Over the past two years, I have been inspired by the creative activities, sharing, and reflective feedback of members of an important learning community. Digital Storytelling (or DS106) is a free, open online course hosted at the University of Mary Washington. It is an unique learning environment. One may join and leave whenever one wants while becoming engaged in learning to “tell digital stories” through more than 400 creative assignments and related components.
For example, today’s “Daily Create” #541 challenged participants to “Draw something abstract out of straight lines.”
My creation below, requires one to “read between the lines”:
This design reflects, in many ways, the actions of my personal learning network or PLN. Like the straight-line components, my network and support team works in the background with little fanfare. In fact, “They make me look good!” Through a variety of social networking apps (including old-fashioned email), they recommend and reflect on new ideas while renewing my passion for learning and sharing in K-12 education.
As Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” To all my PLN “giants”, be they students, teachers, family, or friends, I thank you all for caring and sharing.
I believe in serendipitous learning. For those educators who are connected online, or consider themselves to be part of a professional learning network or PLN, such learning opportunities present themselves with regular frequency. Readers who have followed my blog for the past year know how excited I was when Darren Kuropatwa sent me an email suggesting that I might like to participate in a free, “massive open online course” or MOCC called Digital Storytelling – DS106. Those wishing to learn more about my amazing adventure, need only click on the DS106 category link on the right-side menu to filter out more than three dozen posts that share my excitement as I became engaged in this free, online learning environment.
I was so excited about the learning and networking opportunities that were afforded me through my initial DS106 exposure last Spring, that I again enrolled in DS106 this January. This action exposed me to Ben Rimes and his informative blog called “The Tech Savvy Educator” where he announced in early January that he had “also signed up for #ETMOOC”. I was intrigued and searched out this Educational Technology & Media MOOC. Like DS106, participants choose their own learning goals, engage in dialogue with other educators, share ideas and resources, and reflect through their individual blogs posts. All tweets with the hashtag #ETMOOC and blog posts with the tag or category ETMOOC will be aggregated centrally thanks to the dedication and hard work of Alan Levine (aka cogdog) and his team. Needless to say, I was intrigued, so I signed up for ETMOOC and officially start this unique learning adventure tomorrow with over 1200 participants representing 67 countries around the world. Future blog posts relating to this unique endeavour will be classified and listed under the newly created ETMOOC category found in the right-hand menu.
My second serendipitous learning opportunity occurred last night while I was scanning some of the aggregated tweets from ETMOOC participants. One individual (who I unfortunately cannot remember, so as to give credit) commented about the creativity of the educational posters created by Krissy Venosdale. As luck would have it, I searched through Krissy’s posters and thought that the image that I included above represented well my love of learning. Thanks Krissy for caring and sharing.
Two posts will be published today. They represent two different “storytelling” activities that can be used to engage your K-12 students. This first activity is known by DS106 students, as the “Four Icon Challenge” or the “One Story – Four Icons” assignment. My following post will describe how “Bumper Sticker” creation can engage your students in an unique way. Recently I shared a presentation entitled “‘DS106′ – The ABC’s of Digital Storytelling” at a ManACE Technology Information Night (TIN). During my preparation for this TIN presentation, I confirmed that these two engaging activities have a definite role to play within our K-12 classes.
The Four Icon Challenge
This activity can be used successfully within any subject in most K – 12 grade levels. DS106 students were required to synthesize a movie or book down to four basic ideas that can be represented by icons. In order that you better understand the process, I will challenge you to name the following books or movies:
Readers may check their answers by scrolling to the bottom of this post.
The compilation of four images are represented in different layouts or designs. Although most entries used a horizontal arrangement of four icons, the second entry (B) used a square design and the colour as a hint. In the last entry (E), I inserted appropriate images into a four cell table in Word. Next, I took a “screen shot” and saved the four icon challenge compilation as an image. The first entry (A) used the web application “Chogger” which allows students to create a “comic strip” of four icons without the need to login. One can simply visit http://chogger.com and select either of the green “Build” or “Make a Comic” buttons. For this activity, one selects a layout panel with four components and begins by either drawing or using Google to search for appropriate images to insert into each of the panel frames.
