Can you feel me?

Digital storytelling is the practice of combining narrative with digital content, including images, sound, and video, to create a short movie…
                                                                           E Learning Initiative

This is a good definition for starting this post though I would further extrapolate it by adding that it is also the integration of digital media across the curriculum. I am using this broader based interpretation because I believe that good story-telling is at the heart of all good communication. The fact that digital media can be employed in this fashion just makes it that much easier to:

  • achieve effective communication
  • improve learning outcomes
  • inspire many students who do not demonstrate a love of language and the tactile nature of reading and writing with pencil and paper
  • learn invaluable presentation skills and Fair Usage principles
  • engender collaborative sharing and reflection
  • and last, but not least, share with the wider world

I have no doubt alluded to this in recent posts (it consumes most of my professional life these days) but I have been given the freedom to introduce Project Based Learning to my current school this year. Students in my Grade Six class are expanding upon their Social Studies learning outcomes from last term. The end product will be a documentary about how communities support and serve those who reside within them, all the way from building and maintaining parks to disaster prevention and reconstruction . The areas covered and produced by the collaborative groups will be combined and presented at the graduation ceremony.

An overview of skills and steps covered throughout the course of work so far, including cross-curricular skill-building assignments:

  • Students used Camtasia Studio 7 to screen capture Power Point presentations incorporating images, animation and narratives representing themselves with a coat of arms for a school assembly (ICT/English)
  • We watched a series of short, instructional YouTube videos explaining river systems and appraised the effectiveness of the presentations using a simple rubric for each (Science/English/ICT)
  • We reviewed the rubric for the final project, outlining how we will reflect upon it and amend as needed throughout the unit (English/ICT)
  • Students formed collaborative groups and used a spreadsheet to consider what their central idea and question would be and devised interview questions (Social Studies/English)
  • Throughout the unit students conducted research online, through interviews on excursions and produced original digital resources like photos, videos, visual representations of data collected, videos of interviews devised and conducted and a whole host of others to lengthy to outline here (English/Social Studies/ICT)
  • Students built further upon the skills learned through their assembly project (see first point above) by producing a video presentation independently on a topic of their own choosing. In this instance they were responsible for all aspects of the production including title animations, music and background audio clips. I made a simple website with embedded YouTube videos for the students to enjoy and to share with families. The photo below is a portion of the home page. Sorry, the school wants it to remain private so it is password protected. The YouTube videos students uploaded are also unlisted and inaccessible without the URL.
  • Students conducted further research through online searches and excursions to local sites and the Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park (English/Social Studies)
  • Students used another google doc spreadsheet I created outlining common elements and steps that would need to covered and a suggested timeline (English/Social Studies/ICT)

This is the point we are presently at. I believe this gives a detailed account of how I am using the concept if digital storytelling in my class so far. I am eager to see the final product by year’s end. Frankly, I have talked it up so much at school it had better be pretty extraordinary. Time will tell if this is my Sistine Chapel or Custer’s Last Stand.

About Sean Thompson

Sean has accepted a position as the Director of Technology at The Early Learning Centre, City School, in Bangkok. He is excited to be working with Giovanni Piazza and the rest of the staff to raise awareness of digital-age teaching and learning practice in this Reggio Emilia inspired environment. Sean is also an Apple Distinguished Educator, an International Baccalaureate Educator Network Workshop Leader and a Google Educator available for professional development at your school.
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2 Responses to Can you feel me?

  1. iontravis says:

    Dear Sean,
    thank again for another informative, and entertaining, blog post. Mate, I can certainly “feel” you! I really enjoyed your “Representing Ourselves” presentation and you must be extremely happy with the outcome.In a previous post you mentioned Frank sharing his view – “you cannot unsee it anymore”. Do you find this happening to you now? I certainly do in regard to visual representation and design.
    Hoping the Graduation Ceremony goes well,

  2. banaunt says:

    Here is hoping for the Sistine Chapel end result. It all sounds terrific.
    Take care,

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