Building a Community Learning Laboratory Through Digital Initiatives

How can digital initiatives help to build a community of life-long learners? How can we build partnerships that create opportunities that lead to new methods of teaching, learning, and digital collaborations? It begins with creativity, trust, and some play! About 3 years ago, Stephanie Carmona, who leads the Community Education Program Initiative (CEPI) out of the Education Department at Whittier College and I met to think about how we might create learn-by-doing assignments for her computer skills class. Her classes are made up of adult learners which include parents who’s children attend local K-12 schools. Mostly informal and born out of our friendship and willingness to help the many Spanish-speaking parents that we had been interacting with, we started to lead some community-based workshops on building digital literacies. These workshops were guided by topics that our participants suggested: social media and the apps their children are using, how to manage the vast amounts of photos they are collecting on their mobile devices, and Internet safety. The workshops were successful because our adult learners were invited to help in the design process and of course it helped that they bonded quickly and became friends, some even comadres. We also had an undergraduate student intern that helped with the workshops. While trying something new at the computer, our adult learners would summon our intern by calling out, “teacher, teacher!” Although we didn’t necessarily plan for it, we soon found that we were building a community learning laboratory- where we all interchanged roles as teachers learners, and creatives. One workshop on managing photo storage turned into a traveling photo exhibition we call “Nuestro Arte”, still active after two years. (insert flyers) We also created a Story Map based on this Photovoice project. Read more

Digital Storytelling in Digital Humanities?

This past summer I taught a workshop for DH@Guelph titled, “Digital Storytelling for Humanists.”  It was a course similar to one I had helped teach the year before at DH@CC, the Claremont College’s Digital Humanities Summer Institute. Both workshops were made up of faculty and grad students who wanted to incorporate digital storytelling into their research or teaching practices.  We spent nearly a week together, not only learning about tools and editing software but fully engaged in the process of creating a digital story.  Of course, the highlight of every digital storytelling workshop is showcasing each person’s story.  Some written as personal narratives and others as digital essays but we all learned more about each other, our work, our connections.  And, because this was a professional development opportunity, all had a deliverable. 

In late June I attended the Digital Humanities 2018 Conference held in Mexico City.  I was chatting with a new friend who was presenting his poster on digital storytelling from Houston Community College. It was then that the question was asked by a visitor, how does digital storytelling fit in with digital humanities?  My answer went something like this:

Digital storytelling shares the ethos of the digital humanities: the willingness to collaborate, to experiment, to share, to fail, to be transparent, to iterate, and to make public. Digital storytelling like DH is modular in its ability to remix and alter the format to fit different disciplines.  Digital storytelling is less about expertise and making expert knowledge public or leveraging open data for research and more about centering teaching and learning experiences. As a field of study, the humanities focus on the cultural record of human experience and the preservation of this knowledge- in many ways recorded through stories.  In this fashion, digital storytelling provides new opportunities for humanities scholarship and teaching. 

Poster presentation on digital storytelling by Rubèn Duràn from Houston Community College at the
2018 Digital Humanities Conference in Mexico City. 

Digital storytelling is simply using computer-based tools to tell stories. These can include pocket documentaries (using mobile devices to capture moving images), digital essays, mapped memoirs (embedded digital stories on a map), interactive storytelling (gaming) and even podcasts.  They involve sharing the idea of combining the art of telling stories with a variety of multimedia, including graphics, audio, video, and web publishing.

I teach digital storytelling because I believe it leads to transformative learning experiences.  There is also much potential in expanding digital humanities perspectives, research, and scholarship.  In his article, Digital storytelling: New opportunities for humanities scholarship and pedagogy  John Barber states: 

“If we grant that humanities scholarship and pedagogy may be grounded in stories of human cultural and creative endeavors, then the use of digital media to help create and share such stories may help engage academic research with creative practice to promote critical thinking, communication, digital literacy, and civic engagement.”

Perhaps an affordance that digital storytelling has over other digital humanities practice is that it is relatively low-tech and anyone can do it because everyone has a story to tell.  

Check out some of the digital stories created at DH@Guelph Summer Workshop:
“Digital Storytelling for Humanists.”