Digital Story Telling: 5 x 5 videos

Whilst preparing for a workshop about digital storytelling, I came across this idea of video stories which I thought would be quick and easy to do. I was attracted the idea of short glimpses of life that together create a story.

The premise is simple; take short 5 second clips of your everyday life. Link them together without any editing and publish, no commentary.

Ha! Easier said than done!  First of all I kept forgetting to record, and then when I did, the videos were too long. Never mind, I thought, I can trim them in the process of putting them together.

Next question was which video creation tool to use. I started with WeVideo as I have used that quite a lot already and know that it is reasonably easy. All seemed to be going well. I did add a title slide and a end credit slide, but other than cropping the too long videos to 5 -6 seconds, that was it. Until I processed the videos and got the final result.

The videos I had taken in portrait mode on my phone were tiny little rectangles on the screen. Unfortunately, that was most of them! In editing mode, the videos played fine and filled the screen albeit with the black background showing on each side. I edited, trying to fiddle with the size but whatever I did made no positive difference. I googled it, tried ‘help’, but the only information was that it was best to use landscape if possible.

I managed to make this one out of just the landscape videos:

I still wanted to use my portrait videos so decided to see how iMovie coped.  I haven’t used iMovie before despite having a MacBook for 3 years! (I know, I know! but you get used to something…) So, it was little unfamiliar to me and took me a while to get my head around the interface. But 15 minutes later I had a video that was made up entirely of portrait videos and it worked!

Next frustration was uploading to YouTube.  Several failed attempts before checking with Google – Is YouTube down?  Err! Yes! 77 error reports in the last 5 minutes!

Anyway here is the iMovie. The story behind this one is that as part of Kingitanga Day celebrations at the University of Waikato, there was a Hikoi Rongoa to look at the native plants and how they are used for wellbeing, nourishment of the body and soul.

These videos are simple, no (or little) editing, no narrative, so I wonder how they might be used to stimulate further storytelling in the classroom.  A prompt for children to interpret, to invent, to imagine the dialogue, the connections, the missing links?

As a stimulus to create their own videos and then to add a narrative, an interpretation.

I have still shots of the Hikoi Rongoa and a brochure with information about the plants that we examined. I want to explore the stories behind some of those plants and how they were used. How people worked out how they could use them and which ones were edible, which were not, which needed to be processed, which healed and which soothed. I plan to tell the story of our hikoi rongoa …..soon!

A thought or two about online learning communities

a globe showing Africa and a hand pointing to the PacificJust a thought about the impetus for joining an online community and then staying in it. I have joined some of the groups in Edspace, which is the online community recently created by CORE Education. I have also created a couple of groups. Why did I join them or create them? And why have I chosen the ones that I have?

If I am honest, the initial reason to join was to support one of my colleagues who was instrumental in the vision and creation of the space and her mahi. She is so passionate about it that I couldn’t help but want to jump in and have a look around and explore.  It may also be that I felt a sense of duty or responsibility since this is ‘our’ space and as a CORE employee, I should support the product. But I didn’t have to and there are some people who haven’t engaged. Why is that?

Well, I think that partly it comes down to friendship and relationships. If we trust and respect people, we trust in their ideas and their passion that a place like EdSpace is a good place to be.  I am a loyal employee, I have a good relationship with the company and I want to support it. Maybe if those relationships didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have been so quick to jump in? But that’s not to say that those who haven’t jumped in don’t have a respectful and trusting relationship either. So there has to be something else, right?

I have had a positive experience already in online communities. Communities in which I have been welcomed, where dialogue and discussion have been challenging but positive and warm, where I have become ‘friends’ with others who are also involved in them. Some of those virtual friends have become ‘real’ friends!

I am also always game for a challenge, happy to try things out, open to new spaces and ideas.

So perhaps the willingness to get involved is about disposition too, about personality and about prior experience. If someone has had a poor experience in one online community, they are likely to be less confident or willing about getting involved in another.  If they are naturally reserved or risk-averse, they may not want to take the step.

Then I think about the times that I have had good experiences in online communities. What were the circumstances which prompted me to join? Mostly, because there was a clear purpose.  When I first joined Twitter (which I know is not quite an online community like EdSpace, but it is a community, and it is accessed online!), I really didn’t engage. I joined because it was new and because a couple of other people I knew had joined, but for a couple of years, I really didn’t engage. I didn’t have a purpose, I didn’t know what to do or say. Then, I went to an education conference, I was on my own and although I was in the middle of masses of people, I didn’t know anyone. BOOM! there was my purpose – the twitter feed was displayed on the screen, people were sharing ideas, I needed to capture those ideas, it was a way of connecting to people and having a conversation about what was energising me and exciting me about the keynotes.

