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I recently found a picture taken of me on a hill overlooking the Krak des Chevaliers in western Syria during a 2003 trip. I am pictured with my video camera, tripod and a bag strapped to my waist that holds brick-like backup battery packs and as many mini DV recording cassettes as I could carry. I was filming a documentary on women, history, and the middle east. I remember the challenges of the heat and the altitude along with the heavy gear I had to trek on some of the expeditions. But once I got the shots I wanted: Magic! Exhilaration! So many ancient stories to tell, beginning with one picture.
I’ve held on to this feeling and I’m thrilled to begin an idea I’ve had in the works for some time: pocket documentary filmmaking.
Later this spring, Kathy Filatreau (Instructional Technologist & partner in Digital Storytelling projects) and I will be traveling with 20 students from Whittier College’s anthropology and social work 300 course to Copenhagen, Denmark. The course taught by Professors Paula Sheridan and Lisa Ibañez are studying the ways in which welfare and workfare states contribute to the well-being of children and families. For many of the students in our group, this will be the first time they are traveling abroad. Along with their excitement to visit a different part of the world they also bring specific topics they would like to research. Some of these include education systems, clean energy plants, and the Dane’s renowned culture of happiness. Their main assignment is to create a digital story that reflects their research and findings. In 2016, the tools students will use to create their digital stories are all in their pocket. We will use our mobile devices, including phones and tablets to take photos and gather interviews and footage to edit with a personal narrative. The result will be a series of pocket documentaries that students will share with each other and a group of Danish faculty and students.
Our trip will include class meetings hosted by Metropolitan University College’s Social Work Program and we will share workshops on creating digital stories with our Danish partners. Students will take part in field visits relevant to course content and cultural excursions that will include a photography tour of the city focusing on techniques for capturing images and sound that will add dimension to student narratives. We will be blogging our learning adventure and sharing our digital stories on DenmarkDS.soniachaidez.com. We hit the ground running on May 20, 2016!
Why do we tell stories? “To transfer knowledge” replied a student in the Anthro 211 course as he read off one of my slides. Yes, but thinking creatively, how can we make information transfer more story-based I asked? Crickets. I find that teaching information is more engaging when you invite the audience in with a story. I asked students for some examples of storytelling in their everyday lives and some mentioned that they call their parents to update them on things they are working on. Others tell stories about their day at the Campus Inn where they have their meals with friends. There are many ways to tell stories. What about social media, I asked? I wouldn’t consider myself to be a Yelper I continued but I had a meal last night that warranted a review because I wanted to share information, as in tell others that they should eat at this place too. “The food tasted like it was made with love” I read from my posted online review. That’s a story or at least the beginning of one as I described the events that brought me to that restaurant the night before.
I don’t know if students consider themselves to be storytellers but they are. We all are. In my workshops I often instruct that stories should be more personal and less instructional as a way to invite the audience into the story. But how do you make an instructional video interesting with story elements? This is the challenge for the Anthro 211: Peoples and Cultures of Asia courses taught by Jenny Banh. Professor Banh is teaching two sessions of this course during Jan Term (one in the morning and one in the afternoon). The assignment is for students to create digital stories using stop motion tools to illustrate the information they’ve learned on given subjects like; Pokemon, Hello Kitty, Tokyo Disneyland, chopsticks and Power Rangers.
Before we looked at digital tools we discussed story. Some beginning stories read like Wikipedia entries. The interesting stories were informative with facts and figures on the subject but they also included insight and evidence of knowledge about the content taught in class. This is an assignment that asks students to create a story using digital tools. But more importantly it’s asking them to write a well-thought out, informative and entertaining narrative.
At the end of this week we will work on storyboards and record student narratives to be used as voice overs for their digital projects. Students then have the option of using stop motion apps on their mobile devices (one group created this in our first class: chopsticks video) or to create illustrations and edit them on WeVideo. My hopes are that students will learn by doing projects like these that asks them to demonstrate knowledge through storytelling that is informative yet engaging and in the process they can also discover the enhancement that digital tools can provide. I’ll post completed digital stories at the end of Jan Term.
I believe creativity is an important part of this assignment which leads me to new questions: how do you teach creativity and how do you measure it? To be continued…
As promised, student/stop motion animation projects on our YouTube Channel!
A Short History of (my) Networked Scholarship The title of this blog post could also be “how to embed a Google slideshow into a WordPress blog,” since that’s what the images embedded below teach. But I also thought I’d write about searching for WordPress tricks, since so many of us are using WordPress (and other platforms) in our teaching, research, and personal… Read more →