Teachers, who may wish to display student’s “Four Icon Challenge” creations on the web, should advise students to save the images without giving away the answer through the image filename. For example, if one hovers the cursor over the first example (A), the answer is immediately obvious. Challenge (B) used a filename which is easy to “crack” and the last entry (E) used scrambled words to create the filename. However, examples (D) and (E) display only a generic filename which does not provide any clues to the movie or book.
This technique of distilling a book or movie down to four main ideas could also be used to to depict a historical event. Imagine what four key ideas, with appropriate icons, could be used to represent Canada’s Confederation, the development of the atomic bomb, or the African-American Civil Rights Movement. Encourage your students to create a “Four Icon Challenge” to showcase important aspects of the subject area that you teach.
For those readers who are skeptical that this activity can be used effectively with younger children, I recommend that you investigate Tyler Hart’s Grade 3 classroom. In an earlier highlighted “Teachable Moment” blog post entitled “Puzzle: What book, movie or historical event“, I demonstrated how this creative teacher and his students in Richmond Virginia became engaged in this “One Story – Four Icon Challenge”.
As the end of the school year fast approaches, I suggest that this challenge might provide an interesting way for teachers to gain feedback about their course. Why not ask students to create four panel stories that depict the activities or activities that they enjoyed most?
I find that in many puzzle books or in the trivia questions in the local “Coffee News“, readers often look at the question and, rather than take time to adequately think about the problem, they quickly flip the page to find the answers that are written upside down or are printed on the reverse side of the paper. To help encourage you and your students to take adequate time to puzzle over the above “Four Icon Challenges”, I am “scrambling” my solutions somewhat. After you have tried to solve all the above five books or movies, you may unscramble my solutions section (shown below) by:
holding this computer display up to a mirror; or
printing this post and reading the black-framed solutions in a mirror.
The purpose of this post is to advise my readers of an important writing style transition in some of my upcoming blog posts. In past, I have struggled “behind the scenes” drafting, editing, and proof-reading each blog post before I felt it was “ready for prime time” and could finally be published. Perhaps some might say that the published posts or articles were finally “polished” (albeit too long, which is a curse that I continue to struggle with).
Perhaps my “polished” blog posts are similar to the traditional “polished” appearance that many teachers display in their classrooms. For example, have your students ever asked you a question about the subject matter that you teach and failed to get a correct answer? Do you ever make mistakes in front of your students and acknowledge such errors? In other words do your students think that you know “everything”? Are you “too polished”? Perhaps we, as teachers, need to be more transparent in our learning.
I must admit that when I first taught Grade 7 & 8 Mathematics, I prided myself on the fact that no students could ask me a math-related question or problem that I could not solve or explain how I arrived at the correct answer. Furthermore I, somewhat naively, thought that all students arrived at the correct answer following the same algorithm or process-path that I used. It was not until I started teaching Computer Science that I realized that there were many different ways to write a computer program albeit some were more efficient than others. However, it was the diversity of student programming solutions that started me to appreciate the variety and ingenuity in my students’ creative thinking. It was then that I started engaging in what I will call “transparent problem solving” with my students. I would often share a puzzle or problem and have students work in pairs or triads to come up with a solution. Knowing there were a variety of ways to solve such problems, I wanted the participants in small groups to learn that their colleagues perhaps didn’t approach the problem or its solution in the same way they did. Furthermore, I started asking students to verbalize or think “out loud” so that others could appreciate and learn to solve problems in different ways. I recently shared with my readers one of my favourite problems in an earlier post entitled “Problem Solving: Where does the ‘F’ go?“.
