Colin's Sandbox

Digital Storytelling

Developing a story about Grandma

by on Feb.01, 2013, under Digital Storytelling

Where to begin?

I recently took a trip with my wife and two kids across the country to first visit my parents, then my older brother’s family, my uncles, and finally, my grandmother.  I knew going into the trip that I’d be taking the UAS “Multimedia in the Classroom” class, known as “Digital Storytelling”, so thought I’d take some pictures as I went along to provide some good fodder for when I got back.  The trip was a kitchen sink of travel: planes, trains, and automobiles.  Traveling with family is taxing, but rewarding in a lot of ways since it makes for a lot of interesting questions from the youngsters.  A break in the everyday.  We spent our days doing what I call the “Holiday Usual”: catching up with various relatives, eating a lot of food, and expanding our wastelines.  We got back to Juneau a couple weeks later exhausted, ready for a vacation from our vacation.

Where’s the story in that though?

After some back and forth with myself I came to the conclusion that the real compelling story that I wanted to share comes from getting to know my grandmother just a little bit better, introducing her to my own kids, and feeling the transformation in me as I came to grips with her condition – in the past few years there’s been a substantial loss of memory, to the point where I wasn’t sure from conversation whether or not she remembered who I was or not.  My Grandmother is immensely important to me; I have lived with her and Granddad during some lengthy periods back in my college days and learned a lot of really important “marrow of life” stuff from both of them.  When I first heard of her being moved to an assisted living home a few years back, and all of the stories surrounding that, I was 3000 miles away and I guess I didn’t really understand everything that was going on.  Phone calls from me to Grandma sort of just stopped.

I’ve been there when relatives and loved ones have passed away before – this isn’t that new of territory for me.  But having made this trip however I realize that not only do I have a better understanding of the nitty gritty of this period of her life, but through stories that I exchanged with my relatives I have a better appreciation of my own heritage and gave me pause to consider my own connections, directions, and other Important Stuff.

I have to ideally fit it into 3-5 minutes, but this seems short.  Maybe that’s good, to keep it compelling and non-self-indulgent.

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Sorry about that…

by on Jan.29, 2013, under Digital Storytelling

I’m starting a blog category for Digital Storytelling, putting stories down in blog form.  Perhaps I’ll flesh them out in a more visual way in the future, most likely not.  Most of them will have some sort of grandiose overtones – this is to overemphasize the points of many a good story: [ beginning, middle, end ], [ antagonist presented challenge, initial pushback, personal transformation, overcoming the challenge, personal reflection ].  You get the point.

Picture this – our hero under siege, unable to figure out what is causing the issues with his school’s network logins.  He has some glimmerings of what the problem could be, but the information about this particular problem are many, scattered, and of differing quality.  He works on this issue for about a whole day before reaching the end of the well of his gumption.  Information from the troops in the trenches is sporadic.  Desperate to see this issue resolved, he reaches out to a pro, only to be given a peptalk and some guidance as to which resources can be helpful for slaying this particular dragon.  That and a note to reach out to people in a few different places.

Our hero trudges valiantly onwards.  With the new tools at his disposal things are starting to make more sense now, but still unsure of when it will be totally slayed.

All of a sudden calls come in over the wire from every corner, folks who have seen this vile dragon before, all offering their assistance.  It’s almost too much!  He can finally vanquish his foe and save the day!

The end is in sight.  Things are looking up!  But lo!, halfway to slaying the beast his maiden most fair arrives in the blue family van intent on bringing him home to dinner.  Questus-interruptus.

Being pulled from the heat of battle was too much; leaving a hastily scribbled letter to the helpless townfolk below to explain the Situation and our hero must depart.

But all is not lost: the dragon is still out there for tomorrow, but now we know how to go about solving it, and it isn’t a set of steps, but a better understanding of what marks the dragon leaves behind, how to include others in the quest, how to track it, and when it rears its head, how to dispatch with it.

Reflection: I have the type of personality that becomes obsessed with problems, and trying to overcome them.  When something is left unfinished it bothers me.  In my haste to depart yesterday after halfway fixing this vexing problem at a particular district I got a little uppity in an email to a staffer and was a little distant with my family last night while I was trying to think of a good way to finally put the problem to bed.  Occasionally I’ve been into using exercise as a way to establish a buffer between work and home life, and when I don’t get that it’s harder to leave work behind.  Perhaps more importantly I should just have a better humor about work itself.  In the end it’s just electrons whizzing around.

