Sunday, November 1, 2009

Digital Storytelling

My attempt to come to grips with digital storytelling has not been a smooth journey. In the previous school year, myself and Martin Hermmann labored through a drawn out process using Movie Maker with a group of ESL kids. Our aim was to take a text heavy, yet important article from our Diversity of Life Science course, and break it into small chunks and have students take a sentence each and turn this into a piece of the story. Ultimately, we would stitch the story together and then the whole class could view the completed project, which would allow them to then tackle the article with greater ease.

The result was several hours of work resulting in a product that was average, at best. The time we lost, compared to if we had used a 1.0 traditional jigsaw approach, didn't seem worth the trade-off. So this year, Martin and I embarked on using PhotoStory 3 to carry out the same task. Martin did the hard yards; he spent time cutting the story into manageable chunks, then modeled the first third of the photostory in the style we wanted the kids to produce. Click here for a more detailed description of how Martin set things up.

My part in the process comes as our class of 26 kids was split, and I was to lead my group of 13 through the process of creating their piece of the puzzle. The first two lessons required the kids to find appropriate images from google or flickr that would support their story. Interestingly enough for me, I was at the same time attempting during the evenings to modify an old power point presentation, and Zen-ify it with the use of powerful images. Having spent hours searching for images myself, I was able to empathize accutely with the student's frustration mixed with excitement and creativity during this process.

By the end of the second lesson, most kids had found images that were appropriate enough. A few kids were still struggling, but the great thing about the situation was that kids who had completed their section were more than happy to peer teach their colleagues.

The next lesson was interesting. Martin had also prepared 4 screen casts for the kids, showing them how to produce their own photostory with images from their powerpoint presentation. His screen casts chunked the process, making it quick and easy to understand for all; I know this, because I watched these screen casts in my prep period before my students arrived to get myself "up to speed"!

A huge plus in using these screencasts were that students could easily come up to the smartboard at the front of the room, and replay the clip in order to clarify things; another way to do this would be to have the clips available on the student share folder, and the kids could access them without leaving their seat or laptop.The final step was to have the kids upload their completed section onto panthernet; that still left Martin the job of taking about two dozen clips and arranging them in the correct order for the final story to flow.

Of 26 kids, we managed to get 24 clips completed; the story was shown to kids among much excitement. It certainly seemed to give them greater access to the science concepts than wading through 4 pages of dense text.

The whole process we went through with the kids still raises important questions, questions we touched on during one of our face to face meetings. Is it possible/necessary/worthwhile for us as educators with an interest in technology, to ensure that our students are leaning certain skills at certain grade levels? For example, 3rd grade powerpoint, 4th grade blogging, 5th grade voice thread, 6th grade photostory, 7th grade Movie Maker etc.

Compared to last year, the effort was much reduced. Martin put a lot of time into the set up, and I was able to benefit from that. As a team, with regard to the next technological endeavor we take on, it will be my turn to 'get the ball rolling'.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic! It sounds like you both have refined the project to the point where it's practical and worth the class time. Do you think the students understood the ideas better this time around? Did you see any improvement in doing the project the "2.0" way?