“DS106″ tag is the key
In a recent post, I stated that I have enrolled in a free, 15 week digital storytelling MOOC (massive, open online course) known as DS106. Participants are expected to engage in the learning process through reaction, reflection and construction of creative assignments. One of the most critical parts of the entire learning process is for participants to document their ideas and struggles as they work through this online course. These reflections and solutions are to be shared on one’s blog. So readers of my blog are going to be exposed to additional posts where I document my DS106 learning journey in a much more transparent manner. Such DS106-related posts will have a “DS106″ tag displayed at the bottom of the post (as illustrated below). For example, my last post on January 4th, in which I shared information about the “hieroglyphic typewriter”, was created for my traditional audience of K-12 educators. As such, there was no “DS106″ included in the seven tags associated with this post. On the other hand, the January 3rd post describing “My new learning adventure” included “DS106″ as the third tag at the bottom. The news aggregator software, used by the facilitators of the DS106 course, simply scans all the blogs of all student participants in this course. Only those articles or posts that include the “DS106″ tag will be filtered and shared within the community of learners at Mary Washington University which facilitates the DS106 online course
I encourage readers of my blog to peruse all my posts but if some future content seems to be somewhat unusual or different from my standard format, I trust that the post will have a “DS106″ tag associated with it.
So please consider this to be fair warning faithful reader. Some of my upcoming posts may be somewhat technical (as my next DS106 post); a few may expose my frustration or difficulties that I encounter; some may be quite reflective; while hopefully others may share my successes. However, I can assure you that some of my future blog posts will, like a diary, become somewhat personal. No doubt you will see me with less polish and more tarnish, as you witness and share my transparent DS106 learning journey.
Today, I embark on a new learning adventure. I have signed up for the free, 15 week online course known as Digital Storytelling 106 or more affectionately referred to as “DS106″. Up until two weeks ago, “DS106″, for me, was just a combination of letters and numbers. However, after Darren Kuropatwa, made the following comment, in one of my blog posts:
“… Brian, you just have to sign up for the next incarnation of ds106 which begins next month. Alan (Levine) is teaching a section of the course and you were made to be a part of it!”
I began investigating this remarkable learning opportunity. This is what I have learned:
DS106 is a MOOC or “massive, open, online course”. Although you may know what the MOCC acronym stands for, I found Dave Cormier’s YouTube video “What is a MOOC?” to be quite informative. Dave’s summary, resonated with me when he stated that “MOOCs are a step toward life-long learning” and that as a MOOC participant:
YOU: choose what to do;
YOU: choose how you participate; and
YOU: decide if you’ve been successful … just like in real life!
So I signed up for this DS106 learning adventure, which officially begins January 16, 2012. I encourage you to investidate this DS106 educational opportunity and join as well in order that you might take advantage of the wealth of ideas and resources that are so willingly shared.
Jim Groom offered DS106 as both an open and credit course about a year ago at Mary Washington University (MWU). Successful implementation of DS106 courses have expanded to include sessions sponsored at York College (The City University of New York) and Temple University in Japan. Starting in the spring 2012 term, Alan Levine (aka CogDog) joins Jim to host a second session at MWU. However, my guess is that for every student who registers and pays to take the credit version of DS106, there are two or perhaps three others, like me, who register for the free online DS106 course because they believe in the course objectives and hope to:
Develop skills in using technology as a tool for networking, sharing, narrating, and creative self-expression
Frame a digital identity wherein you become both a practitioner in and interrogator of various new modes of networking
Critically examine the digital landscape of communication technologies as emergent narrative forms and genres
As an educator who is always looking for engaging projects and activities, I recommend that readers explore the DS106 repository of approximately 200 unique and creative digital media projects which are organized into the following nine areas:
My intention is to complete and share at least one assignment from each of the above categories during this online course.
I look forward to participating in this DS106 course and sharing what I am learning through my blog. Perceptive readers will note that this post, and future ones in which I reflect or dialogue about certain aspects of this new Digital Storytelling MOOC, will be purposely tagged with “DS106″. Such specific tags will help facilitate the servers at Mary Washington University aggregating or collecting all “DS106″ tagged posts for sharing and feedback with the various digital storytelling participants.
To gain a different perspective on this innovative course, I recommend readers view Giulia Forsythe’s YouTube video entitled “How ds106 Changed My Life“. Many readers will recall that Giulia was the talented illustrator, who participated in the first UnPlug’d event this past summer and enhanced the “Why (blank) Matters in Education!” publication with her creative artistry.
In closing, I realize that two years ago, I started my Life-Long-Learners blog as a New Year’s resolution. Since that first article that I posted on January 1, 2010, I have learned so much, shared so much, and expanded my Personal Learning Network in ways that I would have never dreamed possible. I trust that by joining, and taking part in this DS106 community, I will continue to learn and share so as to help students and teachers along their path to becoming life-long-learners.