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by on Jan.22, 2013, under Digital Storytelling

– A recurring thought I have is how little “tech” you really need to do simple DST – and the less tech you use the more spontaneous it can be.  Due to the mercuric rise of the mobile / smart phone I hardly take my “real” camera with me when I want to document something.  In most cases I’m not interested in creating a beautiful picture, just something to help tell the story as it happens right in front of you.  This is the new age of reality TV.  Strike TV entirely.  It’s the new age of reality sharing, and I feel like a late-comer to the party.

-tEcosystem.  I have a different mental concept for it – the “connected world”.  Lately my work, grad school work, and online “me time” are merging together and its becoming more and more difficult to separate the constituent parts.  When I am engaging with this “connected world” I can figuratively feel my brain switch from a mode of face to face / personal interaction requiring a somewhat long attention span to one which is watching a river of communication flow past through a few different media at the same time.  Sounds like the Matrix I suppose, but without the dystopian clothes and Joe Pantoliano.  That guy drives me nuts for some reason.
– The Understanding by Design (fresh off my EDET628 class) approach to education invokes the WHERETO mnemonic, of which H means: HOOK.  Engage the students.  So far I put all of my thoughts of “where is DST applicable?” in that category.
* Category 1 *
– Continuum of poetry vs. prose (essay) – I think I would prefer to have students mix in a little of both, as I would be inclined to think that creativity about a subject really flows when you have a true understanding of the subject matter.
– Metaphor continuum – I am not really clear what this really means.  The meaning I gathered was that either a story was consistent within a genre or it wasn’t.  Is there a time in which it is desirable to do so?  Some of my favorite works of music exist as multipart stories, each with a different feeling, tempo, etc.  Seems like an engaging way to tell different perspectives on a topic.  Take “Super Bugs” – a different group could make a murder mystery, another one an environmental docudrama from the germs’ perspective, etc.
– Resonance continuum – Stories (or themes within them) can resonate by being particularly loathsome as well.
– Story / report continuum – seems analogous to presentations of anecdotal and scientific evidence.
– Passive / active viewing continuum – It may seem unnatural to TV watchers, but I would counter that in today’s world of YouTube video responses and Twitter retweets with comments, “Active viewing” is alive and well.
* Category 2 *
– Isn’t “Making a Ball Roll” 1st person plural?
– The POV continuum seems to be more of a stylistic element of a story, and depending on other elements could be combined to make something more emotional, more detached, etc.  Also depends on the strengths of the author I would suppose.
– Emotional engagement – I think the assignment may very well want to specify this, e.g. are we doing a documentary about some Mighty Injustice that must be Dealt With, or is this more of an explanation of a phenomenon?
– Tone continuum – like music (disharmony progressing to harmony) would it not be an effective tool to use within DST?
– Music continuum – I love the “litmus test” of no music what so ever.  A story should be able to stand on its own.
– Video continuum – In my very limited video editing experience the time required to edit down the raw footage was something on the order of 3x to 4x the amount recorded.  E.g. 15m of footage required?  45-60m of editing required.  The easiest ways I’ve found to use video footage are very short clips that fit within one shot of a scene, with no editing required (although a couple reshoots are typically required).  These shots then plug directly in *someplace* within some other context.
– Creativity and Originality – The importance of being able to tell a story about a topic is transferrable to the real world.  Fostering creativity is important to help students be able to apply their knowledge to tasks that are different than what is in the textbook.
– Economic continuum – Short and sweet.  Couldn’t agree more in this context.  If something can’t be told in two minutes than perhaps it should be broken down and the constituent parts delegated to multiple groups.
* Category 3 *
– Production Values – Like I mentioned earlier – short and sweet.  I would however hope that students keep the raw footage for their work somewhere accessible long term to them so that they can go back and include it in a more polished production, e.g. a final project?  Next year’s project?
– Tech continuum – At this stage I would prefer low tech solutions, especially BYOD, etc., as students would not need as much direct instruction on how to use the stuff.  And it should hopefully cut down on production time.
– Help continuum – Learning communities!  Having students help each other!  Love it.
– Original artwork / music / etc.  Seems like doing DST opens the door for cross class collaboration.  E.g. asking a music class to contribute original work to a production.
– “digital innovators who want to discover the capabilities of new software and hardware would do well to give it to DST students and ask them to create something with it” – sounds like Improv comedy with props and prompts.
– “Distributed, collaborative, shared stories and story spaces” – it seems like the cMOOC concept would be 100% applicable here.  I am hard pressed to think of a better application of it.  That could be because much of my time is spent pondering it (to a carpenter, every job requires a hammer).
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by on Jan.21, 2013, under Digital Storytelling

Notes on Chapter 1.