Curiously, I became engaged in an online community whilst I was in the middle of thousands of people! Weird, I know!

Another online community in which I engaged was in a MOOC. The first MOOC (and the best) that I was involved in, EDCMooc. The online discussions in that MOOC were brilliant.  I communicated with people from all over the world, across time zones, on some amazing topics.  We challenged each other, shared resources, peer-reviewed artifacts we created for the MOOC, questioned and celebrated.

So, purpose is key. The groups I have created in EdSpace have had mixed success. The first really was right at the start and I don’t think there was anyone really there to join it except CORE facilitators. I created it to try to get some discussions going about Guy Claxton and his theories on Education as I was working in a school who had adopted his ideas as a basis for their teaching and learning. It has flopped big style. Was that because, whilst I had a purpose for creating it, there was no purpose for anyone else to join it? Since nobody joined, I stopped going there. Nor did I really populate it with any taonga – there didn’t seem much point in putting effort into something that was empty!

The second group I have created is for a group of teachers with whom I am working. They are sole charge principals in 5 schools. We meet together roughly once a month face to face and have really robust discussions. I wanted a way to keep those ideas sparking in between face to face visits. So I broached the idea of an EdSpace group. They were a little nervous but were willing to give it a go. It is still in its infancy, but we are gaining traction. One of the teachers is more engaged than the others, so she and I are really keeping it going.

I use it a little like a ‘classroom’ space where I post pre-workshop thoughts for them to consider before our sessions together, and post-workshop reflection activities. We have also added resources and links to readings, videos, and articles pertaining to the topics we are exploring, but also for other things that come up out of left field as we discuss face to face.

To help them get involved, we have the first 10 minutes of our face to face sessions discussing any ideas that come up in the online discussions. That gives those who didn’t have time to get online in between, a chance to see what the others had said and maybe that will also engender a bit of FOMO too!

I can’t make them engage, I can only provide a space that is welcoming and interesting to be in. And of those in the space, there are a couple who either aren’t comfortable discussing online or who as yet are not comfortable with the technology, so they contribute less although they say that they read the others’ posts. They need to be supported because they do see the purpose of it. For them, it is being able to continue conversations that otherwise they wouldn’t be able to have as they all go away to different schools. My challenge now is to keep the interest going, encourage them to be proactive in the group rather than only reacting to my posts, get them to join other groups and see what others are doing in areas they are interested in.

After reading the introductory article The Spinoff Ātua I got to thinking about the online space and how that relates to the space on the marae ātea.  If we can make it a space where we can:

  • trade and spar ideas in a respectful, robust and passionate way
  • acknowledge each other’s knowledge and experience
  • meet as equals
  • build partnerships based on mutual respect
  • nurture our minds and our souls with new learning

educators will be encouraged to engage, to share their knowledge, to question, to wonder and to learn.

 

I have considered trying to get other schools I am working in online too. But they are in a different position to my Sole Charge Principals. They already have a space in which they can share ideas on a regular basis – a physical space – their staffrooms or workrooms in school. They don’t see the point yet of sharing and discussing their experiences and ideas more widely. I am sowing seeds. Helping them to see what the benefits might be. Encouraging those who are more open to join individually and find some groups to get involved in. But for the time being I am encouraging ideas sharing in other spaces as part of the mahi. Maybe they will get there.

Next Stop

Sometimes I feel inspired to jot my random thoughts down on paper… don’t know why and, to be honest, it doesn’t happen often. Somehow the repetition of the ‘Next Stop’ message on the bus from the airport to work jolted my vaguely creative brain. I wish I’d thought to take photos out of the bus window. But I didn’t, so you just have my words instead. Not as pretty but they’ll have to do.

Read below or open the ebook.

Next Stop

Dark morning, cold. Sleepless night.

Always the same when I set the alarm for an early start.
5am. Slow start, porridge for breakfast
Bleary eyed boy woken from slumber. Pay back time. Taxi duties.

Next stop. Hamilton. No longer an “international” airport.

Window seat. Murmurs of hellos and excuse mes as passengers board. Morning Politeness. Sleep deprived commuters.

Briefcases and laptops. Headphones plugged in. Noses in books.

Tip tapping on keyboards. Safe in our worlds. Wordless.

Next stop. Christchurch International airport.

Dark gives way to light almost unnoticeably. Head in my book I sense the lightening of the sky.

