Archive for February, 2009

11th February
written by Tom Banaszewski

A few months ago, I set a goal for this year to help produce 500 digital stories. I'm 75 digital stories closer to the finish line. With the Spanish digital stories and now this set, I'm at about 120. But it's not about the numbers.

The most recent project involved the 6th Grade and focused on an accomplishment or proud moment. The project team consisted of four classroom teachers, myself and two very patient and flexible computer lab teachers. I met with the classroom teachers prior to launching the project and walked them through the process of completing a digital story. I'm a big fan of providing students with a template of what you expect them to complete, in addition to sharing with them a a finished digital story that illustrates what you expect them to do. For both Windows MovieMaker and iMovie (one class worked in the Mac Lab), I created a template where the students would open it and then have each step of the project illustrated for them in a short video. Still not sure how effective this was, but it cut down on requiring me to give a lot of direction instruction in MovieMaker and iMovie.

We met for 40 minutes each day. Spent about ten days writing our stories. Each student has a blog so we had them post a draft of their story to their blog and then told students to read and comment on each other's stories. Not surprisingly, 6th graders are not the most effective story coaches. It's still a  big challenge for a teacher to provide timely feedback to each student, but I find that this is what makes the difference between a narrated slideshow and an effective digital story. After students used Audacity to record their voice overs, they exported them as an mp3 and uploaded it to their blog to receive feedback on that. The feedback was sparse as many students were eager to move on to gathering images for their story and did not leave that many comments for the audio version of the story. The student's voice is the most engaging part of a digital story. Unfortunately, schools are not quiet places. We don't have that many quiet spaces and even with designating empty classrooms as quiet recording spaces, students still had some background noise in their voice overs. The kids can filter it out, but most adults stop listening once you hear some other voice in the background or the papers rustling. Next time, I think I'll tighten that process by using a schedule with time slots. The teachers can help by listening to students read the first section of their story aloud and if they sound ready, the student's name would be added to the recording queue. During the recording, we could pair each student with an adult or student who has just completed his recording who will oversee the process and ensure that the environment is quiet. The voice over is too valuable to leave to the student to handle alone.

I think a key component of this project was the flexibility of the
teachers. We had a window of about a month's time for the project, but
everybody wanted quality work and extended the time for students to
write and receive feedback on their stories. I'd much rather spend more
time on the script writing and less on making the final movie look more
polished. Few students used music or transitions and I don't think we
lost much. In total, I think the project took 6 weeks.

We uploaded the completed digital stories to our school YouTube channel. It was the easiest place to put them all (although I don't like all of the Promoted Videos that come up when you try to watch a kid-friendly movie). I have most of the supporting documents for this project on this wiki. Will be adding more soon.