  • Revelation 2 – I would counter that the revolution could have started with the invention of the word processor, which predated the consumer oriented general purpose computer such as the Commodore, Apple, or Atari offerings.  But since you were locked into one form of interaction they proved compelling to only a certain small set of people who needed an incremental (but welcome, no doubt) improvement to the electronic keyboard.  Booting up to BASIC was a drag but orderly in its way, everyone learned pretty fast the syntax in order to load up their favorite game, e.g., in Commodore-speak, ‘LOAD “SOMEGAME”,8,1’
  • Revelation 2.5 – To counter, there was a lot of software out there by the time the early 90’s started, and in some areas I would argue that there may have been more competition, (think Desktop Publishing, Word Processing choices) but it was all very expensive and the methods of sales, support, installation, completely cumbersome, which slowed down the pace of tools considerably in my opinion.
  • Revelation 6 – This analogy really hit home for me – technology enables us to _do_ more louder, faster, quicker, and that also includes the noise and pollution we produce.  The consumer availability of technology combined with the self-publishing opportunities available on the Internet dramatically lowers the bar for entry in almost every enterprise.  It is thrilling but at the same time makes sifting through all the chaff so difficult sometimes.  Internally I call this the Cancun principle, in honor of an annoying hour I spent next to someone having a private conversation over speakerphone.
  • Revelation 10 – Even in this day and age, it has been my experience that people seem to gravitate towards sources that confirm and support their current thinking.  Witness me citing something to that effect:
  • Revelation 11 – To go along with this, I think we need stories to help us assign value to the facts around us.
  • Revelation 12 – Stories in which we are the heroes of the future help us to build confidence.
  • Revelation 15 – *EDIT* I have cut up and rewritten my feelings here about 3 times as I am not sure why the term “digital native” sort of gets under my skin.  The term “digital native” *to me* automatically strives to divide people into two distinct categories existing only in the present: those who are fluent with always-on mobile communication systems and feel free to share almost anything to almost anyone versus those who prefer a more formal form of interaction, typified by in-face meetings and phone calls (even faxing!).  To those of us that identify with the younger generation implied by “digital native” the old forms of communication appear to be slow, quaint, inefficient.  On days that I feel more strongly identified as a non-digital native I would say that new forms of telling a story are more shallow, are haphazardly put together (poor craftsmanship), etc.  After much deliberation the way I prefer to think about it is that we can choose to incorporate many forms of media in which to engage in learning in any given task.  Its important therefore to be able to communicate in your target participants’ fluencies.  For educators today that probably means a split brain approach to daily communication: peers / coworkers and students, and I’m that can be frustrating.  Lastly – I suspect that even amongst today’s set of “digital natives” the same schism will hold true for them as it does for my generation: some will adapt to the new forms of communication either out of necessity or desire to engage with a group of others, and those that don’t because all their communication needs are fulfilled in some other fashion.  And as for myself I’m slowly learning that being on the fence between the two generations is OK and allows me to see clearly on either side!  Even though my folks were actually on Facebook before I was, I have learned I still have to call my parents often because that is where we engage in the most authentic fashion.  Perhaps my kids will stoop down to emailing me once in a while too.
  • Revelation 16 – Project based instruction has always been something more memorable to me when done well.  I haven’t done much lit review on how it stands with everything else but it always just resonated with me the learner.  In the role of a mentor or support person I have not often had much of an opportunity to engage in project based instruction or discovery learning.
  • Revelation 17 – Hitting back on the confidence theme.  I can think of so many ways why it would be important when leading a class emphasizing DST that it is a respectful, welcoming environment if you want people to freely create and share.
  • Revelation 20 – After that big mind dump on Rev. 15 I read #20.  Couldn’t agree more.  Thought about deleting my comments for #15 and leaving it at a “me2” here, but then backtracked and left it there anyway.
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