Then snow capped mountains, sunkissed. Clouds cling to mountainsides and sink in the valleys. A shade of white separates cloud from snow.

Morning light shin8ng on tops of mountains. View from the air. Cloud in the valleys.

Mountains viewed from the air, covers with snow. Cloud in the valleys.

Turn over the Canterbury Plains, enveloped in cloud, nose towards a rising sun. Too soon we dip into the cloud, missing the sun.

On the right mountains, dark seen from above. To the left the cloud covers the ground.

Nose cone of a plane heading into the rising sun. Propeller motion frozen in black stripes against the blue sky. Clouds below.
From light back to darkness. Christchurch beneath cloud. Dampness seeps into my bones as we caterpillar across the tarmac. Heads down, shouldering bags.  

Next stop. Bus stop. One to Kilmore Street please.

QR code. Commuting stories. Travellers’ tales. Hermione’s pocket. Full of magical things.

Next stop. Memorial Ave. Houses are shadows through the mist.

Next stop. Fendalton Street. Rugged up, scarves and hats, briskly walking bending into the cold.

Next stop. Harper Ave. Tall silhouette trees. Ethereal giants.
a large tree growing on the right of the photo with branches sprading over the top and to the right. In the background across the grass there are more trees just visible through the mistNearly there. Next stop Manchester Street near Kilmore Street.

St Luke’s bell tower. Ready to ring the bell. All that’s left. Labyrinth and memories. 

Next stop?

Story Telling, Our Place in the World, and Digital Technology.

a dirigeable with a boat hanging beneath it seems to float in a garden.                           Storystarter by Anne Robertson via Flickr CC-BY

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” (Wittgenstein) 

We have always told stories. People from all cultures, all around the world, tell and listen to stories. They are passed down from one generation to another through legends, sometimes spoken, sometimes sung, sometimes acted out through plays or dance. We have a natural compulsion to tell stories; our own, our family’s, our friends’.  I remember the stories told over the years around campfires at camps, at sleepovers, in the pub, at dinner parties. We share our experiences and we are avidly curious about those of others. We have learned from the stories we listened to. They spark our imagination, they bridge cultures, help us to understand concepts we may not have direct access to, they support us in making sense of the past to inform our actions in the future. They help us work out who we are, form our opinions, make connections and build relationships.

For a while stories were always transmitted orally, but then came the printing press, and the written word started to be more accessible to more people. We learnt to read and write, and stories started to be written down. We could access stories even when there was nobody there physically to tell us. Our world grew. We weren’t limited to the stories that our immediate family and friends or travellers could tell us. We weren’t limited to single stories but had access to stories about things from multiple perspectives.

I remember Saturday mornings as a child. My sisters and I would all creep into Mum and Dad’s bedroom and snuggle into bed with them for Dad’s stories. They were stories of fairies and goblins, of wooden horses, of ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’, good overcoming evil, of derring-do. I later read Greek and Roman myths and realised where Dad got his stories from and for a while the magic was spoilt. But then I realised he was just doing what so many more had done before. He told the stories, embellished and adapted for three wee girls who just wanted to hear about magical things.

story dice red on a black background. Each dice has a different image on

Dice Story by Anne Robertson via Flickr CC-BY

“Those who tell the stories rule the world.” Hopi American Indian proverb

The books and stories we have access to influence the way that we think, the perceptions we have of the world, how we can limit our own understanding and what we, in turn, include in our own stories. Listen to Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie talk about The Danger of a Single Story.  As well as having multiple stories, she also talks of the importance of having stories in which we recognise ourselves and our culture, of us being able to be characters in our own stories.

Being able to tell our own stories gives us the power and to raise our aspirations and open our minds to possibilities. But, “stories are defined by the principle of nkali (an Igbo noun that loosely translates as ‘to be greater than another’) How they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.”

So what?

There is a great emphasis put on literacy in schools. It is the measurement by which all children and teachers and schools are judged. Over the last hundred years or so, we have been taught that if we can’t read and write, we can’t get on in the world.  Those who are illiterate, have no future. No power.

But let’s consider how we learn again. We learn our language from the day we are born by listening to those around us. We develop vocabulary, we learn how to pronounce words by listening and speaking. Through repetition, through getting it wrong, being corrected and trying again. We learn language through a context that is meaningful to us. I always remember my son, aged 6, coming home and telling me that that he had to collect the toucans from the crisp packets to get sports gear for school. He searched the crisp packets in the supermarket for toucans and was disappointed when there were none. Of course, the teacher meant tokens, but his wee brain knew what a toucan was because it appeared in one of his story books and so in making the connection between the sound he heard and a thing he knew about, he came up with toucans. I won’t even start with his story about cheeses curing diseases in the cinema….

