I'm posting here some info to supplement a mini-presentation about my first experiments with using digital story-telling in my classes--in case I don't have time or presence of mind to fit in everything I want to say (both likely situations!). Btw I'm not much of a photographer, and I've never videotaped anything or experimented with any video editing software.
Two recent introductions.
At a local conference last spring, I attended a presentation of digital story-telling, where the presenter argued the important of images in crafting arguments (editorials = old school; 21st century = viral video). As evidence, he showed this:
and then invited us to play around with some PC version (can't remember the name).
Then I started the MOOC MOOC in August, a weeklong bootcamp for people who wanted to play around with some digital stuff, and one of the first "assignments" (before I got buried) was to make a 60-second video about where learning happens. I had no idea what I was doing really, but came up finally with this:
My reasons for trying it out with my English 101 classes:
- It was more fun and much easier than I'd expected.
- Both the Dove video and my own convinced me how much composition these things require.
- It seemed a good way for students to explore a topic (and appropriate for visual learners, of course).
- I thought I'd try it out as a group activity, both to speed up the process and to encourage student interaction (with the more tech-saavy students helpingout the less confident)--and I didn't really know how easy/difficult students would find it.
- And another main reason: I was teaching in our new computer labs!!
My main concern was whether I could justify taking the time away from traditional writing (or, is this a luxury if students are having difficulty writing focused, coherent, developed essays?)
But this might be offset by
- increased engagement with research topic (so making a video can become part of "prewriting" stage)
- possibility to use this as metaphor for composition (look at parallels between composition of video and essay, as I use descriptive writing to make connection between specific details and central impression more concrete): selection and ordering of details, pacing, transitions, revision process, etc.
- opportunity to ask students to write about choices made (or some other topic related to video topic or process)--see Traci Gardner's post on A Justification for Composing with Video
My approach this semester. My English 101 this semester was organized around three habits of mind (from the WPA Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing): curiosity, creativity, and persistence (CCP, I soon started calling it, the three of which, in my mind anyway, seemed to link neatly to the stages of invention, drafting, and revision). Students started with a personal essay based on an experience that tied to one of CC or P. For a second, in-class assignment, I grouped students by the "habit" they'd chosen, so curiosity folks were grouped with other curiosity folks, and so forth. I gave groups fifteen or twenty minutes at the end of one class to plan for the next class, when they'd have an hour and fifteen minutes to compose a 60-second video that in some way illustrated their "habit" (I wrote about the experience here).
Tech options. There are many (bewilderingly many!) options for free web-based video-editing tools, but the free versions usuallyrestrict length of video to 30 seconds or at most 60 seconds. Animoto and flixtime were frequenlty mentioned, but I ended up with stupeflix (unfortunate name!) because it seemed easy to use and with a $120 educator's license I could get accounts for 200 students so that they could make unlimited-length videos they could then post to youtube.
How to do it. It's a very straightforward process: choosing a theme (or my favorite option: no theme), uploadingsome photos and/or video, dragging and dropping to re-arrange, adding title slides (if desired), and choosing background music. (Here's a link to a few "video-editing tutorials for the technically challenged.") For my own video, I figured out after a bit of messing around, how to record a voice-over narration with audacity; with my usual seat-of-the-pants approach, the most challenging part was figuring out the timing to match slide duration to timing in my audio file. I assume more sophisticated video-editors such as iMovie make audio-editing easier.
Results. Students seemed to enjoy it--only a few had tech problems. The variety of approaches fascinated me: several groups used phones to videotape short scenes; others brought in personal photos; one group set off to take pictures. Copyright issues were a problem, though: I had intended that students only use Creative Commons-licensed photos, but that proved to take too much time. We did discuss the issue, though, and for longer-term assignments, I'd be more strict about this.)
Next steps. I'm tryng a multimodal approach to the research paper this semester. One of the required components is a "visual exploration," with a video as an option (either stupeflix or video-editing tool of student's choice).