Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Microsoft Resource on Digital Storytelling

When I was at the Hawaii International Conference on Education, I heard Bernard Robin present on Digital Storytelling, and he mentioned that Microsoft was releasing a Digital Storytelling resource guide for teachers, using the new Windows Lime MovieMaker (for Windows 7) and PhotoStory for Windows XP. Looks like some nice work and good resources.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Digital Narratives in Online Class

I just spent the afternoon reviewing and grading the final projects in the online class that I have been teaching this fall. One of the assignments was a narrated digital narrative, with the following instructions:
You will create a multimedia digital narrative (digital story with voice narration), that outlines your Technology Philosophy/Creed. This project will be submitted as a URL and embedded into your blog, and the script for your narration should include the references you used to support your statement. This digital narrative will be 4-to-5 minutes (400-500 words), recorded and illustrated with digital images, and posted online, either in YouTube/TeacherTube/SchoolTube (upload a digital video created with iMovie, MovieMaker or PhotoStory), or developed in VoiceThread.com, or developed as Powerpoint adding narration using Screenr.com. Digital images should be either Creative Commons (from Flickr search) or digital photos that you have taken or Powerpoint slides you have exported to JPEG or screenshots of educational websites. No student faces should be identifiable (see Privacy statement). 
I provided step-by-step instructions for using one of the free video editors (iMovie, MovieMaker2 or PhotoStory), and two Web 2.0 authoring tools (VoiceThread or Screenr). Given those choices, the final projects were developed using a variety of tools:
All of the students maintained a bPortfolio (blog-portfolio maintained in WordPress.com) and most of them embedded their videos using the following tools:
  • Youtube (8)
  • Screenr (5) (2 exported to YouTube)
  • motionbox (1)
  • voicethread (1) (one exported to YouTube)
  • vodpod (3) (to embed video in WordPress.com blog)
For many of these students, it was the first time they had created any type of digital video, or posted a video online. For an online class, there was no face-to-face assistance for the assignment, even though I offered to come on campus to provide a hands-on workshop (no one asked me). Some said that the hardest part of the project was embedding the video into their WordPress blogs (thus the use of vodpod.com). There was some push back when the assignment was first discussed on our last Adobe Connect Conference, but I provided both a practical and theoretical rationale. I am so pleased with the resulting assignments. I am going to ask for permission to post a few of them on the class website.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, November 21, 2009


A Wonderful Week in Istanbul

We just finished a wonderful four days at Enka Schools in Istanbul, working with 4th & 5th grade teachers on ePortfolios, and a few of their students developing digital stories... in English, their second language! They were wonderful, very short stories about themselves or their best friends, and their enthusiasm was energizing. They have new skills to enrich their ePortfolios, now in Powerpoint, but soon they will explore more interactive tools, on their own WordPress server.

It was an interesting experience having all of my presentations translated... forcing me to slow down, reduce my content to the most critical elements. An interesting insight: There is no word for REFLECTION in Turkish, so they had to use a version of "thinking about your thinking/learning."

On Saturday, we had a tour of the historical center of Istabul. Now we are getting ready to leave for Spain. More later... with photos!

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


CIC CAO Presentation

Here are my slides for the Council of Independent College' Chief Academic Officers Institute, held in Sante Fe, New Mexico over this last weekend. I found it interesting that there was no Internet access provided by this conference, although the hotel charged a daily fee. I ended up just using my iPhone, and found a cafe with free wifi (to clean out my Inbox). I am now in the Albuquerque airport with slow but free wifi.

I will be developing a guided tour to my part of the Teach21 website that was developed as part of CIC's project developed under a Microsoft U.S. Partners in Learning grant. As part of that tour, I will be creating a narrated version of this slide presentation, which will also be posted to the CIC website. The narrated version should be available by the end of the year.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, November 06, 2009


CIC Website: Teachers for the 21st Century

I have been working on this new website for the last five months, and it will be announced and showcased at The Council of Independent Colleges annual Institute for Chief Academic Officers, to be held in Santa Fe on November 7-10, 2009. The website includes the ten webinars that I did for CIC under a Partners in Education program funded by Microsoft (seven on electronic portfolios, three on digital storytelling). I also helped the faculty members develop the digital stories that are embedded in this site.  I learned a lot about converting WMV-to-Flash video and discovered Motionbox as a website to store videos online. I also published a simplified version of the content on my website.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Northwest eLearning Conference

I just finished attending another conference with my daughter: the Northwest eLearning Conference held in Nampa, Idaho. She and I led a pre-conference workshop entitled, "Voice and Reflection in ePortfolios: Multiple Purposes of Digital Stories and Podcasts in ePortfolio," and our slides are posted on SlideShare (embedded here).
It was the first event we have done together since she attended the Center for Digital Storytelling workshop in August. We didn't have time to do anything hands-on, but we were able to show many examples and cover the process, as shown in these slides. Most of the examples are online, with the links on the slides. (I won't comment too much about the difficulty I had in hooking up my Macbook Air to their projector… I ended up using a monitor for the small group, with my own speakers. Later that day, I took all on my videos out of my keynote presentation, and just transferred my slides over to the presentation computer… which was being used for both projecting to the room and on Adobe Connect. Ah, the frustrations of being a Mac user… still!)

Then, I provided the opening keynote address entitled, "Interactive ePortfolios: Using Web 2.0 tools to Provide Feedback on Student Learning." My slides are also posted here from Slideshare.
I think I opened a lot of eyes about the multiple purposes for portfolios, and the challenges of balancing formative and summative assessment in portfolio development. The pressure of accreditation seems to be driving the push toward portfolios; I think my message of "what's in it for the students" is starting to make people think about the tension between the two approaches. My conversations with faculty after my presentation led me to the conclusion that there is not a lot of experience with ePortfolios, and therefore, not a lot of research to support their implementation in many of these small colleges and universities. I probably unsettled a lot of people who were considering the adoption of different tools. My focus was on the process, and I only talked about a variety of Web 2.0 tools, and none of the commercial tools available. My presentation was recorded with Adobe Connect and is available online.

Later in that afternoon, Erin made her first conference presentation on teaching English Language Learning in Second Life. She was much braver than me… I never count on a live Internet connection for my keynote presentations… only for hands-on workshops. She included participants in her Cypris Chat community, both the founder of the group and some of the student participants. She uploaded her slides into Second Life, and made her presentation "in-world" for both the guests in-world as well as those of us present in the room. I was very proud of her and thought the presentation went very well. She will be repeating the presentation in-world with a group of graduate students from UNLV next week, and then will be doing a conference presentation at the Hawaii International Conference on Education in January, where she cannot count on Internet access. So, she will create some videos to use in her presentation to substitute for a live demo.

In all, most of this has been a good trip, including the eight hour drive each way! I hope I made some contacts that will lead to more collaboration with higher education institutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Two Storytelling Workshops in one week

On Monday last week, I facilitated a short, one-day digital storytelling workshop for a nearby high school in Washington, sort of scheduled at the last minute. The students took a document that they had already written in their sophomore English class, we did a quick recording, and they created very short stories (most less than two minutes). That workshop showed us that the students could create stories in about four hours, if they have their stories already written, and brought their images to the workshop already in digital formats (some of them incorporated images from a Creative Commons Advanced Flickr search). Several of the students had never seen MovieMaker2 or Audacity before, but picked up the process very quickly, most even adding music. The teachers were impressed with the speed with which these students developed their digital stories. Of course, most of their work was done before the workshop began, since we used a poem they had already written ("I Am From..."). Next year, the school intends to have these same students as juniors create a digital story from a document they will create about their "American Dream" or their goals after high school.

