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.”


Resources: DigLibArts @ the Pedagogy Lab: (Re)Orientation

As mentioned in the previous blog post, this year, DigLibArts is experimenting with the format of our beloved faculty Pedagogy Labs. Instead of holding a large Pedagogy Lab, we’re collaborating with Laura McEnaney, Associate Dean for Faculty Development, and Sam Alfrey, Instruction Librarian, to focusing our lab and offer more specific content geared toward junior …

Event: Fall Pedagogy Lab: (Re)Orientation, Tuesday, August 29th

Welcome back! This fall, DigLibArts, Wardman Library, and the Associate Dean for Faculty Development invite you all to join us for our Pedagogy Lab: (Re)Orientation, which will be in the DigLibArts Collaboratory on the main floor of Wardman Library, Tuesday, August 29th, 8:30am – 1:00pm, followed by a lunch in Dezember House. This year’s DigLibArts …

DigLibArts @ the Pedagogy Lab: (Re)Orientation

As mentioned in the previous blog post, this year, DigLibArts is experimenting with the format of our beloved faculty Pedagogy Labs. Instead of holding a large Pedagogy Lab, we’re collaborating with Laura McEnaney, Associate Dean for Faculty Development, and Sam Alfrey, Instruction Librarian, to focusing our lab and offer more specific content geared toward junior …

Workshop: DH Tools Across Disciplines, Santa Clara University

This past week, I had the pleasure of leading a workshop on using “Digital Humanities Tools Across Disciplines” at Santa Clara University to their newly formed Center for Arts and Humanities faculty working group in digital humanities and their library. Many thanks to Michelle Burnham and Amy Lueck for the invitation! In many ways, I
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DigLibArts 2020: Digital well-being for the liberal arts

What is digital well-being, and how does it relate to the liberal arts? Digital well-being can be defined as the ability to define and develop a nurturing personal and/or community cyberinfrastructure.  This goal articulates one facet of Whittier’s mission to “prepare students from diverse backgrounds to excel in a complex global society” by empowering individuals …

Public Service Announcements (PSA)

Public Service Announcements or Public Service Advertisement (PSA) are generally free media, often in the form of commercials or ads, produced by not-for-profit organizations and disseminated for the purposes of education. As an assignment, PSAs encourage students to combine traditional research with elements of design, visual and audio rhetoric, and to strategize mobilization campaigns to …

Event: Pedagogy Lab 2016

The Digital Liberal Arts team is delighted to invite all faculty and staff to our semi-annual Pedagogy Lab on August 31st, 2016, 1PM – 5PM at Wardman Library. In the past, these labs have been fruitful meetings organized around the interests of attendants, so we hope you’ll join us for an afternoon of informal discussion …

Destination Denmark: Digital Stories as Pocket Documentaries

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.
Krak des chevaliers, 2003
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!