One of my first experiences with Digital Storytelling was in my first Master’s class. The final project for that class was to create a digital story about myself showing how I had grown as an individual and as an educator during the class. I admit that I struggled with that assignment. Not so much in thinking of what ideas to share with my classmates, but in how to use technology to show that I had learned a lot and grown a lot during the semester. After completing this assignment and sharing it with my classmates, I felt accomplished and proud of what I had created. However, accompanying this feeling of accomplishment was the knowledge that I needed to understand more about technology and digital storytelling and expand my digital literacies. That is how I have come to be in this course.
Through that initial experience with digital storytelling, and now as a result of this course, I have learned that digital stories are a great way to share our identities, our opinions, our questions, and our learning with others. Additionally, they are a way in which we can teach others. For me personally, my first experiences with digital storytelling have been important because they helped me to face my fears of technology. I tend to shy away from using too much technology because I often have trouble understanding how to use it correctly and/or to its full capacity.
Below, I’ll demonstrate my growth as a digital storyteller, an educator, and an individual during this summer’s course. I’ve showcased work from the beginning of the summer and will compare it to work completed later in the summer. I am grateful for what I learned in this course because I have gained confidence in my abilities to use technology for myself as well as in my classroom. Enjoy!
Throughout this semester we have had opportunities to create digital stories that follow a provided prompt. Initially, I was overwhelmed and intimidated by these assignments, but as the weeks went on I found myself looking forward to them more than any other. I enjoyed sharing new things with my classmates and developing new literacies in the process. Below is a selection of my Assignment Bank entries to demonstrate my growth as a blogger, digital storyteller, and contributor in this course.
Week 1: Koopa the World’s Cutest Doggie
(see original assignment here)
This was my very first Assignment Bank product completed the first week of class. At the beginning I was unsure about my abilities not only to create digital media, but also to effectively create blog entries about my work. I think this assignment demonstrates this very well. I made a visual that followed the Assignment Bank prompt, but I do not think that I shared enough about my thoughts, process, etc. in my blog post. Luckily, this left a lot of room for improvement!
Week 3 – ¡Viva España!
(see original assignment here)
In completing week 3’s assignment bank entry, I was able to share an important and truly life-changing event in my life. I worked as an English teaching assistant in a secondary school, which helped lead me in the direction of becoming a foreign language teacher in the US. Although it could be argued that showing pictures of a year I lived, traveled and worked abroad does not showcase my main theme of Health & Nutrition, I truly believe that a person who travels and experiences a new and different culture is healthy in mind and spirit.
Week 4 – Healthy collage
(see original assignment here)
I think this was my favorite of all of my Assignment Bank entries. Following the prompt and my theme, I made a collage of things that motivate me, and possibly others, to stay active and healthy. You can see that this entire collage is made up of six smaller pieces, each with a quote or image of focus. Together they create a bigger image of inspiration! I enjoyed this assignment so much that I have continued to collage in my spare time. I have made more Health & Nutrition collages, and I have also made collages for friends that showcase something that is important to them. I think that this is a unique way to share an idea and I plan to use it in my classroom at some point during the coming school year.
Week 6 – Close-up!
(see original assignment here)
As I put this portfolio together I notice a few things about my work this semester. I seem to enjoy creating visual assignments more than audio, video and design assignments. This is good to know! I acknowledge that I am more comfortable and perhaps have more skill at creating visual assignments, like this close-up entry for the Assignment Bank. I also acknowledge that I need to keep working to improve my skills in other areas.
Digital Story Critiques
During the semester we used two strategies in analyzing and critiquing digital stories related to our theme. At the beginning of the course I struggled to find digital stories that I thought were “correct” for these assignments; I was stuck in the mindset that a digital story had to be some kind of video. All of my previous experience with digital stories (which was not much) led me to this conclusion. Luckily my eyes were opened to the fact that a digital story can also include written narratives with media, similar to the blogs we are creating in this course.
For the first half of the semester we used Jason Ohler’s guidelines to assessing digital stories. I appreciated that we started the semester using these guidelines in our critiques. It was less intimidating to be able to choose three specific characteristics and give them our focus and attention. I began to include more opinions, suggestions and observations as I grew more comfortable and confident in the process. For these first weeks of critiquing, we followed the prompts/questions:
Week 1 – Run Your World
Week 3 – Game Changer: Amy Cuddy, Power Poser
For the second half of the semester we followed Lankshear and Knobel’s guidelines (found at the end of the article) while assessing and critiquing digital stories. Instead of only focusing on three aspects of the digital story, we looked at the project as a whole. Specifically, we answered the following questions:
Week 4 – Beauty On Your Own Terms
Week 5 – If Meat Eaters Acted Like Vegans
Each week, in addition to reading the required readings, I searched for and chose an additional article that fit into my theme of “Health & Nutrition.” There were lucky occasions in which I was able to find an article that was closely related to the required reading done by the entire class. For example, week 4 we learned about Blogging as a new literacy, and I was able to find an article discussing the relation of blogging and mental health (see #2 below).
