Reconsidering the “Grammar of Schooling” in a Digital Age

Tom Hanson from Open Education recently emailed me and alerted me to a post about technology infrastructure and professional development in schools.

How Do We Ensure Our Schools Are Staffed with Technologically Savvy Teachers — Open Education

Unfortunately, in many schools and for many teachers, the above five suggestions simply are not happening on a regular basis. But the reason that most teachers are not up-to-date on technology is that they are simply too overwhelmed by the day-to-day responsibilities of their existing schedule to be able to stay up with the technological advances that are occurring…

Therein lies the basis of the problem for teachers. While students in other countries spend more time at school than American children do, most teachers in other countries do not have additional instructional responsibilities during that extra time. Instead, time is built into the school day for teachers to collaborate, to prepare lesson materials, and to receive professional development.

This reminds me of discussions that I have been having for awhile now; to take a phrase from Tyack and Cuban,
we need to reconsider the “grammar of schooling” in a digital age. This
is not a completely new argument, yet it merits renewed attention in
this election year and as OLPC machines roll out across the world. If
we are now considering how the grammar of writing is changing in
digital spaces, so too shouldn’t we consider what happens in schools?

Tom shares some insights into what teachers could do in the rest of this post. Also, he has a great deal of other postings dealing with copyright, open source software, open course ware and other related topics. He’s in my Google Reader now, and I encourage you to subscribe as well.

Notes from Three Digital Storytelling Sessions

This week, I am at SITE 2008, preparing for a presentation on Project WRITE tomorrow. Today, I will try to blog from some of the sessions (as wifi will allow). Here are three sessions on digital storytelling that I attended this morning. (I will also cross-post on the Using Technology to Tell Stories Blog):

An Instructional Design Approach for Integrating Digital Storytelling into the Classroom Using iMovie
Patrick Bell, University of Nevada, Reno

  • Project for Catholic Schools in San Francisco
    • Pre- and post-surveys for teacher indicated interests in storytelling
  • The effective digital story:
    • Uses only a few images, a few words, and fewer special effects to powrfully communicate meaning
    • Flows naturally and is limited to 2-3 minutes
    • Is supported with effective teacher training
    • Focuses on the writing and communication proess rather than just digital effects
    • Is solidly grounded in curriculum and expresses relevant content knowledge (Question: what counts as curriculum? Is this only for expository reports of content?)
  • Goals of the project
    • Implement teacher training on effective and efficient methods of integrating digital video editing technology into the classroom
    • Enable students to creat enhancements to traditional written/oral assignments using digital storytelling
  • Pedagogical concerns
    • Time contra inst on tech access
    • Availability of digital media equipment
    • Copyright issues
      • Technology, Education, and Harmonization Act (Note: See NCSU Library site on the TEACH act for more info)
        • No more than 5 images by a single artist of 10% of a collection of images may be used from an internet or copyrighted source, if attributed
  • Design, Development, and Implementation
    • Curriculum Overview
      • In proceedings paper
    • Teachers
      • 2 hour workshop using a whole group setting with guided practice and interactive group work
      • Printed materials with step-by-step guides
      • Learned on how to import, sequence, an editing music and images
      • Techniques on internet searchers, writing scripts, and storyboarding
      • Saving and rendering digital movies into condensed Quick Time format for presentation and evaluation
    • Student Project
      • Conducting valid research using the internet, books, and materials provided by the teachers (historical perspective on the Holocaust)
      • Writing a script and creating a storyboard of images and text
      • Went through same process of creating movies as teachers did
      • Learning how to cite sources and give proper attribution to collected images and music
      • Movies were presented in a whole group setting for peer review and teacher evaluation on content, flow, and impact of story
    • Evaluating the project
      • Images
        • Limit the amount of images that students collect to 10-15 images
        • Google search for large or extra large images only
        • Choice of images that can be scaled to correct size and aspect ration
        • Images should appear for at least 10 seconds
        • text should appear long enough to be read by audience
        • Images should appear alone long enough to convey impact and meaning
      • Narrative
        • Text narrative is often more efficient than audio narratives
        • Background noise can distract from the quality of the story
        • Use of audio equipment can take more time than can be practical
      • Effects
        • Simple fades and dissolves
        • Basic effect applications for motion
        • Use b/w or sepia tones for image color consistency
      • Music
        • Create own music
        • Get copyright free music
  • Conclusion
    • Effective stories captivate attention, use minimal special effects, and translate relevant content knowledge
    • They are a part of the curriculum and supported by effective teacher training
    • Enhance traditional forms of assessments

Reflections:
As I listened to this presentation, I was struck by the stark utilitarian vision of digital storytelling. In short, this seemed to be an enhanced version of writing the report that students have always been asked to do. By searching for images and creating, essentially, captions for them, then combining them into a very short movie, there is not much of the student represented here. When I think about digital storytelling, I think of the personal narrative or, at least, a much more personal take on an expository topic. This type of digital story would be easy to assess (10-15 images, appropriate captions with facts), which is not necessarily a good thing. The writing process is messy, and this is a sanitized version of digital storytelling.

“I would like to share my final with the class!” – Digital Storytelling for Education Major Students
Amy Eguchi, Bloomfield College (NJ)

  • Bloomfield College
    • Independent four-year institute of 2000 students, in NJ and near NYC
  • Introduction to Education
    • Gateway course for education majors, geared towards technology and is a hybrid course
    • Classroom management, multiple intelligences, lessong planning, inclusion, etc.
    • Self-reflection and life-long learning
  • Why digital storytelling?
    • Introduce new educational technology that students can use in their classroom
    • Introduce alternate way of self-expression
    • Create a wonderful addition to their ePortfolio
    • Make learning “fun”
  • Final assignment
    • “Your Own Journey of Learning” — create a movie that shows your learning this semester about issues in education
  • Research Questions
    • Will student choose digital storytelling as an option to express learning?
    • Whill it help them express themsleves fully?
    • Will it help them reflect on themselves more effectively?
    • Will the introdcution of DS not be helpul to our student, perhaps confusing them or making them feel less capable of themselves (not in the millennial generation, other side of the digital divide)?
  • Results
    • About half of the students choose to create digital stories and wanted to share them within and outside the class

Reflections:
This use of digital storytelling, too, was very functional, but did also show how teacher education students could compose their own stories (in particular, about learning how to teach). It was a different approach than the previous session, in that it discussed how students go through their own writing process to develop their own stories rather than reporting on other ideas. I am a bit concerned about the idea that this was done to be an “addition” to a portfolio or for “fun,” but I understand how that approach appeals to pre-service teachers. All in all, this idea could be a useful twist on the digital storytelling that I am asking students to do this year.

National Writing Project Teacher Consultants Explore Digital Storytelling
Paige Baggett, University of South Alabama

Reflections:
This was an intimate discussion with eight people, including Paige and Helen who have extensive experiences using digital storytelling. We wandered into discussions of the composing process, copyright, personal voice in narrative, uses of different digital storytelling tools, and other related ideas. Another link I forgot about: Educause’s 7 Things That You Should Know About Digital Storytelling.


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