Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Digital Story-telling

I am taking a class now, that while titled something fancy like "Digital Media in Education", is essentially "How to Create a Digital Story". This is fine, it will serve my goal of creating a meaningful video about my father for my children quite nicely, all the while allowing me to learn and practice a new skill that might be used within my classroom.

The Center for Digital Storytelling in Berkeley, California, defines Seven Elements for a Good Digital Story:

1. Point of View
What is the main point of the story and what is the perspective of the author?
2. A Dramatic Question
A key question that keeps the viewer's attention and will be answered by the end of the story.
3. Emotional Content
Serious issues that come alive in a personal and powerful way and connects the story to the audience.
4. The Gift of Your Voice
A way to personalize the story to help the audience understand the context.
5. The Power of the Soundtrack
Music or other sounds that support and embellish the storyline.
6. Economy
Using just enough content to tell the story without overloading the viewer
7. Pacing
The rhythm of the story and how slowly or quickly it progresses.

Adapted from The Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling, 2009

I chose to analyze a story called The Gift of Nonviolence, by Dr. LeRoy Moore. Dr. Moore begins telling the story of how he got his start in the nonviolent movement, ultimately teaching courses on nonviolence, the night he overcame the actions of his abusive father as a teenager. The question that entered my mind as the story began was how Dr. Moore would turn such a negative situation into a gift. I would never have thought that anyone would view child abuse as a gift. He shared in his story that he had been beaten for many years, unjustifiably, by his father, with a garden hose.
The idea that something this excruciating, this humiliating, could ever be a gift was beyond my comprehension. However, I realized that this was a trial helped Dr. Moore grow. Just as I have had trials in my life, as anyone has had trials in his or her life, Dr. Moore grew from this experience rather than shutting down. By sharing this deeply personal story, Dr. Moore gave a personal voice to the non-violent movement that he has sparked through his work as a professor at the University of Colorado. Because of Dr. Moore’s experience, numerous students have had the opportunity it learn about the non-violent movement and spread its message and practice.
The music that Dr. Moore chose for his story was subtle. While viewing his video, it was something that barely registered – only once did I consciously note the music. The soundtrack he chose was soothing and did not overpower the message. It enhanced the idea of non-violence in a way that was understated, yet powerful.
Dr. Moore did an excellent job of providing enough information about his background to engage the listener, but not so much as to distract the listener from the topic at hand, which was lessons in non-violence – not advocacy for abuse victims. In under three minutes Dr. Moore created a beginning, middle, and end that took the listener on a journey from his abuse as a child, to the courses in which he shared the impact of non-violence with his students and was overcome emotion at being able to share his victory and growth with others, to an end where he and his students were able to implement the art of non-violence in a protest for the closing and clean-up of a nuclear plant.
Overall Dr. Moore’s story was quite fascinating. He not only captured my attention within the first few seconds, but provided images and sound that enhanced the experience. The images displayed during the story were haunting, peaceful, and practical. The imagery was also consistent and told its own story. The story began with a simple garden hose. The hose represented one like that which the author was beaten with as a child. As he moved into overcoming the abuse and beginning to share his personal growth with his students he chose the image of flowers in bloom. He was the plant, coming into its own and sharing its beauty with the world. Finally, a beautiful Colorado landscape; a vast garden, marred by the nuclear power plant that Dr. Moore and his organization were protesting through non-violent means. The continuity of imagery brought the story to an entirely new level, beyond that of the simple words that Dr. Moore spoke. I hope to be able to so succinctly tell my own story by the end of this course.

How will I use this in my classroom? I imagine that creating and telling oral histories, synthesizing content knowledge into a short film, or producing primary videos about the stories of veterans or other influential figures will be in my curriculum next year. It depends on how quickly I pick up the skill and how adeptly I feel I will be able to implement it into an increasingly complex curriculum.

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