"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.
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.