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Scholarship review – Week 13

As I keep exploring how to implement digital storytelling across the curriculum, I came across the article of Bernajean Porter Digital Storytelling Across the Curriculum, Finding content’s deeper meaning which analyzes, how digital storytelling has been “rediscovered”, since it helps us with making sense of the endless information we receive and process every day. According to the author, with digital storytelling we “live the story”, we get emotionally involved and go beyond retelling the content as we explore the deeper meaning of the story.

The author continues by listing 21st-Century skills that storytellers build when they create digital stories. These skills are:

  1. Creativity and inventive thinking
  2. Multiple Intelligences
  3. Higher order thinking (lessons learned)
  4. Information literacy
  5. Visual literacy
  6. Sound literacy
  7. Technical literacy
  8. Effective communication (oral, written and digital)
  9. Teamwork and collaboration
  10. Project management
  11. Enduring understandings

Furthermore the author points out through digital storytelling, storytellers gain a deeper understanding of the topic they write about, while they have the opportunity to be creative and innovative and “ensure that the oral delivery has power and emotion.”

Bernajean Porter explains that when the students develop the content of their stories, they can benefit from story prompts organized around the type of communication expected of authors, and connects storytelling with the curriculum. The four ideas the author presents for types of communication that connect storytelling with curriculum are the following:

  1. Myths, Legends and Tall Tales
  2. Docudramas
  3. Describe and Conclude
  4. Advertising or Public Service Announcements

According to the author, Legends have been used to present “values and pride”, Myths to explain “cultural origins, values, and beliefs”, and Tall Tales exaggerations of “accomplishments or events”. I found very useful all the topics and examples the author presents as possible ways to connect the curriculum with digital storytelling. Some of them are: “Change a current event into a tall tale or myth”, develop myths from “what would happen if”, develop a legend of a family member’s life or accomplishments, create legends or tall tales of a literary character, mathematical concept or social studies event, create a myth about the origins of a modern-day invention to share with future generations.”

The author continues with the prompts that can be developed for docudramas which require the storyteller to “act as if they are living in the times or events they are studying”. For docudramas, the authors use first person and “demonstrate understanding of key concepts and deeper thinking about the topics”. As Bernajean Porter very well describes, the storytellers “step into the shoes of a person or an object” as a creative personal approach for “weaving together significant facts.” Some of the topics that stood out to me are: “Be the pen that signed the Declaration of Independence. a treaty, or one of the Amendments, and explain how your life has impacted the lives of countless others. Create the storytelling journey of a leaf eaten by an earthworm. Make the facts come alive form beginning to end as if you were one of the digestive parts along the way. Be a literary, scientific or historical character sharing a defining moment when a choice you made changed the world forever.”

Another way to connect the curriculum with digital story telling is with “Describe and Conclude” tasks that require the storytellers to talk about an event while they develop a deeper understanding by adding their personal point of view. ”How does the event affect my life, thinking or beliefs. The topics that stood out to me are: “Describe an event and why it matters, connects or makes a difference to our humanity or communities today, Tell about a person and what his or her life or work has taught us –or perhaps how his or her work and choices in life continue to touch our lives today.”

“Advertising or Public Service Announcements” have the power, through personal messages along with music and images to create influence and impact. A very good example the author shares is: “Help convince others to make better choices by sharing a defining moment when a decision or experience changed or touched lives forever.”

Bernajean Porter closes the article by pointing out the importance of telling stories together and sharing them through the web. Overall, I found Digital Storytelling Across the Curriculum, Finding content’s deeper meaning, very informative and enlightening in learning how to connect digital storytelling not only with language arts but also with the rest of the curriculum. I will keep exploring areas where digital storytelling can be implemented successfully. A quote by Annette Simmons presented in the article, is an advice that I need to remember as I develop my digital story, “Thread the beads of your facts together with a plot, so they don’t roll away.”  Finally, Annette Simmon’s quote “By telling thoughtful stories, we clarify our own thinking about what we have learned to share with others in a profound way that sticks with us over time.” which appears also in Bernajean Porter’s article, captures in a few words the important role of digital storytelling in learning.

Digital Story Critique – Week 13

heather_video_screencapThe story I chose for this week’s digital critique is titled “Heather”. Heather receives assistive technology (AT) services from Equipment and Assistive Technology Initiative (EATI), and explains the benefits of using assistive technology services and devices, as well as the benefits of participating in the EATI program and the difference it made in her life.

The evaluation traits I chose from Jason Ohler’s Assessment Trait list are:

Story

Economy

Sense of Audience

Story

At the beginning of the story, Heather shares her first experience with vision loss. As she describes her symptoms, the camera changes focus and projects opaque images. The viewers get a feeling that they see everything through a cloud. All images look blurry. Heather explains that what she likes about the EATI program is that she does a self-assessment and identifies the tools she needs to complete her job successfully. She sounds relieved that she doesn’t have to go to a government program and ask “what would you be willing to give me”, instead she tries to find ways to increase her independence. She uses a PenFriend, a portable voice labeling system to do filing, and an iPad which has voice over and tells her what is on the screen. She points out that at EATI she was asked to answer a simple question, which nobody ever asked her before, “what do you need?”; when anywhere else she was only given two choices to choose from although there were times she needed something completely different from what she had been offered. Throughout the video, Heather emphasizes the importance of feeling respected when she seeks assistance to reach her goals and does not feel like she is begging. Having the emotional support she needed from EATI, Heather was able to accept the challenges she faces, and focus on her goals, to succeed and be independent.

Economy

The information presented through the story is sifted, prioritized and told without bird walking or detours. The video was developed to present the services of EATI. Heather manages to share her own story and emphasize the importance of EATI services and that for her it was a life changing experience. In about six minutes Heather explains that through EATI’s approach she was able to better understand herself first, and then her disability, acknowledging that she doesn’t view herself as a person with a disability, but understands that, “it is the environment that needs to pick up.”

Sense of Audience

The story respects well the needs of the audience. Heather communicates in a brief story, how her life changed after she started experiencing vison loss and how EATI assisted her in gaining confidence, and finding the strength to reevaluate her needs, understand her strengths and weaknesses, and make the best out of the situation. The tone of her voice helps the audience understand her frustrations and sympathize with her. Heather communicates clearly the importance of setting goals for herself and explains clearly how EATI helped her reach these goals and feel successful.

 

Scholarship review – Week 12

 

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By Nevit Dilmen – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1798693

The author of Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community, Joe Lambert, in the chapter “The Seven Steps of Digital Storytelling” describes the seven fundamental elements of digital storytelling. The seven elements are:

  1. Owing your Insights
  2. Owing your Emotions
  3. Finding the Moment
  4. Seeing your Story
  5. Hearing your Story
  6. Assembling your Story
  7. Sharing your Story

As the time gets closer to creating my own digital story, all of questions presented throughout the article helped me structure my thinking and get a step closer to deciding the focus of my story. In Step 1 the author mentions that “For each and every storyteller, we are focus on creating a story that feels unique and powerful” because the storyteller conveys his/her own perspective to the story, as “it emerges from honest self-reflection”. The stories are powerful, because the storyteller is able to discover why they chose the story and the impact the story had on them.

Another point that stood out to me is the importance of having a clear purpose and that although it is not easy to find the story’s insight Lambert suggests that the storyteller considers “what jumps out” for them in the story.

Under Step 2 – Owning your Emotions– special emphasis is given to the emotional connection the storyteller has with the story, which also helps them convey the “emotional content” to the audience. The storyteller is called to convey his/her emotions “without directly using feeling words”. According to the author reflecting on our emotions allows us to realize their complexity, which often leads us to discover “deeper layers of the story’s meaning.” The emotional content of the story can be shaped when the storyteller knows the intended audience.

My take away from Step 3 is that the storyteller is encouraged to find the “moment of change”. Lambert points out that “Compelling storytellers construct scenes to show how change happened, how they dealt with it, what they were like before the change and what they were like after”. This way the author of the story creates a scene “around the moment of change.” I think this particular step, is what gives identity to the digital story as it reflects the changes the storyteller experienced when this “moment of change”, which is also the main reason the digital story is created, took place.

Step 4 calls the storyteller to visualize his story as they respond to the question, “What images come to mind when recalling the moment of change in the story?”, however the author clarifies that storytellers “shouldn’t be concerned about whether or not (these images) exist as actual photos”. As I create my own story I need to remember this detail, since I catch myself focusing more on the images and how to shape my story around them. Keeping in mind the question “Would the audience be able to understand the story’s meaning without the image?” will be very helpful in the process of selecting images for the story and combining them to create layers of meaning.