I just returned from West Virginia, where I facilitated two-day digital storytelling workshop for a group of school teachers and some faculty and students from a small college. Most of them did not come to the workshop with a completed script, so I added GoogleDocs to our hands-on training on the first afternoon, which let them share their scripts with me that evening for my feedback. The second day was very intense, since we had to record the narrations, and construct the stories all on the second day. Some of the participants did not have their images digitized prior to the workshop, so I am thankful that one of the workshop organizers did the scanning. Everyone finished, but the workshop ended an hour late on the second day! There were two different platforms used during the workshop: Windows XP with MovieMaker2, and Macintosh laptops with different versions of iMovie, making it an interesting balancing act. (I need to spend some more time learning the latest version of iMovie9, since I am much more comfortable with iMovie6HD.) Some of the Mac users recorded their voices with the built-in microphones on their laptops, and I was impressed with the quality of the recordings.

We had our usual problems with MovieMaker2, when people don't gather all of their images into a single folder before starting to add them to their MovieMaker collection. Since MovieMaker only creates links to the photos, rather than making a duplicate copy, when the project file is moved without the images in the same folder, then it cannot be opened and edited (with big red X's where the photos should be). I need to work out a better way to explain this process so that "newbies" can avoid this issue. But participants in both workshops produced some good stories, plus the knowledge and experience to produce more, which is even more important.

Labels: ,

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Lesson Plans for Digital Storytelling

I am pulling together a series of weblinks to support Digital Storytelling efforts in K-12 schools: http://delicious.com/eportfolios/lesson_plans+digitalstorytelling

One of the best sites I found is called Sharing Culture with Digital Stories on the Scholastic site, sponsored by Target.

I would modify these lessons to use Audacity to edit the audio track... and to remove references to capturing music from CDs... but otherwise this is a great place to start if you are using MovieMaker2 (their lessons appear to use the Windows Vista version).

Labels: ,

Friday, May 08, 2009


VoiceThread for ePortfolios

There has been a lot of chatter online about using VoiceThread as an ePortfolio publishing environment. In an online class, I became aware of the following link: VoiceThread as a Digital Portfolio - a teacher blog entry with instructions and two examples of digital stories using VoiceThread for student-led conferences in fifth grade. In the first example, the feedback is in the form of text, in the second there are several voice comments; a great way to involve parents! There are two really good examples of reflection that focus on what the students learned, the challenges, and their goals for improvement in different content areas.

I recently wrote to the teacher who wrote that blog entry, requesting a copy of the booklet that she used to scaffold the students' reflections. This is the response that I got this morning:
I'd just like to share with you this little thought too. Do you remember speaking in New Zealand a number of years ago, at the ULearn Conference in Auckland? You were one of the keynote speakers and you spoke about the power of telling stories - you shared with us one story that combined photos, pictures, music and voice. Your keynote really struck a chord with me, as you emphasised the beauty and power of simplicity and choice. I base most of my digital storytelling and digital portfolio work with students on the things I took away from your keynote.
You can imagine how "tickled" I am now to be giving back something to you. Thank you for the inspiration back then and for the continued inspiration into ePortfolios.
Wow! It is thrilling to get this type of feedback from a keynote presentation that I gave in 2005.

Early childhood technology expert Gail Lovely, quoted in an article in T.H.E. Journal, says "The power of this [tool]...is in the commenting." Here are some resources from the VoiceThread website:

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Reflective learning for the net generation student

Through one of my Google groups, I found an interesting research project conducted by Christopher Murray and Dr. John Sandars, Medical Education Unit, University of Leeds in the U.K.: "Reflective learning for the net generation student" focusing on digital storytelling! (Scroll down about a third of the way through this issue of the newsletter of the Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine, Autumn 2008.) Quotes I particularly like:
Reflective learning is essential for lifelong learning and many net generation students do not engage in the process since it does not align with their preferred learning style (Grant, Kinnersley, Metcalf, Pill, Houston, 2006).The combination of multimedia and technology motivates students to creatively produce digital stories that stimulate reflective learning. Digital stories present a personal and reflective narrative using a range of media, especially photographs and video. In addition, students can feel empowered and develop multiple literacies that are essential for lifelong learning...

Why don't students spend time to reflect on the things they are learning? Our initial research suggests that Net Generation students dislike using written text, but their engagement increases when they use digital storytelling. Digital storytelling is an innovative approach to reflective learning in which pictures and sound are collected and assembled to form a multimedia story.
The digital stories created by the authors' first year medical students began as blog entries using Elgg plus images taken by many of them with their mobile phone cameras. Their digital stories for class were actually told using Powerpoint. The student comments reported were very encouraging and the authors concluded:

Overall, we appear to have successfully engaged our undergraduate medical students in reflective learning by using a range of new technologies and also by the use of mobile phones. Blogs were used as a personal learning space that combined both media storage with a creative space. Images were obtained from a variety of media sharing sites. Most mobile phones have a camera function and the “always to hand” nature of mobile camera phones encourages spontaneous image capture at times of surprise during an experience, the “disorientating dilemma” that Mezirow (1991) regards as being an essential component of transformative reflective learning.


Digital storytelling offers a practical teaching approach that combines multimedia and technology for reflective learning. Our work in undergraduate supports the use of this approach to engage Net generation students in reflective learning but it also appears to stimulate deep reflection. You can read more about our work and see examples at www.ireflect.org.

Labels: , ,

Friday, January 16, 2009


Another digital storytelling workshop

I just facilitated another digital storytelling workshop, but this time, the stories were developed by high school students, not teachers. I did a workshop with their teachers last June, and had a few model stories that I could share with the students. In December, I met with the students, and the teachers who had participated in the last workshop plus a few new ones. The students worked in small groups with the teachers to write their stories. During that first day, I did a brief introduction, and showed some examples of digital stories (most of them are posted on my website) while they worked on their stories. I also showed them the two tools we would be using: Audacity and MovieMaker2. Finally, we made individual appointments with many of the students to record their stories on the day before the hands-on workshop.

Last Tuesday, I helped about two-thirds of the students record the audio of their scripts. I used two different methods: Audacity and a headset connected to my Windows laptop (created an AUP Audacity file), and my Sony hand-held digital recorder (created a stereo MP3 file). At the begnning of the workshop on Wednesday, I went through the process they would go through to finish their stories by the end of the day. I showed them how to use the "envelope" command in Audacity so that they could lower the volume of the music that most of them added to their narration, prior to inserting the final audio clip into MovieMaker2. We also set up a white board with the tasks that had to be completed by the end of the day. Most of the students finished an hour ahead of schedule, so that we were able to have our "Showtime" (complete with popcorn) and they could go home early. One of the teachers used the extra time to talk with the students about the process and what they learned. I appreciated some of the comments by a few of the students about how easy the process was (especially combining the audio tracks in Audacity).

Wow! Even though I heard most of the stories as they were being recorded, many of the final products, with the images that they included, were stunning! A few students, including two who brought in their own laptops, did a lot of the work on their own prior to the workshop (they didn't necessarily follow the process, but they did come up with some good products). We are hoping that some of these students will become mentors for this digital storytelling process with their peers. I am also going to write up some lesson plans to use with teachers, to implement this process in 50 minute periods.

I am looking forward to doing more of these workshops with students. I learned as much from them as they did from me. It was another good reality check for me!

