Building your digital story, one digital block at a time…..

By Paul Wasko

Image of DS106 Assignment Bank pageMany educators are beginning to explore digital storytelling as an assessment methodology within their courses or programs.   The ideas behind “digital storytelling” are not new and began to emerge in the later part of the

20th century. (If you are interested, the Center for Digital Storytelling has a brief history at  http://storycenter.org/history ).

As the former director of eFolioMinnesota, I am very interested in the use of digital portfolios to support digital storytelling efforts.

What is new in digital storytelling are the tools students and educators can use to author their digital content.  

Historically, digital authoring tools often involved some knowledge of HTML commands.  However, with today’s online tools, creating a simple photoshow is straightforward using tools like http://Flickr.com.

So, if digital storytelling tools have become accessible to the average digitally literate student/educator then why are we not seeing digital storytelling emerge in classes throughout our education community?  The reason: the tools might be simple but we still have to figure out how to apply and use them. This takes practice and knowledge. (I know how to use a hammer but I still couldn’t build a house on my own.).

Helping you and your student’s proficiency using several different story-telling tools is a goal of the University of Mary Washington’s DS106 open class (http://ds106.us/ ).

For educators, an especially useful component of the course is the Assignment Bank.  The course author’s have done a wonderful job pulling together assignments that build proficiency with a variety of web-based authoring tools and services.

For example, check out “Your Favorite Teams Mashup” assignment in the “Mashup” section. The instructions for the assignment are as follows::

“Combine the logos of two or more of your favorite sports teams. Don’t just create an image with the two logos next to each other! Make the final logo look natural and cohesive.”

For educators, consider using some of these assignments as a way to build student proficiency.  It is a fun, straightforward way to help us return to the art of storytelling in the 21st century.

Note that not every assignment is appropropriate for all age groups so K-12 teachers may want to modify the assignment based on their grade level.

Special thanks to my friend and colleague John Ittelson, author of Documenting Learning with ePortfolios, for introducing me to DS106.

Peg Legg and Sal A. Mander

Many of them are very inappropriate for a lab situation, but I was able to cull about 25 very safe ones from the list.

Often you may find the need to populate a course with sample users so your students can log onto a course and experiment around.

Having sample users is also a great solution for demo courses when you want to allow students to experience hands-on a specific technique.

I discovered a fun list of names at http://www.ethanwiner.com/funnames.html. Many of them are very inappropriate for a lab situation, but I was able to cull about 25 very safe ones from the list.

Here are a few examples: Missy Sippy, Peg Legg, Marshall Law, Mary Christmas, and Sal A. Mander.

Course Design Philosophy

As I develop more and more online courses I’m starting to fine-tune my design philosophy. How do these bullet points fit with your experience?

Externsteine rock formation in Horn-Bad Meinberg, GermanyAs I develop more and more online courses I’m starting to fine-tune my design philosophy. How do these bullet points fit with your own experience?

Overall

  • Have a clear path for the learner to follow.
  • Strive for deeper learning.
  • Focus on the learning, not the technology.
  • Be platform independent whenever possible.
  • Utilize open source frameworks
  • Create adaptable content for both mobile and desktop devices.
  • Pluralize your content. Present the same information in multiple formats for maximum learning.
  • Always nudge your students’ learning up to the next level of Bloom’s taxonomy.

Presentation of Material

  • Incorporate short video (3-4 minutes) with sound and closed-captioning.
  • Written materials must be presented in an interesting manner.
  • Create succinct checklists for future fast reference and re-learning.
  • Edit, edit, edit. Be Hemingway by removing all extra words, phrases, and explanations.

Utilize the Writer’s Craft

  • Create suspense
  • Be clear and organized
  • Use scenarios, creating memorable and personable “characters” that the learner can identify with.
  • Overlap information in a kind and gentle manner.
  • Follow the Hero’s Journey pattern  established by Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, and incorporated by George Lucas, director of Star Wars.

Listen Closely to Your Students

  • Their questions tell you where you need clarity.
  • Their observations or ideas can be used to enhance the content.
  • Ask for their feedback near the end of the course.  What worked? What didn’t. What should I change? Take notes!
  • Throughout the course, highlight changes you’ve made to the course as a result of previous student input.