The point is that we make sense of what we hear by relating it to a context that is familiar to us. If we don’t have exposure to a wide range of contexts, we are limited to narrow interpretations that don’t make sense to us. So, we need to ensure that all our children have access to lots of stories.  I think what has happened over the last hundred years or so, and this is just a hunch, no research here (please let me know if there is some), the oral storytelling tradition has diminished. We have focussed on reading and writing, not listening or speaking, and that has deprived a significant number of people from the opportunity to hear stories and tell their stories in a meaningful way. Storybooks in schools tell ‘single stories’ that kids can’t relate to. Those kids that aren’t ready to read alone or write, at the age specified by the powers that be, are targeted and more time is spent focussing on reading and writing than developing oral language. They don’t necessarily have access to spoken stories at home either. This is a situation that may be (I hesitate to generalise) compounded if they come from lower socio-economic backgrounds where family members either don’t have the time to read to their children, or in families that are isolated from a community that support them, or they themselves don’t have the ability.

If we don’t have a wide vocabulary, we won’t be able to make sense of new words or express ourselves effectively. As a teenager learning French, my teacher once told me that what was holding me back from progressing in French, wasn’t my ability in language learning, but by my lack of a broad vocabulary in English. Now, I had a pretty good vocabulary, I read avidly, but the problem wasn’t my general vocabulary, it was my specialist vocabulary. I didn’t read or listen to the news or documentaries. I read novels and watched Coronation Street and Z-Cars and Dixon of Dock Green (sorry, showing my age now!) I needed to widen my range of input to improve my output.

However, in the rush to give kids access to wide range of contexts, are we in danger of not recognising that to start off with they have to develop language in a context that is culturally and socially familiar? And do we also need to give them a voice so they can tell their own stories? And do they need to tell those stories in their own way?

I hark back to the last hundred years in schools. What opportunities did you have to tell stories? What medium did you have to tell those stories? When I was at school and for most of the years I was teaching, despite there being other ways to tell stories, writing has been king. That wasn’t too much of a problem for me. I was a good writer – well physically at least. My handwriting was neat and tidy, I liked writing in exercise books and I was quite fast too.  I wasn’t particularly creative, I don’t think, but I never had too much trouble churning out what was required to get by. Fast forward to my sons. Both full of ideas, they had broad vocabularies and their stories were creative. But they both struggled with writing. As soon as those stories had to be put on paper, they were condensed into as few words as possible and they didn’t achieve success as measured by the system.

I wonder if they had had the opportunity to tell their stories in other ways, if that would have helped?

a double exposure image of an airport lounge. Advetisinghoardings and people sitting at tables luggage at their feet.

Tell me Your Story by Anne Robertson via Flickr CC-BY

 “…new technologies give creative people new ideas. Art is affected by the technology of art, because artists love to experiment, and every new development is a new tool.”

Naomi Alderman, 2017

I am a firm believer that the technology we have available to us today provides opportunities for all our children to have a voice, to tell their stories. Learners can record their own voice, create a video or an animation, they can write by hand, they can type. They can speak to the computer and it will type for them, they can tell their story through song or dance. They can use a variety of media to enrich their stories.  If we let them.

But equally, we can use digital technologies to provide access to the stories in the first place. When we provide a stimulus for kids to tell their stories we can offer videos, podcasts, picture books, cartoon strips, songs, sound files of different contexts, artwork – the options are varied and limited only by our imagination.

There are blogposts that list the ‘top ten digital storytelling tools’ and there are any number of them out there. This one, this one, this one, this one, and this one (which is probably the most up to date one) to post just the top links on a google search.

There are a few that I have tried and found that students enjoyed using them too, not just because they were fun but because they gave them more options for expression.

  • Storybird – choose a theme, or an artist and be inspired by the artwork or read a story and respond, or co-create a story with a friend or even a complete stranger!  Example here
  • Book Creator – tell your story using text, sound, images and video Example here
  • Thinglink – interactive images, plot your own story linking sound, video, images and text. Example here
  • Puppetpals – chrome and iPad app, animate stories, choose your characters, upload sound or use the inbuilt voices
  • WeVideo – create videos from video clips, images and annotate with text and sound
  • Animoto – create animations, upload your own sound, add text
  • Piktochart – visual infographic type format. Upload images, text, sound and video to tell your story.
  • Google Cardboard – VR and AR – explore different worlds, connect stories, unleash the imagination
  • My Maps – create maps that tell a story, link images, history, video, sound files and text. Examples of how My Maps can be used can be found here. 
  • Adobe Spark Video – easy to create videos
  • Scratch – code a story – see a very simple one here

Each of these needs researching before you try them out with a class and they all meet different needs. Allow time for exploration, but the starting point is always going to be your learning intention. How can they express their ideas in a way that works for them and also achieves the learning outcomes you have set or co-constructed with them?

