Category Archives: telling stories

“I’m not a girl. I’m a football player.”

Whew.  I did some internet wandering to check out some of the digital storytelling links mentioned in Lisa Miller’s chapter, and there are some very powerful stories out there.  We talk about writing with an authentic voice, but actually hearing the storyteller’s voice can bring a narrative alive in a whole different way.  A few places I visited:

  • KQED’s Digital Media Center This site is the home of the Digital Storytelling Initiative, a portal for community-created digital content.  KQED, Northern California’s public television and radio provider, sponsors an annual digital storytelling contest for students in grades 6 through 12, and winners from the past 5 years are available to view on the website (here).  This would be a great resource for middle and high school teachers who want samples of student work to get their own classrooms thinking about digital storytelling.
  • Center for Digital Storytelling There is so much good stuff here!  Resources (articles about digital storytelling, tutorials, links to other websites), stories organized by theme (oh the stories…if only I had more time to watch every one of them), descriptions of workshops offered at or through the CDS.  It makes me wish I lived in Berkeley.  I wonder…is there a similar storytelling initiative happening in Minnesota that I don’t know about?  Clicking around on CDS website led me to…
  • The Y.O.U.T.H. Training Project, a program that works with current and former kids in foster care.  The kids in this program create training programs/materials for social workers to improve the way child welfare services are delivered.  One component of this program involves the use of digital autobiographies to tell the stories of kids who have lived through the foster care system.  These are extremely compelling stories.  Amazing stories.  Captain’s digital story, which inspired the title of my entry, combines personal poetry, music, images, and written text in such a determined, impassioned narrative.  If only we were all so articulate in our storytelling.

I haven’t really initiated digital storytelling assignments with my students, but I have supported their work as they created stories for their classrooms, mostly using Photostory.  At this point my students know a lot more about video composition and editing and all those storytelling tools than I do, so I rely on our media specialist’s tech tip sheets to help me help them.  It’s clear that storytelling using digital media involves all kinds of writing processes, and my students are much more willing to jump in and embrace the process when it involves more than a piece of paper and a pencil (or even a blank Word document and a keyboard).  There’s still a huge amount of organization and sequential thinking required to complete these multi-modal stories, processes that are hard for many of my students with executive function disorders.  But when we’re engaged in motivating, authentic projects, it’s easier to tackle the tough skills, to take redirection without taking offense, and the end product is often a more true reflection of my students’ skills.

oh what fun…

image courtesy of Photo Dictionary

…it is to create a voice thread. Very fun! Of course it’s always fun to talk about one of your favorite things, which is what I did. I also did a pre-practice thread about my cat. Not sure if my cohort can handle all that excitement.

Writing with just words is a very different process for me than writing (composing) with words and images. I like language. I like words. I don’t necessarily consider my writing as a way to create visual pictures for the reader. Or at least I’m thinking in words and not so much pictures during the creation process. I usually want readers to feel what I’m trying to express. With my voice thread, I started with the pictures, and I had to figure out which words should go with the pictures. Should my pictures tell the story? Do I need to describe the pictures? How does a narrative look when it starts with the pictures?  Visual imagery isn’t something I’m fluent with like language.  It has its own elements of style, and I definitely feel like a beginner when it comes to visual storytelling.  But it’s fun!  Pictures are fun.  And I think pictures are more accessible and exciting to most kids than words and language.  I can see my students being very engaged in voice thread production, and it feels like a tool that even primary level students could use.

The end product, the final voice thread, should tell a story that combines the best of language and visual images.  Great images alone, or great words alone, will not cut it.  I think students are visually literate enough to appreciate when the combination of words and pictures tells a compelling story.  Now, can they create those stories?  I can’t wait to see how they approach the process.

Now…if only I could embed my own voice thread into my blog like all you lucky blogger users.  A link will have to suffice.  Last but not least, my resource: Boomerang, an audio program geared toward elementary-aged kids.  Boomerang is all about “big ideas” that challenge kids to think in an engaging format.  I know that the audio format is just one digital input–no fancy images or hyperlinks to carry the listener to another place.  But it reminds me a lot of the radio shows that captivated kids in the 1930s and 1940s.  Who knew that Little Orphan Annie and The Lone Ranger were precursors to podcasts?  The downside to Boomerang is that the episodes are not free (although there is a free sample episode available)…perhaps a PTO request is in my future.