Labels: ,


EdTechTalk Live

On Thursday, January 15, I participated in an online audio conference, sponsored by "Teachers are Talking," that was streamed live through EdTechTalk. It was my first time using this process. A few of us connected via Skype and broadcast to a small audience who joined in a chat room and asked questions or posted comments in their live streaming page. The show should soon be available online for download.

It was an interesting conversation. Perhaps I got a little radical, but I think I got a good response from my comments about teachers trying to implement ePortfolios without having that experience for themselves. When asked how we could improve the process, I used one word: modeling (teachers being able to show their own portfolios to their students). I was also asked about how I keep going when ePortfolios seem to have lost their popularity in K-12 schools (especially in response to NCLB). I just emphasized my view of the lifelong, life-wide perspective, talked about my vision of "Portfolios in the Cloud" and a lifelong approach, which several people commented that they had never thought about portfolios in this way. I emphasized student ownership and personalization of ePortfolios, and the two different types of portfolios. Many of the participants currently are blogging with their students... I showed how these blog entries, with any work attached, is the learning portfolio (portfolios as workspace/process). Then we talked about the challenges with putting together a more formal presentation portfolio (time consuming, questions about audience). A lot of interesting questions and, I hope, an intriguing discussion.

How do I keep up my enthusiasm for this process? I mentioned the inclusion of digital stories in ePortfolios, as a way to personalize and support reflection. The digital storytelling workshops that I am doing with teachers and students are very inspiring.

Labels: ,

Thursday, September 11, 2008


ePortfolios in New Zealand

I just received this email, which was wonderful feedback from the ePortfolio Conference in Wellington, New Zealand, in March 2007.
Perhaps you will recall your short time in New Zealand last year at the conference in Wellington and then your visit to Bucklands Beach Intermediate School in Auckland.

Well I thought I would make contact with you and share some of the developments we have in place since our first meeting.

You may recall I was very interested to look at e-portfolio developments as I have had a long involvement and interest in the ‘paper’ type portfolios. You will recall the ‘learning to Learn’ model I had put together.

Since we met last April, I think it was, I had a sabbatical from my work here and spent a little time in the UK trying to get my head around the ePortfolio ideas and to see how we could best move forward. I was somewhat disappointed with what I found I must confess. Maybe I was not looking in the right areas. I saw a number of good systems but I did not see them often being used to enhance learning. What the students were producing seems to be a waste of good learning time. What I did see also was more at the University level, in what I would refer to as the CV type Portfolio, and not so much at the primary or middle school level. The structures seemed very limiting.

So we have pushed on and developed our own way of doing things as is usual. I wanted an ePortfolio that was going to support learning and to provide evidence of that learning. I wanted it to be able to show the process as well as the product. I wanted it to allow for the ‘Voice’ to come through.. (See I did listen and was strongly influenced by your session in Wellington!) This was a key part of our developments.

The idea of the digital story was in a way the catalyst that enabled me to see how these techniques could be used to allow student voice to come through with respect to the student’s learning. I wanted to be able to hear their thoughts and reflections. This simple digital story technique is now being used extensively here for goal setting and reflection and for telling the ‘learning journey.’

We still have a long way to go. I am excited about what we have achieved in a little over one year. We started with a smallish ‘seeding group’ of students after you visited last year and now we are looking to imbed the ideas school wide. It will take another year before that process is completed I believe.

I thought seeing as you were the one who enabled me to see the real difference between paper portfolios and the way an ePortfolio could be used to allow the ‘voice’ to come through I would share a couple of examples with you.

Our portfolios are contained within a learning management system we are currently using called knowledgenet. I am not so happy with it but at present it serves our purpose. This is a commercial package used by quite a number of schools in NZ. I would like to move away from this in the future and am looking at ‘free’ sites that give the flexibility we now have with knowledgenet. Many of the free sites we have found seem to be very restrictive. By using Knowledgenet (KN) we know that the students are ‘safe’ in that their work, all their personal details, are in a passworded environment. Parents like this. I am sure this will change in the future as we all become more comfortable with the net. What we also do however is to use many other sites, blogs, wikis, podcasts, weeblies, teacher tube etc to give us free hosting for work with a simple link out of KN. We run a different set of protocols here which the students work to where there should be no particular identifying details. There are many strengths in this apart from the free hosting. With the addition of a ClustR map the students get feedback from around the world which is tremendously empowering. Some have had a great number of ‘hits’ on their work. They come to school in the morning excited to see if they have have new people looking at the work on the web. So we are keen to keep things out in the open to the extent our community feels comfortable with. (As I heard recently no one teaches children how not to cross the road safely! An important part of schooling now is net safety. This enables us to teach this in an authentic situation)

So I have set up a password for you so you can access a couple of our student’s ePortfolios. These are 13 year old students who have been working with us on their ePortfolios for a little over a year. You can see archived material there from last year as well as this year’s developments. You will see we are using a number of free web tools to help like glogster and voice thread etc. Where we are now is looking to develop our structure a little more and to ensure it is in place to support the learning.

You will note the section on key competencies. These are part of our new curriculum. I have been looking to find a simple way to show the students are capable in these areas. The template we have set up is designed to clearly provide evidence, that the student is competent in the particular competency. So a simple link to the evidence is what we are looking to do along with the reflection. This avoids the necessity for teachers ot be having to write lengthy evaluative comments. The students can simply provide the evidence themselves.

So if you have time have a trawl through a number of the areas you will see what we have been working on. We have goal setting, reflections, parent voice comments, and plenty of examples of process through to product. You can track the learning journey in many instances. I could suggest you look at a couple of the science fair blogs – particularly Cheyennes where she has video evaluation and reflection in the work. There is also Cheyennes literacy work on the diary of Anne Frank. (Archived from last year) This had hundreds of ‘hits’ Also she heard, via the school, from the Anne Frank Society who had found this work and were so impressed they sent a bundle of books to the school. Again very empowering.

As you can see I am pretty excited about what we have achieved in the 12 months since your visit and our start. I am off to Sweden in a week to talk about a number of things to do with vision and learning as I have done many times before and will be including some of this work on ePorfolios in my presentations.

Thanks for your initial inspiration. As I said I wanted to share some of the enthusiasm with you. You can read my paper, ‘ePortfolios, a Personal Space for Learning’ on www.ian.fox.co.nz. You will see your influence there strongly!

You may also be interested to know that next week we are holding a student conference. This is a conference run by students for students. The conference title is - ‘i-learn, e-learn, we-learn@bbi student voice conference.’ We have two keynote sessions being run by students and then 16 different workshop sessions also run by students. The students will be able to attend two different workshops. This is designed to allow ‘student voice’ with respect to their learning to be shared and to show some of the exciting developments to others in the wider schooling community. The conference is something I have wanted to do for some years so we have decided to get into it this year as I will be ‘retiring’ from my position here at the end of the school year. Jess and Cheyenne whose portfolios you have the link to will be presenting one of the keynote sessions on ‘Student Voice through ePortfolios.’ So that should be exciting also – well I hope it will be!


