Image Stories and Essays

My students have just completed image-only responses to Bill McKibben’s Wandering Home, a book chronicling his walk from his home in Ripton, Vermont to his other home across Lake Champlain in New York’s Adirondacks. Last week I asked the class to take their own photos, if possible, and assemble them as a response to something in the book, some point McKibben makes about Middlebury, that they felt they had something to say about. The process was, as I expected, fun, frustrating, challenging, and enlightening. I wanted them to think about the arc of an argument, about making a point moment by moment, element by element. I wanted them to think about visual arguments and about how images work, and about transitions and ordering and structure–all by playing around with between 5 and 15 images. I wanted them to start thinking about how they might use images when we turn to multimedia writing in a couple of weeks. And I wanted them to learn from one another. None of them had ever done anything quite like this before. Some of them are still struggling to get their results embedded on their blogs. Soon we’ll talk about ways to evaluate multimedia writing and so we have to start looking at more than text. (I have a post brewing all about the unfolding of our class-built grading rubrics, so more on assessment soon.)

I find these early attempts interesting as responses and revealing about how they are reading the book and how they work with images before we have discussed the grammar of an image in class. You are welcome to look at their stories on their blogs linked from the Motherblog.

In the spirit of learning alongside them, I took my camera out on a walk this weekend and then made my own little image story-essay (thanks to cogdog (Alan Levine) and his magnificent resource, 50 Ways to Tell a Web 2.0 Story, for the link to FlickrSlide):



3 Responses

  1. Great post and thank you for sharing CogDog’s resources.

    Am thinking about this from a language teacher’s perspective and hope to get some thoughts written down soon. So much to think about!

    In the meantime…a question I always get when using these tools…re: the digital divide: how do the students get their images? Do they all have cameras? Is the quality of the photoessay adversely influenced by the quality of the image? If they use others’ pics on Flickr, how do they cite them if there are no words? Do they use their phones? (so many of the images on your students’ sites are of such high quality…that can’t be by phone… or is it?)

    Thoughts about interacting with the posts: Have you played with Voicethread? ( It is on cogdog’s list… Very cool tool that would allow viewers to leave AUDIO comments on the slide show…

    As always, you inspire us to dig deeper into our teaching and use of tools. Thanks!

  2. PS Can’t wait for the post of Rubrics and Assessment (watch your incoming blog traffic grow after that one…:-)) My bet is that the students will create something incredible. Would love to hear about the process of getting them to let go of some things and take charge of others… B

  3. Barbara,

    Great question about access to equipment and images. I teach at a school where most students have cameras (indeed 14/15 brought a digital camera to campus–though that figure may not truly reflect the percentage of Midd students with cameras—my guess is that students who sign up for a course that announces itself as exploring the far reaches of writing, including multimedia, will be the kinds of kids likely to own some equipment). That being said, I am acutely aware of the digital divides and participatory gaps. Also, I’m interested in them playing around with one another’s images, mashing up bits and pieces of thought & expression to create something new. So, we have a Flickr Group Pool with, at latest count, some 242 images taken by the class–images that the students are sharing with one another through Creative Commons licenses. They’ve been using one another’s images and others found through Flickr. Sam, for instance, has used–and cited—images she found on Flickr. They can (and must), in the post, given credit where credit is due. Allowing students to use CC available images, especially images they are free to manipulate will go a long way to easing lack of equipment problems.

    Later on in the semester, we’re going to do phone stories (image and audio), and Twitter essays (collaboratively, and Voicethread stories, perhaps, too. I have played around with it, but it seems better for single image, lots of talk stories than multiple-images stories, which is something we’ve been doing up to now. Next week we might use Voicethread as a revision tool for their creative nonfiction essays… as a way to zero in on the main point…

    And I’ll get to that grading rubrics post soon.


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