When storytellers reach Step 5, the focus shifts to the sound of the digital story, and what makes  “a “digital story” a digital story”, storyteller’s voice and potential additional layers of sound. The author suggests that “the use of instrumental music, whatever the genre, can enhance that style and meaning of the story’s text and visual narratives without competing with the voice-overs” and that because of the “film –like format”, digital stories have, it is important that the storytellers choose carefully the words and phrasing and “the impact they will have.” I have found that most of the digital stories I have seen so far, use more melancholic tunes which results in a more dramatic story.

Step 6 is about Assembling the Story. What stood out to me out of this section, is that after outlining the basic structure of the story, “the next step is scripting and storyboarding”, which is the process of “laying out how the visual and audio narratives will complement each other.” Also, adjusting the pace is one of the final considerations. Another piece of advice that I found very helpful is that it’s best not give away to the audience too much information, all at once. Step 7, is about Sharing your Story. During this step it is important for the storyteller to consider the audience in terms of how he/she will present the story. Also, having a clear purpose about the story will help the storyteller in determining “how to present and share the story.” I think that having a clear purpose can also help with selecting the proper phrasing, visuals and sounds, which will communicate more effective to the audience, the reasons that made the storyteller chose a certain idea to share.

As Lambert indicates at the end of the chapter, “The storytelling process is a journey.” After reading this chapter, I feel that I can safely take this journey, using the Seven Steps as a compass. Overall, I found all the information presented, very valuable. I plan on following all steps diligently, and particularly answering all the prompting questions, as I create my own digital story, one step at a time.

Lambert, J. (2013). Seven Steps of Digital Storytelling (pp. 53-70). Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community. New York: Routledge.

Digital Story Critique – Week 12

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The digital story I chose for this week’s critique, is a very inspiring story that captures the feelings of a student who struggles with dyslexia and the difference a teacher can make. The story was created by Nick Damato and is called “Progression”.  In less than three minutes the creator of the story manages to convey to the viewers how a different teaching approach that focuses on the student’s achievements and not his struggles and weaknesses can make a huge difference in the student’s life and school performance. Overall, it is a very powerful story that communicates strong messages about endless assessments and the negative impact they have on struggling readers.

For my critique, I chose the following traits from Jason Ohler’s Assessment Traits:

Story

The story starts with showing on the screen an abstract canvas and the narrator introducing the setting, where the story takes place. With the very first sentence “I sit on a hard plastic chair at a desk across from my teacher” evokes strong feelings/emotions to the audience. The use of the adjectives “hard, plastic” convey how uncomfortable the student felt, while stressing the fact that, his desk is across from the teacher’s indicates the distance between the student and the teacher. The narrator continues by describing how he feels, “my eyes role up and my throat tightens” while the teacher on the other side “continues with a bombardment of challenging questions” and “judging my level of competence and intellect”.  The narrator continues communicating how uncomfortable he feels with all the tests and evaluations he had to take, the diagnosis of dyslexia, and continues “… a grade or two behind has been my norm”. He wonders why he is different and what he would say to other students who make fun of him. The narrator’s description of the setting, when he begins the second part of the narrations, determines that it definitely more friendly. “I sit on a wooden chair with a small pillow at a different desk.” His description evokes positive feelings to the audience who anticipate that a change is coming. He describes his tutor as kind and empathetic and he emphasizes that she expresses appreciation for his efforts. The narrator’s voice cheers up as he starts feeling successful and explains to the audience that his emotions change as he learns that now he competes only with himself and nobody compares his performance with other students, and points out that his teacher, teaches in a way where “observation is more important than evaluation”. The story comes to the end with the narrator emphasizing that he connects with himself and began to see his progress.

Flow, Organization and Pacing

The story is very well organized and moves from part to part without bumps or disorientation. Making clear distinction between the two settings that the story takes place, the narrator communicates all the challenges he faces on the first part of the video and his successes on the second part. He keeps a steady pace from beginning to end making the story easy to follow and capturing the audience’s attention and interest throughout the story.

Sense of Audience

The story respects the needs of the audience. In a very short time the narrator manages to create an emotional bond with the audience. He presents in a very artistic way the feeling of a student who has dyslexia and is judged constantly for his poor performance at school compared to other students his age. The tone of his voice conveys to the audience how much he wants to succeed and be like his peers. The constant judgment of his poor school performance that comes after every school assessment or test makes things worse. The narrator conveys his emotions to the audience who in their turn sympathize with him. Their audience’s emotions reach a peak of intensity when the narrator communicates his sorrow and prepares them for the anticipated solution.

Scholarship review – Week 11

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Image by Pixabay

The article I chose for this week’s review is “Writing at School: test-Prep Writing and Digital Storytelling by Patricia A. Jacobs PhD and Danling Fu PhD. According to the authors, most of writing activities in our schools is oriented towards high stakes testing preparation, restricting the students to certain formats and genre and makes struggling readers feel completely disinterested and disengaged from school work and classroom learning. The article focuses on studying the writing experiences and progress of two fourth grade student, which is part of a larger study, and contrasting them in two different writing situations, when the students write for test preparation and when they write for digital storytelling. The two authors observed the students in two different phases of the study. The first ten weeks one of the authors observed the two students behaviors, attitudes and writing processes during writing time. The following six weeks the students learned about digital stories and were encouraged to choose a topic that interests them and publish it in an iMovie format.

The authors suggest that struggling writers struggle with “generating topics, planning and organizing, revising, editing, monitoring the writing process, and transcribing words.” Struggling writers who have negative experience with print-based curriculum, are successful at home when they engage in communicative literacies like Facebook, email and texting that use a combination of print, visual and sound. When a student is engaged with communicative literacies they write about experiences, happening of everyday life, share information and plan events. School literacies are less communicative and they make students feel disconnected from their schooling because school literacies do not do much “to spark the interest, creativity, imagination, passion, and spirit of young people, thus leaving them indifferent and bored.” Moreover, the authors agree that future success in the workplace requires that students use multiple forms of literacies and that schools should adapt a wider definition of literacy and that what appears now as students’ lack of interest in writing may be a result of a “narrow curriculum that fails to engage students  in learning.”

Both students took the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and failed. Lack of interest for the topic, feeling that they never succeed in writing, and consequently felt more disengaged, and lack of emotional engagement with the topic, are some of the reason that may have contributed to the students receiving a non-passing score on state testing. The authors continue by concluding that when the curriculum is driven by a test “children do not engage with the real purpose for writing and teachers become pressured task masters fearing that their students might fail.” Students find meaning in writing when they are allowed to pick topics that are personal and relevant. When the teachers allow the students to engage in a wide range of topics and new technologies, they help them gain with 21st century skills.

The authors suggest that giving struggling writers the opportunity to write about the topics that interest them, gives them “a sense of identity and confidence to succeed”, while a connection is fostered between “out of school multiliteracy practices and school literacy”. Teacher may need to guide the students through modeling to assist them to discover topics from their everyday life.  The benefits of choosing a topic is that students draw on their background experiences and write with confidence which gradually, assists that with forming a more positive attitude towards writing and improve the quality of their writing.

The two students were very successful when they worked on their digitals stories. “They were able to write fluently, skillfully and emotionally”. The topics they chose had personal meaning and they collaborated with other students, sharing their knowledge and expertise and helped each other choosing visuals, learning new technology tools and evaluating their writing, they made a connection between schoolwork and home life.

The struggling writers of this study exceled through their writing and production of digital stories. The authors support the idea that digital stories “build a bridge between traditional print literacy and digital literacy” and that this type of writing besides giving to the students “personal purpose and meaning, values their home lives”.

This article was another proof of how effective digital storytelling can be with developing writing skills and assisting struggling readers feel successful with writing. I agree that having students work on topics they do not feel connected and the only purpose they serve is to prepare the students for state tests, can be a very frustrating experience. Allowing room for struggling writers to express themselves, collaborate with classmates, learn new technology and share their stories in the classroom can be a life changing experience. Having engages in this reading got curious about the percentage of schools nationwide that have adopted digital storytelling in their regular curriculum. Since there are a number of studies, that prove the benefits of digital storytelling especially with struggling writers, I wonder how soon school districts can start implementing digital storytelling in the core curriculum. I believe that teacher preparation programs can make a huge difference if they prepare teachers who will implement digital stories across curriculum. Considering the changes in education over the last fifteen years, it is only a matter of time for policymakers to realize that digital storytelling deserves a better place in education and preparation of 21st century global citizens.