Ian Fox QSM, Principal
Bucklands Beach Intermediate School
247 Bucklands Beach Road
Bucklands Beach, Auckland, New Zealand
It is messages like this that make my work so rewarding! I responded with how very gratifying it was to receive this type of feedback, asked for his permission to publish the message above, and expressed my interest in being able to see videos of some of the student presentations. I also shared some of my work with GoogleApps Education Edition. His response:
A quick response as we are working through listening to the students who are preparing for next week’s conference. I will try to get some of it taped so we can get a copy to you somehow. It is all very exciting and the students are so motivated. We have special badges made for the delegates and ‘T’ shirts and caps for the presenters. There is a morning tea scheduled and we will be having student buskers in the playground. So hopefully it will all be a load of fun even though there will be an important message we are wanting to get across...

We would be interested to keep in touch re your developments with Google. We will keep exploring options here also as I am determined to keep moving forward in a direction that supports learning, that provides evidence of learning, that allows for process as well as product, that allows for student voice, that allows for flexibility and creativity on the part of the learner.
I couldn't have said it better, myself!

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


A bilingual storytelling workshop

Yesterday, I finished a digital storytelling workshop with a group of high school teachers in Monterrey, Mexico. It was a wonderful experience. Many of them created their stories in English although for most of them, it was their second language. I am convinced that the value is in the digital storytelling process, regardless of the tools we used (MovieMaker2 and Audacity). Now I am doing a Web 2.0 ePortfolio workshop for the next 2 1/2 days. This is my third trip to Mexico in the last six months. I'm started to learn Spanish, but it is tough at my age! I'm so glad that I am mostly working with English teachers!

Labels: ,

Saturday, June 07, 2008


Multimedia Biographies as externalized memory prosthetic

My colleague Don Presant from Winnipeg, Manitoba, sent me a link to a podcast from the CBC: multimedia biographies for the memory challenged or ePortfolio as "externalized memory" prosthetic, a research project being undertaken at the University of Toronto. (http://www.cbc.ca/spark/blog/2008/06/episode_40_june_4_7_2008_1.html -- starting at 19 minutes into the podcast)

By coincidence at the same time, Serge Ravet, my colleague with Eifel, was attending a conference in Aix-en-Provence in France on the theme "plus longue la vie" (longer the life) which is about linking innovative technologies with a longer (and possibly, better) life.


Don also provided me with further information: it's part of a wide series of research initiatives that go beyond prosthesis to "rehabilitative or restorative devices to enhance cognition, and even as preventative or treatment devices able to slow the rate at which cognitive impairments develop."
"A second research project, in collaboration with Dr. Elsa Marziali, Schippers Chair of Social Work at Baycrest, is producing multimedia biographies for pilot cohorts of persons with early-stage or mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease. We collaborate with the AD individual, the caregiver, and other family members in collecting a life history through media such as music, photos, interviews, and narrated videos (Cohene et al. 2004, 2006). Early findings suggest that the biographies serve to reinforce a positive self-identity and bring joy and some calming to the AD individual. The biographies also provide benefits to family members such as better remembering how their loved one once was and being better able to accept the disease. A grant from the U.S. Alzheimer’s Association (2004-7) is funding the development and evaluation of 10-12 multimedia biographies. We are including several individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) as part of this study."
As I begin to explore the lifelong and life-wide applications of this technology, these two research projects provide very interesting examples of how digital stories, produced with families for the benefit of their elderly relatives, has the potential for making these last years of life more bearable, especially for the surviving family members. You might call it the digital equivalent of the movie, "The Notebook"!

Labels: ,

Friday, September 28, 2007


Lecture of a Lifetime

I just watched Randy Pausch's Lecture of a Lifetime on ABC News. (It is really in four parts beginning here.) He has many wonderful messages about how to live and die. It is a wonderful lecture about how this Carnegie Mellon professor, dying from cancer, achieved his childhood dreams. He has done pioneering research on virtual reality and games to teach programming; his latest system is called Alice. He talks about "head fakes": "the best way to teach someone something is to have them think they are learning something else!" "Millions of kids having fun while learning something hard!" (even the HP creativity commercials that preceded the video were engaging). This was truly a legacy story. He said it was really for his kids. My favorite part: he even admitted to having a deathbed conversion... he bought a Macintosh! This is well worth watching!
The video is also posted on YouTube in smaller segments, without commercials, starting here: Part 0(2) or watch the whole hour and 25 minutes on Google Video.


Monday, August 13, 2007


iPod Microphones

At the workshop last week, the participants used the xTreme Mac MicroMemo iPod microphone. I have the Belkin TuneTalk Stereo and also the Griffin iTalk Pro. Today I found a "shootout" of these three from the O'Reilly Digital Media blog. I have ordered the MicroMemo version for my brand new iPod Nano, since they make one specifically for the Nano. I will do my own experiment when it gets here, to see which one I like best. The Belkin has a switch to set the gain, and it can be plugged into USB power. I find that I can only record a little over an hour with the Belkin before I have to charge my video iPod (30 GB). Last week, I used the Belkin on my Nano, and recorded two hours on a fully-charged Nano battery (it records to flash memory, not a hard drive, so there are no hard drive noises or delays). I noticed in the workshop that for many of the participants, the audio of their narration was very quiet. I will explore techniques for placing the MicroMemo for optimal recording quality.

Labels: ,

Thursday, August 09, 2007


Another Amazing Workshop

Yesterday, I completed another digital storytelling workshop for a school district in Oregon (this time, Gresham-Barlow). After my opening keynote to their Summer Technology Institute, I led a workshop for 28 teachers who all received a similar set of technology to the teachers in Canby last winter: camcorder, digital camera, tripod, video iPod with microphone. Of course they were all using MacBooks and iMovie! We set to work developing digital stories around either personal or classroom themes. Again, I am in awe of what these teachers produced. This time, our workshop was one afternoon the first day, a full second day, and the morning of the third day. We spent two hours before the lunch break on that last day viewing all of these stories. Some stories brought tears to the eyes, many made us laugh, all of them touched something in each of us. I always find some magic in that sharing time, especially seeing the stories that emerged between the story circle on the first day, and the final showing on the last day.

This was my digital storytelling workshop with a new assistant, my daughter Erin. She was a great help in the workshop, and even spent the two evenings finishing the script for her second digital story, and putting it together. It is posted on YouTube. We vowed to do more of these workshops together!

Labels: ,

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


NECC07 Conference - Day 4

What happened to Day 2 & 3? A whole lot of networking and conversation! Today was the day that I did my presentation on the Multiple Purposes of Digital Stories and Podcasts in ePortfolios, or as I subtitled it, "YouTube/iTunes meets 'academic' MySpace." I also finished my digital story called NameTags, which is now on my website (in several places). Now it is going on my iPod!

Labels: ,

Friday, December 01, 2006


An Amazing Workshop

I am working in the Canby, Oregon school district this week, providing a two-day digital storytelling workshop using Apple tools. The workshop was amazing not because of what I did, but because of what the teachers were able to do in two days, and what they are equipped to do when they return to their schools. Every teacher has an iBook. Every school team represented in the workshop received an iPod with a microphone, a digital still camera, and a digital video camera with tripod. When the participating teachers opened their boxes, it was like Christmas! I was very impressed with the pace of the workshop. During the hands-on time after lunch on the first day, each team took a picture with their digital still camera, and observed how easy it was to upload it to iPhoto; they recorded a short audio clip with their iPods, and saw how easy it was to transfer that audio file to iTunes; then we opened iMovie and imported both of these files onto the timeline. It was so easy! Their assignment then was to finish their scripts and record their voice narration prior to the beginning of the second day of the workshop. In previous workshops, we've had to reserve the whole morning of the second day to schedule people through a single recording station in another quiet room. Using the iPods, they are able to record in their own homes. I am further impressed by the open network in this district, and their commitment to technology.

