Techniques on internet searchers, writing scripts, and storyboarding
      • Saving and rendering digital movies into condensed Quick Time format for presentation and evaluation
    • Student Project
      • Conducting valid research using the internet, books, and materials provided by the teachers (historical perspective on the Holocaust)
      • Writing a script and creating a storyboard of images and text
      • Went through same process of creating movies as teachers did
      • Learning how to cite sources and give proper attribution to collected images and music
      • Movies were presented in a whole group setting for peer review and teacher evaluation on content, flow, and impact of story
    • Evaluating the project
      • Images
        • Limit the amount of images that students collect to 10-15 images
        • Google search for large or extra large images only
        • Choice of images that can be scaled to correct size and aspect ration
        • Images should appear for at least 10 seconds
        • text should appear long enough to be read by audience
        • Images should appear alone long enough to convey impact and meaning
      • Narrative
        • Text narrative is often more efficient than audio narratives
        • Background noise can distract from the quality of the story
        • Use of audio equipment can take more time than can be practical
      • Effects
        • Simple fades and dissolves
        • Basic effect applications for motion
        • Use b/w or sepia tones for image color consistency
      • Music
        • Create own music
        • Get copyright free music
  • Conclusion
    • Effective stories captivate attention, use minimal special effects, and translate relevant content knowledge
    • They are a part of the curriculum and supported by effective teacher training
    • Enhance traditional forms of assessments

As I listened to this presentation, I was struck by the stark utilitarian vision of digital storytelling. In short, this seemed to be an enhanced version of writing the report that students have always been asked to do. By searching for images and creating, essentially, captions for them, then combining them into a very short movie, there is not much of the student represented here. When I think about digital storytelling, I think of the personal narrative or, at least, a much more personal take on an expository topic. This type of digital story would be easy to assess (10-15 images, appropriate captions with facts), which is not necessarily a good thing. The writing process is messy, and this is a sanitized version of digital storytelling.

“I would like to share my final with the class!” – Digital Storytelling for Education Major Students
Amy Eguchi, Bloomfield College (NJ)

  • Bloomfield College
    • Independent four-year institute of 2000 students, in NJ and near NYC
  • Introduction to Education
    • Gateway course for education majors, geared towards technology and is a hybrid course
    • Classroom management, multiple intelligences, lessong planning, inclusion, etc.
    • Self-reflection and life-long learning
  • Why digital storytelling?
    • Introduce new educational technology that students can use in their classroom
    • Introduce alternate way of self-expression
    • Create a wonderful addition to their ePortfolio
    • Make learning “fun”
  • Final assignment
    • “Your Own Journey of Learning” — create a movie that shows your learning this semester about issues in education
  • Research Questions
    • Will student choose digital storytelling as an option to express learning?
    • Whill it help them express themsleves fully?
    • Will it help them reflect on themselves more effectively?
    • Will the introdcution of DS not be helpul to our student, perhaps confusing them or making them feel less capable of themselves (not in the millennial generation, other side of the digital divide)?
  • Results
    • About half of the students choose to create digital stories and wanted to share them within and outside the class

This use of digital storytelling, too, was very functional, but did also show how teacher education students could compose their own stories (in particular, about learning how to teach). It was a different approach than the previous session, in that it discussed how students go through their own writing process to develop their own stories rather than reporting on other ideas. I am a bit concerned about the idea that this was done to be an “addition” to a portfolio or for “fun,” but I understand how that approach appeals to pre-service teachers. All in all, this idea could be a useful twist on the digital storytelling that I am asking students to do this year.

National Writing Project Teacher Consultants Explore Digital Storytelling
Paige Baggett, University of South Alabama

This was an intimate discussion with eight people, including Paige and Helen who have extensive experiences using digital storytelling. We wandered into discussions of the composing process, copyright, personal voice in narrative, uses of different digital storytelling tools, and other related ideas. Another link I forgot about: Educause’s 7 Things That You Should Know About Digital Storytelling.
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More Thoughts on Digital Storytelling Workshop Models

Posted by hickstro on 13th March 2007

The other day, I attended (and, to some extent, helped out with) a digital storytelling workshop at the MRA Conference. This was significant for a few reasons, and it encouraged me to think about a few aspects of planning a digital storytelling workshop for RCWP this summer as well as for MRA next year.

First, the session was led by a technology coordinator from one of Michigan’s intermediate school districts. As I was planning the technology strand for the conference, the presenter was recommended for the session by MRA’s current president (one of his colleagues). This was a smart move for MRA as the presenter was very knowledgeable about the composing tools that Movie Maker offered, and gave us a CD-ROM with many, many links and resources (as well as some printed and handed out in a folder). It was a four (yes, four!) hour session on Sunday afternoon, smack in the middle of a three day conference.

His approach was, as you would expect, technical and we didn’t talk (at first) about many of the literacy/litreary components of digital storytelling. Case in point: copyright. He was very good at sharing the overview of fair use for teachers and how, when kept within the walls of our classrooms, using certain kinds of materials from copyrighted materials can help you compose digital stories. As the session went on — and the participants in the session kept asking questions — I began to think that talking about Creative Commons would be a good idea. So, we did. And the presenter was very thankful for the new information. We were then able to move into a larger discussion about file management (which he was able to cover well) and citation of online sources (which I added to). The back and forth conversation that we had was, I felt, mutually informative for us and for the participants. Another case was how to use transitional devices between slides, and the effects the authors wanted to achieve.

A second significant point that came out for me was the fact that this event — setting up a mini-lab of laptop computers at the MRA conference — was a first for the organization, so far as anyone on the board remembers. The model worked well, as Aram and I presented our “Reading and Writing with New Media” session in the morning, using the laptops for that, and then we left them set up for the digital storytelling session in the afternoon. I think that we might pursue doing something like this for next year’s conference, too, as many of the participants in the session told us how valuable they found the hands-on time with the one-to-one support.

This encourages me on two levels. First, I think that these participants will really take the skills and attitudes that composing digital stories engenders back with them to their schools. Sure, they could have got the 50 minute overview (and there were sessions at the conference on digital storytelling that did tha), but this was an interactive session where participants left with their own story (we were frantically emailing them as time ran out). Second, I think that this is a model that we need to adopt as NWP sites — taking the technology to the places where the most motivated and interested teachers are at: local, state, and national conferences.

So, those are some thoughts on the session. Again, the presenter approached it for nearly the first hour as a technical exercise before he even showed a sample of a digital story. That said, I think that we take some of the lessons learned here and apply them to what we think the “ideal” digital storytelling workshop might look like. What do the rest of you think?


Posted in Copyright, Digital Storytelling, Professional Development | 9 Comments »