It’s precisely that combination of self-examination and communicative power that led Gary Van Deurse and Ify Mora, staff members of the Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, to add Digital Storytelling to their arsenal of teaching tools. “Digital storytelling is currently being used in classrooms and in community settings around the country as a vehicle for overlaying one's personal experience with a larger societal event or social system,” says Van Deurse. “That, combined with our personal experiences working with the medium of Digital Storytelling, made us both excited to try Digital Storytelling with Tufts students.” Gary and Ify experienced the creative process first-hand during a three day workshop conducted by Creative Narrations through the auspices of the Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service. “As teachers, it was helpful that we had gone through the process ourselves of producing a Digital Story.”
But like all tools, it takes some practice and thought to use effectively. “A good Digital Story,” says Van Deurse, “comes from a strong question and a powerful narrative. Before students even touch a computer they need to have given significant time and thinking to what their story is about. It is very easy to become distracted by all the visual options. It is important that the music, pictures and video serve to enhance a well written personal narrative”.
This emphasis on a pre-production critical thinking dovetails nicely with the goal of having students integrate their personal experiences with a larger understanding of race, class, and culture in their community. It also exposes them to the views and personal history of their peers, pulling the concepts from class text out of the books and into the seat next to them, making the issues discussed undeniably real. Gary and Ify fostered this sense of connectedness early in the process by using peer review, asking students to read to the class a draft of the narrative that they had written for group feedback.
“Our students were honest and constructive with each other, saying to one another ‘cut this part,’ ’what did you mean when you said this?’ or ‘fantastic, change very little.’ Once we got into the lab and started recording and producing the stories, the energy in the room became very focused. The student took seriously the idea that they were producing a multi-media piece about their own experience. They also knew that the last day of class was going to be a screening of all of the stories. The students were engaged in their work and held themselves to high standards.”
When asked if it was difficult to create her digital story, Maddie says that it was definitely emotional to go back to the mindset she was in immediately following Katrina. “It was even difficult to remember all of my feelings from that time. They seemed like a blur while I was going through the experience and took a while to actually sink in. I thought it was very important to try to recreate my feelings, post-Katrina, in my digital story to make it as personal as possible. I wanted people to see the hurricane through an individual's eyes, rather than simply seeing the media coverage.” And after viewing her digital story, it’s apparent that she, Gary Van Deurse, and Ify Mora can all say that this early implementation of digital stories into the curriculum was a resounding success.
Click here to view the Maddie Buras digital story
Use the links below to learn more about the use of digital stories in education: