Archive for October, 2003

31st October
written by Tom Banaszewski

Back in ’99 I completed a masters in Creative Arts and Learning at Lesley University. For my final project I wrote a paper that started me in the direction of researching a more accurate definition of ‘multimedia storytelling.’ To date, most people would assume you’re talking about a techno-form of storytelling. I’m interested in that but I’m also interested in the intersections of all forms of storytelling; how one informs the other and which forms can borrow elements from which(portability).

What prompted me out of bed at 12:30a was the realization that I’ve experienced storytelling in many forms. I’ve studied with master oral storytellers Doug Lipman and Jay O’Callahan. I’ve taken half a dozen writing workshops in fiction and memoir. I’ve acted on stage and performed in an improv troupe. I’ve learned digital storytelling from Joe Lambert and the folks at the Center for Digital Storytelling. I’ve created a few documentary films(mostly education stuff) but I know a bit about film. I read voraciously, okay intermittantly, but I read everything from comic books to culture jamming. And then there’s video games. I’ve experienced great stories in the many hours I’ve invested into gaming. But the most influential story experience has to be the ten years I’ve spent as a teacher. Some may not see teaching as storytelling, but for me that’s what I was doing when I was in front of my students. And here I am at Georgia Tech, trying to figure out a way to combine technology and storytelling so that I can go back to the classroom and be a more effective teacher.

There’s still that phD cloud over my head, but I’ll figure that out later I guess. It would be nice to get the phD while I’m working out the details of this multimedia storytelling approach. Once again, I feel like I just got too many research interests. What about the A Place at the Table story tool? How’s that going to get anywhere if I’m trying to also figure this new approach to teaching with technology? There’s got to be a way to utilize the profs here in my program. Their names come up in a lot of papers I’ve been reading on-line. It’s kind of odd to be taking classes with these profs and not really know their research.

I’ve got to work on my pitch.

Uh, prof X, can you help me figure out how to combine my varied story experience to develop a more authentic instance of ‘multimedia storytelling’? They’ve got their own research interests. It’s all about selling your idea. You could have the most innovative idea but if it doesn’t jive with the research of the profs, you’re on your own. And that’s the island I feel trapped on. I want to do an independent study next semester, but don’t know who to ask. (cue ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow”)

29th October
written by Tom Banaszewski

I was always peeved by students and teachers who whined about not liking school, so I’ve decided to shut my trap and just get my work done. I’ll keep weighing my options and wonder if I can get what I want from this program, but for the next month I’ll concentrate on doing my work.

If one of the smartest teachers I know says I should stick it out then I guess I have to give it a year. I really like the quotes Len passed on to me:

“One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of
the shore for a very long time.” Andre Gide

“Ships are safest in harbours. But, then again,
ships are not built for harbors…”

On the funnier side of things, I’ve been reading a hysterical comic strip – The Boondocks by Aaron McGruder. “A Right to be Hostile” is a collection of the last few years of his series that satirizes Black life in Eurocentric White America, circa 2003. I love this book. It’s such a departure from the warped ways African Americans are depicted in the media. It’s also a great example of how important media production by the marginalized is to creating authentic representations of life in America. Now, a lot of people thing McGruder’s work is counter-productive to improving race relations in this country. Read and decide for yourself.

Help, I need to know the cheapest alternative to paying TypePad $15/mo for the Pro version so I can create a multiple author blog. I want to research if blogs can extend a physical sense of community previously created, e.g. a blog where my former students can post letters about the books they are reading. This is something we did last year and it was the most successful reading instruction practice I tried in ten years of teaching elementary school.

22nd October
written by Tom Banaszewski

There are only six weeks left in the semester. I haven’t learned a damn thing. I have a long list of things I want to learn, but this nagging guilt over not doing the class assignments keeps me from researching the stuff I’m interested in full tilt.

