Message sharing and receiving have become far more than text on a page. The multilayered levels of conveying messages in today’s multimedia environment may confuse and overwhelm teachers. This really isn’t surprising, many of us grew up watching videos as a reward when the “real” work of reading a book or writing a story was done. But, in a time when digital devices, multimedia sites, and apps are commonplace we are beginning to see first hand how the layers (images, sounds, text, and video) complement one another in conveying information in more profound and thought-provoking ways.
As I watch the spontaneous collaboration and curiosity of students using devices, I can’t help but see the creativity and possibilities available to students with multimedia tools. Digital tools offer all writers the ability to lift their voices and tell their stories in creative ways. Students who may have once felt confined by the flatness of paper, or weighted down by the laborious task of fine motor skills, or who became frustrated in organizing words and thoughts long before their thoughts were coherent to others can now share their voice, feeling empowered and strong.
My interest in supporting students and teachers in digital storytelling took me to the session, “Beyond Digital StoryTelling” at NCTE 2018 with Apple Distinguished Educator Mindy Ahrens, Mike Lewis, & Billy Corcoran. As I watched this dynamic trio in action I couldn’t take notes or pictures fast enough. These educators lit up as they shared their journey. You can read more about their Project: Every Kid Has a Story to Tell on Edutopia.
As the presenters spoke I found myself thinking about my classroom experiences, wondering how I might be able to help teachers get started and just as I started feeling overwhelmed… I heard these words:
Dig into the process of creating multimedia storytelling without planning. Playing is what sparks the idea and the creativity that raises the level of the writing versus finding the visuals to match the writing. Stories are found as you write.
These words allowed me to breathe. Sigh… I often dive in when I am trying something new. I like to call it my “formative assessment.” I explain to the students what we are doing and WHY. I always share “the why.” I find when students know why we are investing our learning time in something they invest more effort and work with purpose and accountability. That’s important in formative assessment, I want to see them at their best. After this, I get out of their way, and I watch.
- What are they doing?
- How is it working for them?
- What do they need?
- How are they solving problems?
So, with the collaboration of Julie Johnson, a third-grade teacher, we dug in! (To be transparent and respectful to the hard work of Mrs. Johnson and her class they have been exploring multimedia writing.) We introduced the students to “6 Tips for Taking Your Best Shot” and sent them out to play, to find their best shot. The students set their iPads timers for ten minutes and off they went!
Students buzzed through the halls looking for just the right lines, colors and angles as they experimented with lighting, the rules of thirds, and focusing. Students showed their images to friends and their peers rushed off to try what they learned from their peers. Students were empowered by their ability to transform the look or mood of a photo with the easy adjustment of the light or the point of focus.
When they returned, they shared a few of their favorite shots. The students talked about what they liked about the shot, why they took it, and how it might tell a story. It was day one and already the students were able to articulate the decisions they made as photographers and use their work to tell their stories.