“What was one of your most unforgettable experiences?” This was a question that my colleague and I asked of all participants in our first digital storytelling workshop. Not only was I tasked with instructing both students and staff in the art of digital storytelling, I was also committed to modeling the educational process.
When I reviewed various impressionable situations that I had encountered … as a youngster, student, teacher, husband and father, there were several from which to pick. Certainly, being in the delivery room with my wife to witness the miracle of the birth of our two sons had to be considered. However, not having a ready supply of pictures to help tell this beautiful birthing story, led me to select another important impressionable moment.
Every November 11, I think back on a solo bicycling trip that I took throughout Europe as a young person. As I cycled through the south of Holland, I was encouraged to visit the Arnhem-Oosterbeek War Cemetery. My afternoon visit to this hallowed environment, left me with impressions that would last a lifetime.
I chose this experience as the basis of my first digital storytelling endeavor. The result, is my six minute, YouTube-hosted, video entitled “Are two minutes, too much, to ask?” which is embedded below:
Perhaps you may wish to share this tribute to the fallen and our veterans, as November 11 approaches. I trust that viewers will find my message as poignant today as it was for me back in the summer of 1970.
Take care & keep smiling Brian
Credit: Flickr – Creative Commons image “Remembrance” by Rick Leche http://www.flickr.com/photos/rick_leche/1969719038/
incorporating background music that students enjoy using appropriate crediting processes;
demonstrating the creative use of the Ken Burns effect;
providing a detailed “credits screen” which viewers can use to investigate video elements; and
sharing the video via YouTube so that other students and teachers can benefit.
Rosalind’s video creation was in response to another remarkable Manitoba educator-created digital story entitled, “Show Your Media Literacy”. This media literacy video was posted as a “teaser” to encourage students and teachers to showcase what digital media meant to them. Rosalind took up the challenge and decided to create a digital story using the Windows Photo Story 3 freeware, which she had never used before. In early October 2009, Rosalind (a.k.a. “RozzyBearHere”) shared her creative resource on YouTube so that other students and educators might benefit from its important message.
For the first few months that this video was posted on YouTube, it had a modest viewing audience. However, this changed dramatically in early June 2010, when the video was selected as “Today’s Spotlight Video” in iGoogle. The video “went viral” and, as of today, is fast approaching 160 000 views, together with being embedded in numerous blogs like this one.
However, with fame comes feedback, fans, and frustration.
In addition, this digital story comes with its own serendipitous “teachable moments”. These opportunities are driven by more than 100 feedback comments that viewers made in response to the “Digital Citizenship – Who Will You Be?” video. I encourage readers to scan these remarks, which are listed in reverse chronological order, to gain a sense of how this video was received by the wider YouTube viewing audience.
Thankfully, when Rosalind posted her video, she chose to moderate the comments made about her video. As viewer feedback was sent to her, she was immediately faced with several questions:
Do I permit all comments to be viewed?
Do I share only positive remarks?
Do I permit negative feedback and comments?
What do I do about feedback which is rude or inappropriate?
Rosalind admitted that, as an educator, it was a real “eye-opener” to witness the number of inappropriate comments made by viewers who, because they are logged on with an alias or pseudonym, think they have anonymity and no longer need to be respectful or responsible for their comments. Would such individuals be just as rude or profane in a face-to-face dialogue with Rosalind or is this just their “web presence”? I also wonder if such on-line rudeness and profanity will come back to “bite them” should their Internet alias(es) become known to future employers or bosses. After all, it has often been said “what goes around comes around”.
Students and teachers, who share video creations using the YouTube mechanism, need to be aware that feedback is not always as positive as one might like nor is criticism always constructive. For this reason teachers, who post student-created videos on YouTube should not only choose to moderate viewer feedback but also take time to educate students about the potential for inappropriateness. Students need to understand that although there will be positive comments from fans, there may also be the possibility of frustration from harsh, negative or inappropriate comments. To help prepare educators to use YouTube more effectively with students, I encourage readers to investigate the first two “moderation” entries by Wes Fryer found at the end of this article.