This afternoon was showtime, with the a total of eleven digital stories completed and shown to the whole group. I am hoping to get permission to showcase a few of them on my website. Every teacher has a blog, so maybe some of these stories will get posted online. It is refreshing to spend time in a district that values creativity and the power of narrative and voice in learning, not just focusing on the mandates of accountability. Of course, it helps that one of their leaders is a fellow Apple Distinguished Educator who is exploring different emerging technologies to enhance student learning! I hope to follow these schools to see the impact of digital storytelling on student learning and engagement.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Creating PodCasts with GarageBand

I just finished two digital stories/podcasts using Apple's GarageBand, and I am really jazzed! This is such a cool tool, and I am relatively pleased with the results. After taking a half-day workshop at Camp Podcast in Vancouver, B.C., I felt confident enough to tackle this software.

The first podcast I completed was a new story called Changes, which I wrote to help me come to terms with a major change in my life. I recorded the story in my tried-and-true Sound Studio program, imported the audio into a track in Garage Band, and proceeded to add images at appropriate places on the Podcast Track timeline. The quality was not nearly as good as iMovie, but it was much faster, since I needed to finish the story in a day for a presentation. I also wanted to include audio from GB, and I was pleased with some of the music loops that were included there.

The second podcast that I completed was the keynote address that I did at the ePortfolio 2006 conference held in Oxford last week. I used my new iPod with the Belkin microphone to record my speech. Just started recording and lay it on the podium in front of me. When I was through, I had the audio of my entire presentation. I brought it into GarageBand. I also took my PowerPoint presentation and changed the page layout to square dimensions (required by GB's podcast track), which did a remarkably good job of adjusting the text on the slides. It squashed the pictures, though, but not that noticeably. I saved the entire slide show as JPEGs in a folder. Then, I put markers into the timeline for where each slide would start. When finished, I went back to the beginning and began adding the images onto the Podcast track. For the half hour keynote, it took me about an hour, twice through the audio. I have now posted it online for the world to hear.

There are many ways to create a narrated slide show. This was the easiest that I have tried. I also have downloaded a piece of software called ProfCast that I will need to try very soon.

Labels: ,

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Purpose of Digital Stories in ePortfolios

I just published another online document, looking at Purposes of Digital Stories in ePortfolios. Where I have examples of digital stories, I have provided web links. If you have examples that you would like to share, send me a link and an e-mail, giving permission to post the link on that page.

Perhaps ePortfolios can become the Trojan Horse for integrating digital storytelling into the curriculum. Most ePortfolios today are digital paper: text and images only. Digital Stories can humanize any model of ePortfolio using any type of ePortfolio tool. Digital Stories add VOICE to electronic portfolios. Digital Storytelling is also a motivating strategy for involving students in their own learning using 21st Century tools of engagement.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


A new Digital Storytelling blog

There is a new blog on Digital Storytelling, started by the SITE conference. I was especially interested in the podcast that Mike Searson produced, which features Joe Lambert from the Center for Digital Storytelling. Joe will be providing the keynote address at the SITE conference next Wednesday, March 22. Joe talks about the role of digital storytelling in our society and around the world. He also mentioned my work in portfolios, and the power of digital stories to document student learning and growth. Thanks, Joe!


Thursday, January 05, 2006


Holiday Gifts and Letters

After returning from New Zealand, I became consumed with Holiday preparations. I received one of my favorite Christmas present in years: an iRobot Roomba... yes, a robot that vacuums my floors. This is an example of a technology that can have a positive impact on our lives! It is interesting to observe it exploring the nooks and crannies in my house, getting stuck under the Christmas tree, going places it isn't supposed to go... just like a toddler. I even catch myself talking to it like a child. We haven't given it a name... yet! Interesting how a single purpose intelligent device can take on human characteristics, and quickly become part of our lives. My floors have never been so clean. It even gets under tables, buffets, navigates around chairs. Way cool! What does this have to do with ePortfolios? I guess this device is an example of an empowering environment, giving me more time to do the things I really enjoy doing. It also motivated me to reorganize my environment, accomplishing more in a few days than in the last few months. The motivational aspects of technology are well known, and this is another example, even if the outcome is a more organized and pleasant physical environment.

The Holidays also brought the usual Christmas cards, many with the annual Christmas letter, giving updates on the events of the year. It occurred to me, as I was reading these letters to my legallly-blind mother, that these were her generation's family stories... that annual missive that documents the important experiences of family life. Some letters were a litany of events or accomplishments of family members, others included amusing anecdotes that made them more interesting to read. As I reflect on these annual Christmas letters, I realize how much technology (and blogs) could change this experience. Perhaps there are some more technologically-savvy, who send a URL in their Christmas cards. In our card, my husband just printed out a collage of key photos from the last year... I haven't written a Christmas letter since our children left home.

In terms of digital family stories, these annual Holiday letters provide a personal history that, when collected over a lifetime, can provide rough biographical details of a family's life. But I wonder how many families save their letters. This collection process is a challenge for many families, most often a paper filing system with physical storage problems. One solution would be a digital preservation process that I intend to research over the next six months.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Conferences "Down Under"

I am now stateside, after spending more than two weeks in Australia, ending with the ePortfolio New Zealand conference in Auckland. The ASCILITE conference in Brisbane was an interesting experience. I led a "Learning Circle" at the end of each of the first two days of the conference, focusing on ePortfolios and Digital Storytelling. We asked the participants on the first day to do a "fast write" with their reflections on the conference themes. After collecting their brief jottings, a few came up right away and audio recorded their reflections. The next day, we shared what had been collected so far, recorded a few more, and talked about illustrating the reflections with images. On the last day, we recorded the last of the audio clips, gathered as many images as we could, and then constructed most of two different digital stories in about three hours. In the plenary session on the last day, I showed both stories, even though one was not quite complete. While not the way I would prefer to put together digital stories, I learned what could be done under pressure!

On the following two days, I led workshops at QUT, including a half-day digital storytelling workshop. I was surprised that quite a few of the participants developed one-to-two minute stories that they recorded, after our very short hands-on activity. At least eight people had time to write a brief story and have it recorded.

On Monday, I was in Auckland, providing the opening keynote to the ePortfolio New Zealand conference. This meeting was organized by Eifel, as an extension of their conferences in Europe and last year in Melbourne. Although there were about 60 participants, and the conference only lasted a day and a half, it was a very good conference, one of the best ePortfolio conferences that I participated in. I thought there was a lot of opportunity for dialogue, built into the program and during breaks. On the second day, I shared a session on Digital Storytelling with a professional developer from Australia.

We decided to make the session somewhat interactive and hands-on. After demonstrations of a few digital stories, we asked the participants to spend five minutes doing a short reflection on the conference so far. We then had about a half hour to record their reflections. I have five people who recorded 30 second to one minute reflections. The other person recorded directly into PhotoStory. We played the clips at the end of the conference in the plenary session.

I was skeptical when we planned the ASCILITE activity, but it worked so well that I did a briefer version at the ePortfolio conference. Now, Eifel has some audio to add to their website about the conference. I think it also helped the participants see how the process works within a reflective portfolio framework. Oh, yes, and my new microphone was a great hit and worked beautifully with Sound Studio and with the one Windows computer I hooked it up to during my hands-on workshop in Adelaide. However, it did not work with my version of Audacity for the Mac. Hmmmm....

