"I just wanted to be like the other girls."
In her digital story, Alemitu Abebe details her inner struggle to choose her life's direction. Farming or education? In her community, located in the Konso region of Ethiopia, farming is a way of life. Alemitu wants nothing more than to be a farmer. Then her father decides that he wants her to attend school. Alemitu agrees, but is deeply conflicted. On her daily walks to school, she passes her friends working the land.
She wants to work with them.
As time passes, however, she eventually embraces her schooling and graduates from high school. After marrying an Italian researcher, she moves to Italy. Seven years later, Alemitu and her husband return to the Konso region. They help the villagers erect a cultural center. They teach them how to cultivate Morenga leaves, which are believed to help treat diabetes and relieve high blood pressure.They even build schools in the area and teach the villagers that they can pursue education and still live in Konso and maintain their local traditions.
Using Jason Ohler's Digital Storytelling Assessment Traits, I chose to critique this story using the following criteria: Project Planning, Content Understanding, and Presentation / Performance.
This video is well conceived and executed. To support her story, Alemitu uses photos that highlight the scenic beauty of Konso, as well as the everyday lifestyle of its inhabitants. The photos look to be a combination of secondary sources and personally taken pictures. Alemitu manages to achieve a seamless blend of the two, which is a difficult task that requires careful forethought. Overall, the video demonstrates the hallmarks of fastidious planning.
Since Alemitu grew up in the Konso region, she understands its inhabitants and culture on a deeply personal level. Having lived in Italy for seven years before producing this video, one might expect that her ties to the area to have frayed a bit. However, the video readily proves this assumption patently false. She is able to distill the essence of the region in a short four minute video. I personally believe that it is more effective to create succinct presentations that still convey the author's central message than it is to create rambling dissertations that strike out in all directions. I also believe that if an author truly comprehends their subject, a short narrative is all that is needed. Alemitu achieves this.
Presentation / Performance
Thought she probably speaks English, Alemitu tells her tale in her native tongue. I find this highly effective. It really grounds the story in the region, which I find engrossing. For me, the most effective stories transport the reader / viewer into their setting. By coupling strong images with her native tongue, Alemitu has done just that. The only criticism I would level against this story is that some of the images are framed in a vertical letterbox. This is usually the result of how the camera operator oriented the camera while shooting. I strongly prefer images to fill the entirety of the screen; it lends videos a more cinematic scope, which creates greater tension between camera and object. Other than that, the presentation worked.
Overall, I enjoyed Alemitu's video and would invite readers of this blog to view it in its entirety.
As always, please feel free to leave your comments below.
"We are now part of a global movement, a little niche of a media practice that prides itself on gathering committed souls who cherish the opportunity to help people with their stories...Writing the history of this work is no longer the task of a single chapter in a single volume by a single author, but is worthy of countless retellings, from hundreds of perspectives."
In his writing, "A Road Travelled: the Evolution of Digital Storytelling Practice," Joe Lambert recounts his journey from the theatre into the world of Digital Storytelling, which included the founding of the San Francisco Digital Media Center and, ultimately, Storycenter, one of the most influential Digital Storytelling collectives around. Throughout his sojourn, Lambert gleaned many valuable insights regarding why we, the human species, feel compelled to tell out stories.
"We can live better as celebrated contributors. And we can easily die from our perceived lack of significance to others, to our community, and to our society."
We all want to be loved. Or, at the very least, noticed. Lambert contends that with Digital Storytelling, we now wield a powerful means towards achieving this end.
We all have stories to tell. And they all matter.
"I came to understand that mixing digital photography and non-linear editing were tremendous play spaces for people. They could experiment and realize the transformations of these familiar objects - the photos, the movies, and the artifacts - in a way that enlivens their relationships to the objects. Because this creative play is grounded in important stories the workshop participants want to tell, it can become a truly transcendent experience."
We inhabit this planet for a limited, finite amount of time. Millions preceded us. Millions more will inhabit our wake once dissipated. But even after realizing this, we still want our experiences to mean something. Through Digital Storytelling, we can transform mundane, everyday happenings into fodder for transformation. We can convey to others the truest realization of ourselves.
We can leave something to be remembered by. If only by a few. If only for the short duration of a three minute video clip.