Regardless of the frustration of having to moderate inappropriate and rude comments, I thank Rosalind and many like-minded students and educators who are willing to deal with such hassles to share their creativity and concepts using YouTube. To give the reader a final positive spin on this blog entry, I leave you with a list of educational videos that you may wish to share with your students. Knowing that many educators have YouTube access blocked at school, perhaps one might want to investigate these videos at home to determine their appropriateness for use with your class during the next school year.
I wish all educators a well-earned, relaxing summer holiday with family and friends.
Wow … have I been having fun! I was actively engaged in learning as I explored Xtranormal, a web 2.0 video-creation tool, which students and staff will find fascinating! Unleash your creativity by picking a setting, characters, and begin typing narration which is automatically transferred to speech with appropriate lip-sync. To better learn how to use this innovative application, I created the following movie with a message.
In the following short video, entitled “21st Century Learners – A Movie With A Message“, Jessica and Don, two high school students, discuss why teachers need to change to meet the needs of 21st century learners. They summarize their discussion by suggesting that perhaps the key ideas might be best reflected by the acronym “CREATE” which might stand for:
C ollaborative R esourceful E ducators A pply T echnology E ngagingly
I have always been excited by the opportunity to engage students and teachers in the digital storytelling process. With Xtranormal, teams can put together movies by simply typing in the narration or dialogue between the two actors. Regardless of the technology application used, the emphasis should be on the story not the software. Xtranormal provides another process and opportunity that students can use to tell a story.
Although I created my “movie with a message” by myself, I believe that this web 2.0 application would foster both creativity and collaboration if used as a movie-making tool by teams of students. In fact, if a student chose to work “solo” to create a movie, I believe that s/he would be missing a powerful learning opportunity. The vast majority of today’s 21st century learners, when they become part of the workforce, will need to learn to work collaboratively. Workers will join teams where members bring different skills, backgrounds, and personality traits as assets. Furthermore, it is doubtful that such teams will be comprised of members who all live and work in the same geographic location. So the sooner that we, as teachers, can encourage students to cooperate in school projects, the sooner students can develop the necessary collaborative skills to survive in the competitive world-wide workplace.
It’s a fact. Digital storytelling engages students. It matters little if one chooses to use freeware applications which are tied to a computer’s operating system such as iMovie (Macintosh) or Photo Story 3 (Windows) or a web 2.0 application such as VoiceThread, students’ learning is enhanced with multi-media engagement and technology use. Now, take this student enthusiasm and apply it to a well-thought out, classroom-based project and you have a learning opportunity that can’t fail!
Jeff Sinnock, is a Grade 7 Social Studies teacher at John Pritchard School in the River East Transcona School Division in Winnipeg. This past year, Jeff decided to have his students explore the “dark continent” of Africa. True, he could have assigned a traditional essay in which students researched different countries in Africa and compared and contrasted various geographical issues. In fact, he might have even chosen to use a free drill and practice program like “The Countries of Africa” online quiz in order that his students use some aspect of technology. Rather, in an attempt to enlighten his students and follow the Literacy with Information and Communication Technology (LwICT) Across the Curriculum guidelines, Jeff created the following “Sponsor Child” final project. I was lucky enough to learn of his May, 2009, endeavour and when I asked Jeff for permission to share his innovative project and rubric, Jeff not only permitted me to share it, he made improvements and sent me his, yet-to-be-assigned, 2010 version which I provide as a download at the end of this article.
Jeff’s grade 7 Social Studies students were challenged “to learn about a developing country and its needs”. Each student chose a particular country in Africa and represented a non-governmental organization (NGO) whose task was to gain financial aid to help sponsor one of the country’s children. Jeff provided students with a storytelling template, which cleverly combined topics, a script, useful web links and an assessment rubric. An initial portion of this activity project is displayed below and the reader is encouraged to click on this image to view the information more easily.
The project consisted of the following five main sections:
Introduction – The name and student-created logo of the NGO are displayed together with a geographic overview of the child’s country.
Culture – The next three three slides illustrate the beauty of the country and its people.