And…. telling stories through a multimedia approach provides opportunities for learners to solve problems, be creative, innovative, and develop soft and hard skills that are sought after in the workplace.  This post suggests that there is a huge shift in the way that traditional text based businesses like advertising are now developing stories.

PD in a Box

An outside concert in a park with lots of attendees. Inset are other photos or different types of people attending, a middle aged couple, children, three men holding hands
photo credit: Anne Robertson 2018 CC-BY 2.0

I was at Womad last weekend in Taranaki ,and the range of different people, all ages, all walks of life, was phenomenal. They were all there because of a common passion – music. Conferences also bring together lots of different people. Their passion? Learning. Because they want to interact with like-minded people, they want to learn, they want to share their passion and their learning.  Just like music festivals all conference goers are the ‘converted’; most have chosen to be there and they have often given up a Saturday or a holiday to be there.

Professional Development (PD) in school is different – people don’t usually choose to be there. For many, it’s a ‘must do’ as part of their professional standards, it is another thing on top of a very busy workload. And just like National Standards and NCEA credits, doing something because you have to, leads to ‘ticking the box’, compliance, low level thinking and no improvement to pedagogy and learner outcomes.

So, how do we make the PD pill palatable? Even more, how do we make the PD pill into an exciting and mouth watering feast? OK, maybe I’m getting carried away….

I am fortunate to work as a facilitator for PD and feel privileged to be invited into schools  to ‘deliver’ their PD either for a one off session or on an ongoing basis over 6 months, 12 months or longer. With that privilege goes a huge responsibility.

Some schools want their ‘PD in a Box’. ‘What sort of package can you deliver?’ they ask. ‘We have an hour every Monday morning. That’s our slot. What do you have that fits in there?’ they say. And what do they do with the PD in a box? Unwrap it, enjoy it for an hour or so, then put it on the shelf and forget about it. Box ticked!

As facilitators, we need to support schools to align the differing PD initiatives – Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L), Digital Technologies, Change Leadership, Culturally Sustainable Pedagogy, Health and Wellbeing, and so on… so that teachers can see the connections, workload is not massively impacted and that they build sustainability and it leads to improved pedagogy and happy, successful teachers and learners..

I have asked myself more than once why schools have a “PD in a box” approach?
Is it because they don’t have a big picture vision?
Is it because they don’t have a plan?
Is it because of a lack of SLT engagement? – e.g. one DP given the PLD portfolio and the rest just checking out?
Is it because SLT have different portfolios and they don’t work as a team to align them? – each initiative is separate and piled on top rather than overlapping and enhancing?
Is it because of failing relationships, high staff turnover, unstable rolls?
Is it because they don’t get the WHY?

I think it is some of all of those things and maybe many more as well. But let’s take the last one. I think lots of schools do get the WHY, what they lack is the ability to fit the WHAT into the HOW given all the other constraints and competing imperatives they have. It’s very difficult to see the wood from the trees when you are lost in the forest.

Maybe we should help them to shift thinking from the PD Box to the “The PD Puzzle”.
They have the picture on the box lid – their vision, so now how do they go about fitting all the puzzle pieces of PD to make it?

wooden puzzle showing stages of development - jumbled, almost complete, complete
Photo Credit: Anne Robertson CC-BY 2.0

Nethui 2017

Collage 2017-11-14 14_13_23
I had the privilege of participating in Nethui 2017 in Auckland last week. I haven’t been to a ‘full’ Nethui before although I went to the regional roadshow in Rotorua last year. I believe that this is the best value for money, most enriching conference I have been to for a long time. I think it is because, although I love teaching, teachers and the education world, we can sometimes become wrapped up in it and forget that there is a real world out there too. According to the conference website;
“NetHui brings everybody and anybody that wants to talk about the Internet together. We’re not a conference and speakers won’t talk at you all day. NetHui is a community event – made for the community, by the community.

Participation and collaboration are at the heart of NetHui. The programme isn’t decided by InternetNZ – it’s designed by the community. NetHui is about issues that actually matter to your community.”

Given the political climate at the moment the theme of “Trust and Freedom on the Internet” was entirely apposite.

Here is a Wakelet of the tweets interspersed with a few of my own comments.