We leave a trace. Some glimmer of who we are, who we want to be and, when time marches on without us, who we were.
For many of us, that's enough.
Thoughts, feelings? Please feel free to leave them below.
Lambert, J. (2012). Digital storytelling: Capturing lives, creating community (pp. 25-36). New York: Routledge.
For this assignment, we needed to take a "dramatic" photo of someone and superimpose it upon an unrelated background.
Since I enjoy surfing and LOVE my niece, Lena, I decided to combine the two.
So, without further adieu, I present....
LENA GETS BARRELED!
In Coffee Cart Compassion, the digital storytellers at Soul Pancake choose to highlight the efforts of Special Education teacher, Sadie Guthrie, to integrate her students into the Lawton school community. Sadie teaches students with severe cognitive disabilities how to run a coffee cart. They go out into the community and procure pastries to pair with the coffee that they brew in their classroom. Wheeling their cart through Lawton's hallways, they sell their goods to the staff.
Not only does running the coffee cart teach Guthrie's students the functional skills that they will need in their post-school lives, it has helped them build a social presence in the school. Other students now view them as a valuable seam in the school's social fabric. In one clip, we even see one student, Jackie, playing football with his peers (he catches a touchdown pass. Yeah!).
I am a Special Education teacher. Though I do not teach students with severe cognitive disabilities, this video reminds me why I chose to become a Special Education teacher. There is no other group of students that I would rather work with!
Using Jason Ohler's Digital Storytelling Assessment Traits, I chose to critique this story using the following traits: Story, Project Planning, and Flow / Organization / Pacing.
This video tells a compelling, worthwhile story. I love that the story's creators chose to emphasize the students' strengths instead of focusing on deficits. The video contains all of the elements of any well told story: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution. As a result, the video holds the viewer's attention for its duration.
Though there is no "behind the scenes" footage of this video's creation, it is obvious that its creators carefully planned the video's shooting to highlight its central theme, that all students should be included and are capable of participating in a school's social network. The "characters," (in this case, the students and the teacher) are well drawn. The quality of the cinematography is a step above what I have seen in some of the other digital stories that I have reviewed. The shots are well composed. The footage is always in focus and the mise en scene uniform. It is obvious that a professional team created this video.
Flow / Organization / Pacing
Coffee Cart Compassion possesses a great flow. I especially like that we are introduced to new characters throughout the video's duration. Just as we begin to "know" one character, another one appears. Great consideration was obviously given to the pacing. The cutting is quick when appropriate, as in the sequence depicting daily classroom routines, and slows down during more emotional moments, the most obvious example being when Sadie breaks down while recounting how some students with disabilities are treated.
This was hands down the best digital story that I have reviewed for this course. For those seeking a story that highlights everything that is great about being a Special education teacher, look no further.
Please feel free to post your comments below.
"Everyone has a story about a place that is important to her or him."
In her paper, "Using Digital Storytelling as a Literacy Tool for the Inner City Middle School Youth," Pauline Pearson Hathorn of the University of California of Berkeley, recounts the summer that she spent working with middle school, inner-city youth in West Oakland, California. By participating in the Digital Underground Storytelling for Youth (D.U.S.T.Y) program, she helped students create stories that depicted how they viewed their neighborhood. The students were given a variety of possible storytelling modes to choose from, including art, oral history, creative writing, speaking, photographs, music, news clippings, digital video, the Web, graphic design, sound engineering, and animation.
Using Banaskewski's article, "Digital Storytelling Finds Its Place in the Classroom," as a blueprint, D.U.S.T.Y asked its students to answer the following questions:
For struggling or reluctant storytellers, story structure is often a a barrier that prevents them from accessing their own artistry. By providing students with guiding questions such as the ones above, we can help them break through this barrier and unleash their creativity. The level of success that the D.U.S.T.Y program students were able to achieve is a prime example of a determined group of teachers and volunteers thinking outside of the box and providing their students with the support they needed to be creative in ways that they did not imagine themselves capable of.
Kudos to the D.U.S.T.Y project!
I am a Special Education teacher currently pursuing his Master of Arts in Information & Learning Technologies (Option: K-12) at CU Denver. I work at Boulder High School in Boulder, CO. Here you will find my thoughts on education.