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Message from "down under"

I had a great 3-way Skype conference this morning with my husband and my daughter connecting us across two oceans and three different continents! I was just getting up (7 AM on Wednesday in Melbourne), it was lunchtime for my husband in Seattle (noon) and my daughter was going to bed in Budapest (9 PM) on Tuesday! The audio was awesome! I am so excited about this technology, that allows any groups to communicate over the Internet for free. The impact on relationships is powerful.

I'm writing this entry from Adelaide in South Australia, near the beginning of a tour "down under" beginning with a private school in Melbourne for two days, now working with the Government of South Australia, Department of Education and Children’s Services, at an ePortfolios for Professional Development conference. On Saturday, I head for Brisbane where I will work with Queensland University of Technology and the ASCILITE conference (more on that to come). I will then go to the ePortfolio New Zealand conference in Melbourne.

I was just blown away by a digital story told by a teacher here in Australia, who reads this blog. He bought the microphone that I recommended in an earlier blog entry. And his digital story about his ePortfolio journey was heartwarming and engaging. A wonderful surprise! I know this blog is being read, at least by a few people. When I explored David Tosh's Elgg blog, he mentioned that this blog was listed on some list of the top 20 educational blogs. I must resolve to make more blog entries, not use my travel schedule as an excuse!


Monday, August 15, 2005


A Whole New Mind

Last week, I bought (and read completely on a cross-country flight) Daniel Pink's new book. A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. As the inside cover states:
A groundbreaking guide to surviving, thriving, and finding meaning in a world rocked by the outsourcing of jobs abroad and the computerization of our lives.
Pink refers to the "left-brain" dominance of the Information Age which needs to be balanced with the artistic and holistic "right-brain" dominance of the Conceptual Age. Pink points out three factors that are fueling this change: Abundance, Asia, and Automation, and that right-brain thinking has become a critical component of successful companies who must compete with lower-priced workers from Asia. He outlines six essential high-concept, high touch aptitudes or senses that will be essential for success in the near future, and some are already essential in this age of outsourcing (excerpts below from pp.65-67):
  1. Design (not just function) - "It's no longer sufficient to create a product, a service, an experience, or a lifestyle that's merely functional. Today it's economically crucial and personally rewarding to create something that is also beautiful, whimsical, or emotionally engaging."
  2. Story (not just argument) - "When our lives are brimming with information and data, it's not enough to marshal an effective argument... The essence of persuasion, communication, and self-understanding has become the ability also to fashion a compelling narrative." [and he uses digital storytelling as one of those examples!]
  3. Symphony (not just focus) - "What's in greatest demand today isn't analysis but synthesis--seeing the big picture and, crossing boundaries, being able to combine disparate pieces into an arresting new whole."
  4. Empathy (not just logic) - "But in a world of ubiquitous information and advanced analytic tools, logic alone won't do. What will distinguish those who thrive will be their ability to understand what makes their fellow woman or man tick, to forge relationships, and to care for others."
  5. Play (not just seriousness) - "Ample evidence points to the enormous health and professional benefits of laughter, lightheartedness, games, and humor."
  6. Meaning (not just accumulation) - "We live in a world of breathtaking material plenty. That has freed hundreds of millions of people from day-to-day struggles and liberated us to pursue more significant desires: purpose, transcendence, and spiritual fulfillment.
Pink makes the point "...back on the savanna, our cave-person ancestors weren't taking SATs or plugging numbers into spreadsheets. But they were telling stories, demonstrating empathy, and designing innovations. These abilities have always comprised part of what it means to be human. But after a few generations in the Information Age, these muscles have atrophied. The challenge is to work them back into shape." (p.67)

I will continue his discussion of Story in a later blog entry. Dan Pink's book goes along very well with Friedman's book, but provides much more practical suggestions about how to make the transition (something he calls a "Portfolio" of strategies at the end of each chapter on the "six senses").

Labels: ,

Friday, July 22, 2005


Final N.Z. Report

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to New Zealand, taking this opportunity to reflect on my last two days. My conversations with the Ministry of Education on Tuesday were very interesting. In my first meeting with the tertiary (higher education) group, we talked about the need for coordination between the various sectors. We also talked about the potential for using Interact, which I will be following the development with great interest. There was some discussion about Moodle, but I didn't know if an e-portfolio component was under development, like with Interact. We emphasized the importance of building a digital archive that would follow a learner across the different sectors.

My meeting with the early childhood people was most interesting. They shared with me their curriculum materials (I took home a notebook, CD and DVDs, which I still need to read/watch). We found a lot of common ground. They showed me some of their "learning stories" and I showed them excerpts from my granddaughter's e-portfolio. I also showed them some digital stories and we talked about the possibilities with some of their early childhood centers. Many of those learning stories contained digital images plus text, so I explained (very briefly) the process of taking digital images and turning them into short videos with narration (digital stories).

On Wednesday, I met with a group at the University of Auckland. They were intending to use the Open Source Portfolio, and we had a long discussion over lunch about the philosophy of portfolios (purpose, audience, student-centered vs. institution-centered, etc.). When I made the statement that electronic portfolios should begin a birth and last a lifetime, one member of their group immediately said, "I agree!" From then on, our conversation focused around the need for compatibility across educational sectors (echoes of my discussion on the previous day). They mentioned the "Plunkett book" that every child in New Zealand receives at birth from a visiting nurse, where their growth and development is recorded. There was a lot of energy in our discussion around the digitization of the contents of that book, even imagining the potential for digitally updating those records using wireless technology like the delivery truck drivers have now!

We also talked about Donald Norman's concept of the "information appliance" and the direction of the iPod/Palm/iPaq/PDA technologies. We did a lot of visioning and also discussed the upcoming semantic web, something that I really need to study in more detail.

I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. What is intriguing to me is the potential for these visions to become a reality in a country the size of New Zealand. Of course, the infrastructure requirements need to be addressed, especially that seamless digital archive of a learner's development/life work, from cradle to retirement and beyond. Reminds me of that article in Educause that I mentioned in an earlier blog entry.
Beyond the Electronic Portfolio: A Lifetime Personal Web Space
Rather than limit people to the e-portfolio model, why not develop a model providing a personal Web space for everyone, for their lifetimes and beyond?

Those possibilities press so many of my hot buttons: e-portfolios, digital stories of deep learning, digital family stories, autobiographies, etc. I feel so privileged to be a part of these conversations. I am so thankful for this opportunity. I look forward to continuing this dialogue with educators in New Zealand. It is so exciting to follow what is possible when there is a will, and not too much bureaucracy to get in the way!


Sunday, July 17, 2005


A Wonderful Week in N.Z.

I have been in New Zealand for a week, and my head is just spinning! First, I participated in the ULearn05 conference in Auckland during the first three days last week. It reminds me of the special quality of our early Alaska computer conferences. It was a special treat for me to reconnect with Ian Jukes as well, who was a favorite presenter at our early Alaska conferences. I enjoyed sharing my passion for digital storytelling, both in a hands-on workshop and in my closing keynote address on Wednesday afternoon. I was really impressed with the special Maori ceremonies that opened and closed the conference. I just wish I understood what was being said.

On Thursday, I traveled to Christchurch, and had a short meeting with the developer of Interact, about the portfolio tools that he is building into this open source learning management software. I am very interested in the development of this software. I had downloaded an earlier version of Interact and placed it on my own server space, since the requirements were simply PHP and MySQL. I am anxious to see the next version of the software, which he hopes to have ready by the term starting in August. On Friday, I met with the Christchurch College of Education, and by the end of the afternoon, I had more converts to doing digital storytelling as part of e-portfolios.

