Archive for April, 2006

21st April
written by Tom Banaszewski

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been getting emails from a bunch of people interested in digital storytelling. There still isn’t one place on the web where students, teachers or anyone interested in creating digital stories can meet to share ideas, works-in-progress, get advice on guiding students through a DS project. I have a prototype for an idea. It’s a redesign of the StoryLink site, which was abandoned after funding fizzled for the project. I’ll post that later. In the meantime, it seems there’s been some great progress in the area of helping people combine images and text to create a digital story. These tools would have been helpful last year when I was writing my thesis. They all focus on the technology aspect of creating a digital story and not so much the actual story process. That’s still the main problem in the edu-tech digital storytelling field. There’s very few people discussing how can we help students/people tell better stories. Instead, it’s how can make tools to make it easier for people  to combine images, text, and/or video with their voice.

Although these tools help with the production part of creating a digital story, they are making it easier for teachers using DS with students to spend more time helping students craft their stories instead of helping them become more adept iMovie users.


9th April
written by Tom Banaszewski

“Will computers change the way we learn? We answer “yes”. Video
games create new social and
cultural worlds, worlds that help people
learn by integ
rating thinking, social interaction, and technology, all
in the service of doing things they care about
… virtual worlds are
powerful contexts for learning. “ — Schaffer, Squire, Halverson, Gee

A few years ago, I wrote Digital Storytelling Finds Its Place in the Classroom. In addition to an update to that article, I’d like to soon write an article along the lines of Video Games Find Their Place in the Classroom. While my digital storytelling work in my classroom this year has been less than what I hoped for, a recent exploration of Sid Meier’s popular Civilization III computer game has reinforced some long held beliefs about the educational merit of games, both computer and traditional board games. I was expected to cover ancient civilizations in my curriculum and wanted to take advantage of Kurt Squire’s research and development of a curriculum using Civ III.

I can’t say what I’ve done so far has been carefully planned, but sometimes you find resources to enhance your teaching and they don’t have to follow carefully constructed lesson plans. Even though Squire’s work details specific lessons to follow, it’s still possible for students to benefit from Civ III by playing a few times or even observing a small group playing. This has been the scenario that’s played out in my classroom over the last month. Even though I could have secured multiple copies of the game for the five computers in my classroom at a whopping cost of $5 per game (buy it here), school policy prevented me from installing it. So, I found a Mac version and we’ve been using it on the G4 station, also in the classroom, that’s free of installation restrictions. The dual flat planel monitors have made a big difference, facilitating small group use of the game and comments such as, "Mr. Banaszewski. I have a theory that if you send a warrior out to explore that it will lead to you getting more resources from a neighboring civilization. It’s just a theory. I haven’t tested it out yet." This comment came from a student who has aggresively resisted all verbal and print instruction during the quarter.

What I like about Civ III is how it enables a level of critical thinking that isn’t so easy to attain during regular class discussions. In Civ III, students see the complex cause and effect relationships of how civilizations expand because of how they’re manipulating the objects in the environment, sort of like how some students finally understand the concept of base ten in mathematics when they use cuisenaire rods and cubes that they can manipulate to model 1, 10, 100, and 1000.