This blog entry had more steam when I was thinking about what to write a few hours ago. I guess I just wanted to write about how hard it is to participate in classes when there’s no motivation. I was looking over the course descriptions that the profs handed out back in September, when I was filled with ‘This is going to be so cool. Finally, I’ve found the kind of classes I want to take.’ And that’s still true, only now I’m still searching for instructors who really want to teach.

I started using Final Cut Pro, but I’m under a deadline so I’m just looking to get the project done and I’m making it harder on myself to learn the program. It’s very complex. A big departure from iMovie. I need to produce something that I’m proud of. I haven’t done anything this semester. Other people are involved in really cool projects and have learned a lot. All I feel I’ve gotten is closer to the confirmation of what I do best is teach. And that’s nothing to sneeze at, but it’s not what I came to GA for.

I had a few great conversations with some classmates today about the prg and my frustrations with it. I got some helpful advice. The one thing that I’m enjoying the most about this prg is the people. Very talented. Smart. Hopefully, I get a chance to collaborate with them on something.

My attention for my classes has been splintered by planning exit strategies. I have to explore the options: take next semester off, go back to teaching here in Atlanta, enroll in an intensive Macromedia course, work on my A Place At the Table project, move to NYC and take a class with bell hooks. I’m not getting what I want and I can’t force myself to conform to how the learning is structured in this program.

I want to work on my A Place at the Table story tool.

9th October
written by Tom Banaszewski

I have decided. A phD is not really what I want. If it’s fits into my plan to open an after-school type of center that is built upon story then that’s great, but I don’t want to finish this degree and then go to school for six years and not pursue a university position. I want to teach. I want to continue working with kids. I want to dedicate my time to helping people tell stories using a variety of media, and maybe stumble upon an engaging way to perform a multimedia story.

So, my vision for a center that focuses on story looks like this: a student arrives at the center after school around two or three in the afternoon. The center is build upon Brenda Ueland’s quote that “Everyone is talented, original and has something important to say.” The student has a choice each time they arrive at the center: how do I want to explore the idea of story? Do I want to listen to a story by, say, master storyteller Jay O’Callahan on a cassette or watch a movie or work on a monologue or participate in a drama or play a video game or edit a digital story on the computer or use an on-line storytelling environment. The idea is that students are exploring story from a multimedia perspective. Structures are in place to coach students in the creation of their own stories using a variety of media. Writing is at the core of all activities. Students critque stories that they see in the many forms available: print, web, film, movement, music, painting, etc. as a way to learn story aspects and techniques.

I can’t think of anything greater I’d rather spend my time teaching people. Story generates community and supports literacy development. Perhaps, two of the most important things for the future.

I have the teaching skills and the story coaching background, but I want the technical digital media production skills. The problem inherent in digital media production is guessing which set of software programs will mature and hold their place in the industry. If you back the wrong horse, you’re screwed.

I’m going with the Macromedia Suite. I think I’ll create a mock-up of my future Multimedia Storytelling Center as a CD-ROM.

1st October
written by Tom Banaszewski

What can you force yourself to do? Fear often prevents many human actions, but what about in the realm of learning. If you had to learn something in a short span of time, could you? On Monday night, I had a few hours to finish to my second Java project-a screensaver that displays my favorite quotes and then creates new quotes to display by randomly mixing the lines of the text. Surprisingly, I was feeling confident about understanding Java. The project was due that night. I sat in my room, reading my Heads Up Java book and studying the code my roommate had helped me write for the project. I had been feeling at times over the last few weeks that maybe I just couldn’t learn how to program in Java. This type of learning is still product-driven, unlike say learning philosophy or psychology. I can still work towards learning how to do small tasks and build upon those successes.

So, I sat there wondering if my life depended on it or if someone said they would give me a million dollars if I got my program to work could I do it? I tried for several hours, but didn’t really expand my Java skill set. My roommate came home and helped me finish it. He gets the million dollars. I think it’s an interesting experiment to think of in terms of studying how you learn to consider the if-my-life-depended-on-it scenario. I’ve been depending on the prof’s and TA’s instruction. It’s clear that that’s not going to work for me.