On Friday evening, I flew to Dunedin for the weekend. I spent many hours this weekend with the authors of the book on Learning through Storytelling in Higher Education. My head is still spinning from our wonderful conversations this weekend. I will be thinking about our dialogue a lot over the next few weeks. For the first time, I made a presentation to nurse educators plus some hands-on e-portfolio activities in a computer lab, and showed a lot of digital stories. Yep, more converts to digital storytelling! It became apparent that health care professionals can use digital stories in their practice. It was very special to talk about reflection at such a deep level with these "experts" on storytelling in learning. Today we had more dialogue and I showed more digital stories. Their observations about the poetic quality of many of these stories confirmed my own impressions, shared at the Kean conference in June.

I have returned to Christchurch, preparing for three more days of meetings before my return home. This has been a magical trip. There is something very special about the people of New Zealand! I hope to come back on a regular basis!

Labels: ,

Saturday, June 25, 2005


Kean Conference

Yesterday was the last day of the Kean University Digital Stories conference. It was also my last day working for the University of Alaska Anchorage. (Those two events are related.) I spent a very busy week, flying to Newark on Monday, finishing up the conference DVD on Tuesday, burning 220 copies of the DVD on Wednesday, and then the conference on Thursday and Friday. I was one of the five "experts" on Thursday, presenting all day. Then I got to just sit in presentations on Friday. There were some magical moments, like the BBC digital stories shared by Joe Lambert on Thursday morning, and the "I/O brush" shared by Kimiko Ryokai from MIT on Friday morning.

This conference had a very special feeling, probably because of its size (200 people) and the location worked well. The weather cooperated, and the conversations were especially rich. I'm hoping they decide to repeat the event again next year. It was a great opportunity to see more stories and share ideas. No hands-on, but a lot of conversation between attendees, mostly from New Jersey, but other participants from 11 states and the Virgin Islands! Many of the stories shown were about family, with two breakout presentations on this topic, including one by my own husband!

The Kean conference DVD was the first draft of a DVD that I want to develop on Digital Family Stories, to support the workshop series that we will eventually launch. Of course, I would not use the Kean faculty stories, but some of the family stories that I am starting to develop with my family and others, beginning in Anchorage last month. Dan and I need to spend some time doing "pro bono" workshops to refine our content and process.

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 19, 2005


Reality Check!

Every few years, I need to do a hands-on technology project with school-age students, as a reality check on my theories about electronic portfolios or digital storytelling in education. This week, I worked with two dozen eighth grade English students (my daughter's students at a private school in Anchorage). The experience was eye-opening, exhausting and exhilarating! We produced 22 digital family stories, between one and three minutes long. We spent one day in a portable classroom, where only one computer had Internet access. I had a small office to do the audio recording, which did have high speed wireless Internet. As a private school, there are not the technology resources available (the classroom computers were still using Windows 98). There was no computer lab available to us during the period when the class met, but we reminded ourselves that is was a writing activity, not a computer lesson!

While we struggled with the technology (or lack thereof) as well as the wide variation in students' technology skills, we explored a variety of strategies to be able to accomplish this task with the resources at hand. Several students brought in their own computers, usually at the wrong time. After all of the student stories were written, recorded, and pictures collected, we were in the school until midnight last night, putting them all together using iMovie5, which worked for us flawlessly! We will duplicate a CD of the movies for all of the students next week. It's been an eye-opening experience for me: how to do 22 digital stories with 8th graders using two Mac G4 Powerbooks, two scanners, two digital cameras and a few other internet-connected computers for finding pictures.

We are both planning digital stories about the process. I was reminded that the project we did with these students in 6 hours of class time (plus a lot of pull-out time for individual work) is what we normally do with adults in 16-24 hours. These are not CDS-quality stories, and we ran out of time to select music to go along with any of them, but most of the students were very pleased when they privately reviewed their stories with me this morning. But I also realize that it would have been impossible for my daughter to do this project alone, with the constraints she has, both in block scheduling (we didn't see the students every day) and with the technology constraints. And she only had 13 students in each class! I have a greater appreciation for my fellow Apple Distinguished Educators who support these types of activities in schools every day! I also know why many, if not most, teachers would not take on such an ambitious project without a good support system, which is lacking in many financially strapped educational systems today. Nor is there time in the curriculum because of accountability demands....but that is another story!

Labels: ,

Sunday, May 15, 2005


Podcasting with Audacity

I'm up in Anchorage, working with a variety of people on Digital Storytelling. Last week, I met with my daughter's 8th Grade Language Arts classes, and gave them a brief introduction to Digital Family Stories. Tomorrow, we start constructing their own digital stories. Yesterday, I worked with a colleague and a young mother, to help them both begin the process of recording their stories. One had been working on her story for several months; the other for just a day. By the end of the day, they both had recorded their stories, adding a music track, and were ready to add images to the timeline of their video editors.

I was a little out of my comfort zone, mostly because I was helping them use software that I don't normally use (Audacity and MovieMaker2) on a platform I normally don't use (Windows XP). So, we plunged in together, learning as we went along, making the usual mistakes, and referring to the online reference manual only when we were desperate. By the end of the day, we produced what I suppose is called a "Podcast" file...a digital audio clip suitable for use in a variety of formats, including a digital story, a website, or an iPod or MP3 player.

I had seen Audacity before, but normally use Sound Studio on my Mac to record audio. We normally record each paragraph of a story as a separate file, and then place them in order on one audio track of the movie editor's timeline. On the second audio track, we place the music, and adjust the volume so that it doesn't overpower the voice. But since we were working in MovieMaker2, the free software that comes with Windows XP, we only had one sound track available. So we had to construct the sound track outside of the movie editor. That's why I plunged into learning Audacity.

Audacity is free, open source software, available for Mac OS X, Windows or even Linux. Once I experimented a few times, I determined how to work around the limitations of the software to meet our needs. For example, after recording a track, when you record a second track, it places it in the same file, at the beginning, so that both tracks play simultaneously. Maybe there is a setting I don't know how to change, but we figured out that if you open a new file, record the second clip, select all of it and copy it, you can paste it at the end of the timeline of the first clip (a process we repeated until the story was complete). Within about an hour, both women had their 3 minute stories recorded, paragraph by paragraph. Adding the music was another challenge, but I was able to import a second track in Audacity, and lower the volume under the voice-over track, and produce a final audio file that included both narration and music.

Why am I struggling with free software for this task? Why not purchase software that will do the job more effectively (and also, why not just use iMovie on a Mac???)? For the simple reason that I am working with novices who already have Windows XP computers, and they just want to get started learning the digital storytelling process. Rather than making an investment in new software, which has a higher learning curve (and level of frustration), we chose to use what they had, or could download for free. I warned them about the limitations of the tools, and that they might outgrow the software very soon, but I wanted them to have a successful first experience. Of course, I may grumble later about the difficulty of publishing these movies to more accessible formats, like DVD, but that will be all part of the learning process.

I have been having a debate with other digital storytellers about the pros and cons of using the more high end tools (Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, Pinnacle Studio, etc.). Those are all what I would call "pro-sumer" tools: lots of capability, but with complexity comes confusion and frustration at the beginning of the learning process. And since I began my career studying how people teach themselves how to use personal computers, I know that a positive first experience is important, and the ability to intuitively explore a tool contributes to the process of self-directed learning. One of my mantras (from my dissertation) is, "When learning new tools, use familiar tasks, and when learning new tasks, use familiar tools." When we make it too hard, we turn off the beginners. My goal is to get them excited about what they have achieved, and to understand the process, so that they can transfer that enthusiasm and awareness to more advanced tools when they are ready.

