Moving Into Digital Storytelling

It’s midterm and my students are working through their scripts as they prepare to make digital stories to embed on the blog–it’s interesting how this is the first crop I’ve had in class who actually know (or think they know) what a digital story is. And they are bored by them–“the clichéd mix of image/voiceover/soundtrack” just isn’t interesting –they see through the hoopla of the “new” way of writing a story.

Now that digital stories are no longer new, no longer intimidating, my students are being more critical, asking tough questions about how if we choose to use image and sound in our authoring on and for the Web, they have to do more than recreate the text. They have to do something other than write the same story, with illustrations and cool music.

Touché! Although we hear the Tarnation-type stories about kids and iMOVIE, mostly we watch glorified slide shows of the same old story. My students want more–and some of them are graduating to FinalCut and Premiere; some of them are interested in using FLASH or in playing around with other tools and dreams. They are questioning, doubting, and demanding. They sense what Michael Joyce points out in his essay “Forms of Future” in Rethinking Media Change:

“The emergence of a truly electronic narrative art form awaits the pooling of a communal genius, a gathering of cultural impulses, of vernacular technologies, and most importantly of common yearnings which can find neither a better representation nor a more satisfactory confirmation than what electronic media can offer…There is astonishing creativity everywhere but there has not as yet emerged any form which promises either widely popular or deeply artistic impact.”

The important thing here, I think, is not that students making digital stories are doing something new, but that they are showing a new openness to experimentation, to re-seeing form and voice, perspective and language through this kind of multi-media authoring. No longer am I urging my students to consider others kinds of authoring in addition to the traditional scholarly essay –they expect we’ll do a little multi-media authoring in my classes, but they want it to do their ideas justice. A year ago, many of my students were tentative, clumsy, even, with the tools–now they want to make them sing and to be used for good reason.

I think this bodes well for this set of digital stories. Yes,it’s true, as Héctor points out to me on a daily basis, we haven’t got a clue what we’re doing with the intersection of these tools–it’s all a mess, but I am delighted by the messes my students are making. They are pushing themselves to make sense of this online authoring. They are pushing me to articulate clearly my goals for this work. And then there’s the issue of time and training–I’ve had to back away from Premiere for the whole group (being a MAC user, I just learned how to use it myself and thus have to depend on Paul to set up a workshop, but he’s swamped, and so I am back to iMOVIE). They help me slow down and take stock, to ask if this is the best use of our time. And I return again and again with the response–yes, sometimes it is difficult to see the value of something we don’t fully understand, but there’s no getting around the fact that this work brings together our classroom community, forces us to get out of ruts of thinking and expression, and lets us be playful and creative.

And so I turn to some tutorial sites that will enable them to work efficiently, to accomplish at least some of their ideas in far too short a time (they need much more time than I can give them just to muck about with the tools):

Some good, helpful sites:

Photoshop tutorials

Free Pics

Apple’s Tips on Making iMOVIEs

Mac Tips and Tricks

Free Sample Plug-ins

The Unofficial iMOVIE FAQs

Advanced iMOVIE tips