I learned a great deal from our readings about topics that I had no background in. However, what I appreciated the most about our readings was the opportunity to search and find additional articles that were of interest to me and subsequently share them with my classmates. Each week, even though I only wrote about and shared a link to one article, I found and read several on my own. I learned a lot about digital storytelling from the required readings, but I was also able to learn a lot about a topic of importance to me: Health & Nutrition. Again and again, this course has helped me to see the value in allowing students to have a say in what they are learning and to find things that they are passionate about.
During this initial week, I wanted to fully understand the meaning of “digital story” from the perspective of an educator and so I found an article discussing the importance of digital storytelling as a skill. Before this class I was unfamiliar with many components of digital storytelling and the required reading, as well as the article I found proved to be a perfect introduction for me. Specifically, the “implications for teaching and learning” section of my chosen article was helpful. There was mention of having students create a digital portfolio of their work to supplement their learning, much like what we are doing in this course! For those of my peers that also came into this class with little digital storytelling experience, I hope that this article was helpful to them.
This was a meaningful reading response for me. I experienced a sense of accomplishment when I was able to find a current article so closely related to our required reading. Additionally, as a new blogger, I was intrigued by the benefits associated with the act of blogging.
Week 7 – McIntosh (1989): White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack & Nilsson (2010): Developing Voice in Digital Storytelling through Creativity, Narrative and Multimodality & Gretchen Reynolds (2016): Lifting Lighter Weights Can Be Just As Effective As Heavy Ones
Without doubt, the final readings for this class were my favorite. As I state in my full reading response, McIntosh’s article about White Privilege was one of the first articles I read in my Master’s program at CU Denver. It started me on my journey towards becoming a great teacher that is dedicated to providing all students with a meaningful and equitable education. I admit that I was blind to much of what she wrote about, but as a result of her words, I am forever changed for the better.
Social Media Interactions
This course has ensured that I step out of my comfort zone. Before this summer I had never used Twitter! And now I am able to do so with ease. Using TweetDeck, I was able to see all the tweets of my classmates and stay up to date with information about the course. Below is a snapshot of two of my columns of TweetDeck. Once I grew more comfortable with Twitter I set up columns related to my personal interests.
I also engaged my classmates on Twitter:
I found Hypothesis to be one of the coolest tools we used. I did not know about it before, but it is simple to use and a great way to create conversations with others in this course and even others outside of this course.
It was a great feeling to return to my blog after each weekend and see that my classmates had read my posts and left comments:
Throughout this course I learned a lot about my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to technology and creating digital stories. I have always struggled with technology, my friends say that I am ‘tech challenged.’ And at times this holds true. I think that one of the greatest things I am able to take away from this course is my expanded repertoire of online tools available to me and my students. I have also increased my confidence in using these tools, and have explored the blogging world. I’ve already started planning a blog to incorporate into my class to accompany my students’ learning, and I can’t wait!
Me as a learner in this course:
As a result of this course, I learned a variety of new concepts and in a variety of ways. I have expanded my definition of “literacy,” and I have developed a multitude of new literacies that I will be able to utilize in my classroom this fall. I learned about digital storytelling through our required readings and the discussions created via Hypothesis, and I also learned about my chosen topic Health & Nutrition because we were given the liberty to choose our own theme and find our own articles, digital stories, etc. Having a theme that I am passionate about gave me motivation to keep learning, to keep working, and to keep sharing with others. A big takeaway from this course is the idea that we all are able to learn through our interactions with others.
My co-design of this course:
This course is the first all-online course I have ever taken, and it took a while for me to get used to it. This course also uniquely allowed for a focal theme of my choosing, which is awesome! Many of my professors have stressed the notion that students need to feel their education is linked to their lives. Allowing us to choose a topic that we find important and interesting was a perfect way to illustrate this. My addition of Health & Nutrition articles, discussions, and opinions helped the learning of my group (Group C) and hopefully inspired some deep thinking on the part of my peers.
The fact that this course was only eight weeks limited the amount of interaction I was able to have with my classmates. I would have greatly benefitted from a full semester of digital storytelling and meaningful conversations with my peers.
I can see the value in having specific groups in which we share our ideas. However, I greatly enjoyed the weeks where we got to read and comment on work by those outside of our designated groups. It was interesting to see what a wider range of people were thinking about the topics and what they chose to explore as their main theme.
My understanding of pedagogy:
This course has transformed the way I think about and use technology in my own learning, and it has motivated me to find more ways to use technology and digital storytelling in my teaching. This coming year will be my first teaching on my own (ahhhh!!) and I am looking forward to using the skills I have developed this summer. I also understand the importance of personal choice in education. As I think about personal projects, groups projects, and project-based learning in general, I want to make sure that my students are given the opportunity to find topics that are important to them and relate to their lives. Additionally, as evidenced by this course, learning happens through our interactions with others. Reading the articles in this class WITHOUT the opportunity to discuss my thoughts with others, and learn from the points of view of those different than me would have created a completely different outcome. Education is a participatory process!