H.D.I. – The story continues with four slides which provide details on the country’s Human Development Index ranking together with the life expectancy, per capita income, and literacy rate.
Development Issues – Next, a development issue and human rights violations are identified.
Donations – The project ends with an explanation as to how the NGO will use the donations with a concluding message.
As an educator, I always look for educational activities that are “dividend rich”. By that I mean the project can be:
used by early, middle and senior years students;
integrated into a multitude of subjects;
adapted to meet many LwICT descriptors; and
implemented without needing to spend a great deal of teacher-time learning to use technology or the application.
Undoubtedly, Jeff has capitalized on the “dividend rich” digital storytelling vehicle and his rubric-template (which is available for download in Word or PDF formats), provides a mechanism which teachers can immediately use with Grade 7 Social Studies. For those who teach other grade levels or subject areas, I encourage you to examine this rubric-template as it is one that can be easily adapted by teachers wishing to incorporate a digital storytelling project in a purposeful manner. Furthermore, the extensive list of LwICT descriptors, which are listed as “tags” at the end of this article, demonstrate how this digital storytelling rubric-template can meet so many educational objectives.
So I urge you to download Jeff’s template-rubric and if you cannot immediately utilize it yourself, please pass it along to your colleagues. I believe that this project has a great deal of potential and I encourage readers to share their thoughts by clicking on this article’s hyper-linked title and completing the feedback comment at the end of the article. Should you wish to thank Jeff or provide him with feedback directly, you can email him at the following address “jsinnock<at>retsd<dot>mb<dot>ca”. This somewhat “cryptic” email address, which is also displayed in the footer area on Jeff’s rubric-template, is designed to reduce potential spammers. I trust that if you wish to email Jeff directly, you will convert this “cryptic” e-mail address to it’s corresponding “conventional” format before attempting to send an email message.
Jeff, on behalf of our readers, I want to thank you for sharing your creative “Sponsor Child” digital storytelling rubric-template and additional on-line resources with us.
This blog entry provides educators with an easy-entry, classroom activity that can engage students as they create an online slideshow using Creative Commons images. Those readers, who have read my previous post entitled “Digital Storytelling – Engaged Learning“, know that I believe that our students can become engaged in learning through the storytelling process.
Unfortunately some educators, who may feel somewhat overwhelmed with technology in their schools, offer the following reasons as road-blocks to implementing digital storytelling:
As an educator, I don’t have time to master the technology and a new application.
I use a Macintosh at home and the school has Windows hardware (or vice-versa).
I can never get sufficient access to the computer lab for my class to learn the application.
True, it will take a little time to become “familiar” with the application. Note I said “familiar” and not “master”. Rather, let your students become “masters” of the software program and encourage them to share techniques and strategies with classmates and yourself. As an educator, you should focus on the pedagogy not the program.
Encourage students to create digital stories outside regular school hours. Collaborating students don’t need to worry about incompatibilities between Macintosh and Windows computers when they use web 2.0, online digital storytelling applications. I encourage your students to explore Alan Levin’e resource entitled 50+ Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story. Suggest that different teams of students use different on-line applications to create a digital story and, in addition, have them compare and contrast the benefits of each web 2.0 process.
Having used Photo Story 3 as a digital storytelling tool for many years, I wanted an on-line application which allowed me to narrate each image. Believe me, it can be a real hassle importing the entire narrative script and then having to “fiddle” with transitional timing to position the appropriate slide with the corresponding narration. Having reviewed a number of Alan Levine’s recommended web 2.0 digital storytelling applications, I returned to “VoiceThread” which allowed me to narrate each slide.
In addition, I decided to use a technique, which I observed in Dean Shareski’s YouTube video called “Priceless“. In this digital story, a father reflects on the increasing cost of wedding components such as bouquet, dress, and reception but “seeing your daughter find happiness” was priceless. I utilized this process when I created my “MasterCard Moment” using VoiceThread.
I think this “MasterCard Moment” technique is a simple, but quick, entry which all teachers can use to introduce digital storytelling to their classes. Students can now focus on the process and not on the “bells and whistles” of the program as they collect 5-6 Creative Commons images to tell their “priceless” story.