Thursday, September 29, 2011

Photo Story 3 for Windows

I recently discovered Photo Story 3 for Windows. Photo Story 3 is a desktop application that allows you to create stories with your digital photos.

In Photo Story you can:
  • Import, edit and arrange photos
  • Add text to your photos
  • Time photos and add transitions
  • Narrate your slideshow
  • Add music from your computer or create your own

Photo Story 3 in the Classroom: Photo Story 3 is a quality tool for digital storytelling. Creative students will love being able to edit photos and create their own music. Narrating a story will give younger students and ELL students practice speaking. Tools like this are great for teaching students about constructing stories that have a beginning, a middle and a end. Teachers can create a story and use it to facilitate discussion or have students create their own individually or collaboratively.  

Here is a sample story I made:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Reflecting on Digital Storytelling in the Classroom

My Digital Media Production and Digital Storytelling class is currently reading Digital Storytelling in the Classroom by Jason Ohler. This book has given me such a new appreciation for the power of stories. Stories are so powerful and hold so much of who we are inside of them; perhaps that's why I've always been so drawn to them. I want my students view their stories as valuable; to me, their peers, to their community and to themselves. The reading I've done so far makes me feel as though my previous attempts at storytelling have been so lazy, "shooting from the hip" as Ohler puts it. I will admit it: I am not a fan of storyboarding; it is really time-consuming. So when I get the chance, I skip right to the production aspect of storytelling but now I'm realizing what a mistake that is because I run the risk of losing my story and not accomplishing what I set out to. How much better could a story be shaped if I sat and asked myself "Where am I going and what steps do I need to take to get there?"

The section on music hit me hard because over-reliance on it allows someone else to take over your story so then you're basically telling their story and not your own.  There are so many elements to consider in telling a digital story and I can see why some people take the "easy" way out and allow media tools to carry the story. The idea of applying critical thinking to digital storytelling doesn't sit well with me. I think that stories should be works of art and beauty and I'm not comfortable with the idea of them being dissected. Will it lose its power and its beauty by doing so? My class hasn't had a chance to discuss this yet but I'm eager to see what my classmates have to say about it. Maybe I'm missing something or they could shed light on this topic.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Testing: A Practice in Frustration

The last few weeks I have been studying in preparation for my Praxis tests. For those of you that don’t know, these are the tests that have to be taken (and passed) as part of teacher certification. The more I studied, the more frustrated I became. In the last year, through my conversations on Twitter, attending and meeting fellow educators at conferences and my own personal learning, I have learned more about teaching and what happens in the classroom than anywhere else. And so much of what I learned was being disregarded in place of regurgitating answers and filling in bubbles. The more I studied, the more concerned I became about the “right answer.” What made my studying even more frustrating was knowing at the same time members of my learning communities were engaged in creative, powerful and meaningful conversations.

Nowhere in my study guides were mentions of teacher collaboration, integrating technology in the classroom or fostering 21st century skills, to name a few. I found myself wondering if everything I learned could be represented on this test. How could filling in bubbles measure if I was going to be a good teacher or not? How could this test measure my ability to make connections between ideas and theories and help my students do the same? The entire experience of studying and taking standardized tests has helped me to sympathize with regularly-tested students: students who don’t test well; students who can produce brilliant work with a little freedom; students who have interests and passions that aren’t tested. Focusing solely on testing can cause us to miss out on the wealth of knowledge and talents within our students.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Digital Story Reflection

I reflected on the story My Life in Toronto by Ambar Sabah from the Center for Digital Storytelling.

What was your overall impression of what you saw?
My overall impression of this story was that it was a creative way to tell a story about finding a place to call home. Instead of using images or people or herself to set the stage for her story, I like that Ambar chose fish instead. Because the subject of the story was migration and community, it had the potential to be trite but the creative use of color breathed new life into it. The imagery of this story was meaningful and powerful.

How could it be used in education?
A story like this one would be excellent for teaching students about identity, migration and culture. It could serve as a conversation starter about student's own experiences about making friends, building a community and their experiences in a new place. That discussion could also build empathy among students in the classroom.

How would you assess what you just saw?
I would assess this story on its use of imagery and metaphor and the deeper meaning they brought to the story. The movement of the yellow fish created the speed for the story beginning with a faster speed to mirror the crowding and chaos of her life in Pakistan and still images to show stability once she began to build a life. This story was a very personal tale for the author told through the first person instead of a detached piece. The strength of the story comes from Ambar's ability to tell her own story. The lack of music in this story allows the audience to focus on the images and narration instead of being emotionally swayed by the music. Ambar's story is relatable because it is based on a common human experience.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Power of Perseverance

Image by Don Fulano
My Digital Media Production and Storytelling class is experimenting with the use of the iPad as a media production tool as opposed to solely using it for media consumption. Using it for the first time didn’t go so smoothly: we kept getting kicked off the wireless, the lack of Flash made it difficult to view some sites and it shows your password as you enter it which is a problem when you’re projecting it on a screen to an entire class. Despite all these issues, for the second class we decided to persevere and try it again and surprisingly enough, it went much better the second time around; we even worked out some of the kinks of using an iPad with our classroom management site. 

My take-away from this experience: You can’t learn how well (or terribly) something works unless you use it... and try it again. Our class would have never learned some of the glitches with the iPad for production and presentation if we hadn’t continued using it. We may have more issues and problems with it as the semester progresses but it all serves as a learning experience. Technology frustration is common. Sometimes technology doesn’t work the way we want it to; websites won’t load, applications crash or complicated assembly is required. It is easy to forget that there is a learning curve with technology and if you stick with it, sometimes you’ll be able to add a new tool to your arsenal. On the other hand, you might decide that a certain piece of technology doesn’t fit your objectives but at least you know that you tried.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Resources for Digital Storytelling

For teachers interested in incorporating digital storytelling into their curriculum, there are free and cheap tools you can use. Here are a few that I really like:

GoAnimate - website to create animated videos

Scribblitt - website that allows students to write and publish their own books

Storykit (Free) - application for creating electronic storybooks

Storyrobe- ($0.99) application for creating digital stories using movies and images

iMovie - Desktop and mobile device application ($4.99) for making film

Story Wheel (Free) - Create a story by choosing images, choosing characters and recording narrative

Puppet Pals (Free) - iPad app to create animated movies

Little Bird Tales - website for younger students to create their own digital stories

Voice Thread (Free & paid) - web-based tool for narrating still images and creating collaborative stories

Whatever tool you use, always remember that the story comes first and digital tools come second.