I am convinced that philosophy works with adult learners. This week, I will have an opportunity to test it out with 8th graders. Stay tuned (and wish me luck!)!


Sunday, May 08, 2005


The Work of Stories

I'm at MIT's Work of Stories conference in Boston, in a session on Stories in the Classroom. The presenter read a passage from a book and asked us to do a fast write. Here is mine:
That last passage sounds like the type of writing we do in blogs. It is the personal, reflective, first person narrative that is so powerful. I'm also convinced that the power of digital storytelling is in the storyteller's own voice...both literally and rhetorically. That is why I do what I do... what drives my work: to help people find their voice... in their words spoken from the heart.
This was an interesting conference. On the first day, I thought I was on another planet, where almost every presenter in the breakout sessions I attended read their papers to the audience. Is this what an academic conference is really like? Luckily, on the last two days, the presenters either told stories themselves, or had more engaging slides on the screen. There were the usual problems with the technology in a few of the rooms, like the sound didn't work. But I gained some new ideas. It is always delightful to hear Joe Lambert speak, since he provides both humor and quick insights. I also made some new acquaintances, people interested in similar topics. There were a group of us that tended to show up in the same breakout sessions.

The Saturday night session provided examples of MIT faculty storytelling projects. I was especially impressed by one graduate student's electronic brush, that was a combination micro video camera and a brush for electronically painting on a screen. We saw videos of kindergarten children using the brush to copy colors, objects or short video sequences, and then paint what they captured on the computer screen. I hope we will see this tool available as a commercial item soon.

The panelists at the closing session provided an overview of the three days, invoking a bit of controversy, but providing a good way to end the weekend. As one participant observed, "Some people said it was too academic, others said it wasn't academic enough!" That means the program provided both theoretical and practical insights. I'm glad I traveled all the way across the country to attend what was basically a free conference.


Monday, May 02, 2005


Whirlwind Workshops

On Friday and Sunday, I conducted a couple of hands-on workshops which were very interesting. On Friday, I led two half-day (2.5 hours) workshops at Kean University in New Jersey on the Tools for Digital Storytelling: Windows in the morning, Macintosh in the afternoon. I based the workshops on my webpage with a "Getting Started Tour of the Tools."
Digital Storytelling Tools for Windows XP
In this hands-on session, learn about Windows software used for digital storytelling. We will create a short digital story using a photo editor to manage images and two different programs to edit video. All software used will be available for free download from the WWW.
Digital Storytelling Tools for Macintosh OS X
In this hands-on session, learn about using the Macintosh iLife tools for digital storytelling. We will create a short digital story using iPhoto to edit images, and iMovie to edit video.
I was really pleased with the Windows workshop. The software was loaded on the laptops, but not on the presentation machine, so I quickly installed the software before I ran it, to show how easily it could be up and running. We walked through a sampler of Audio Editors and Image Editors, but focused most of our time on MovieMaker2, PhotoStory and Photo to Movie. We used my "Short Movie" exercise (7 images of D.C. and a 23 second recording of President Reagan). A few of the participants hung around almost an extra hour! My impression was that I was really learning along with the participants, not too far ahead of them with these tools, so we had a lot of fun. The afternoon workshop was the first I have conducted using the newest version of iLife (iPhoto5 and iMovieHD). Apple moved some of the commands between versions 4 and 5! I fumbled a little, but we got through all of the programs, including creating movies with those same 7 images using iPhoto, iMovie and Photo to Movie.

On Sunday, I did another hands-on workshop at the International Reading Association Technology Institute in San Antonio, immediately after my after-lunch keynote address. The lab at the San Antonio Convention Center had about 30 Windows computers and 30 Macs. I looked at the computers when I arrived in the morning and couldn't find MovieMaker on the Windows computers. So I loaded the sample files on the Mac desktops. However, one of the more tech-savvy participants found it, so she quickly helped those sitting at the Windows computers to launch the software and also, thanks to two flash drives, load the files. The podium had presentation stations for both platforms connected to a switch box, so I could do a short demo on iMovie for the Mac users, then switch over to MovieMaker2 for the Windows users. We were able to construct a rough edit (add the sound track and place the 7 images on the timeline) on both platforms at the same time, all in 40 minutes!

That is the shortest hands-on workshop I have ever conducted! But people left having some idea about how digital stories are built, using one of these tools. I also realized how similar and different the tools are. MovieMaker2 has the capabilities of iMovie five years ago, but the three step approach seems to scaffold the approach a little more (1. Capture Video, 2. Edit Movie, 3. Finish Movie). With iMovie, there are more options and capabilities (especially the still motion "Ken Burns" effect), but the initial experience for novices can be a little more confusing (how to get started? which tab to click?). To say the least, I was exhausted at the end of that short time, but felt good about what we were able to do, with thanks to Diane Tracey (who asked me to do the workshop and helped the Mac users) and that other techie, whoever she was, who helped with Windows. My public thanks!


Thursday, April 21, 2005


Frequently-Asked Questions

I've decided to add another page to my website: Frequently-Asked Questions about Electronic Portfolio. I designed it as a quick guide to documents on my own site. I will soon add links to other web pages on the Internet that further elaborate on these questions. I also created an FAQ on Digital Storytelling.

Labels: ,

Friday, March 04, 2005


A Successful Day

On February 25, 2005, I led a day-long ePortfolio Dialogue Day: Digital Stories of Deep Learning for Students and Faculty for Maricopa Community Colleges in Tempe, Arizona. Following on the success of the ePortfolio conference on Reflection at the University of British Columbia, the Maricopa organizers selected five students to participate in a panel, and then show their portfolios over the lunch hour, along with five faculty members. The audio recording of the student panel is also online at the Maricopa site.

I also received very positive comments from the conference evaluations, which showed that the faculty participants gained a lot of practical knowledge and many were looking forward to a later hands-on workshop using Maricopa's home-grown MyePort tool. I was really pleased that we were able to walk through a simple planning process and give them an organizing tool to list, categorize and reflect on their artifacts in preparation for the upcoming workshop.


Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Revenge of the Right Brain

Here is a fascinating article from a recent Wired Magazine, where the author, Daniel Pink, proposes that success in the Conceptual Age (following the Information Age which is ending) will come from our abilities to use our right brains for more creative activities. Using Naisbitt's concept of "High Touch" he proposes:
High-concept means the ability to create artistic and emotional beauty, to craft satisfying narratives, to detect patterns and opportunities, to combine seemingly unrelated ideas into a novel invention. High-touch means the ability to empathize, to understand the subtleties of human interaction, to find joy in the pursuit of purpose and meaning.
This article provides one more argument for including reflective portfolios and storytelling in the curriculum of schools and colleges.


Wednesday, January 19, 2005


Breaking the Silence

I realize that I haven’t written anything in my blog for almost month. I could say it was the Holidays, but I think the real excuse is a busy travel schedule and a computer that is still acting up. But this too shall pass. Next weekend I will order my new laptop. Last week I was at MacWorld and saw the new announcements. I want the new iLife05 software. There was no announcement about new Powerbooks, but I can no longer be patient. Two month of intermittent freezing is enough.

During the first week of January, I was in New Jersey and New York. Lots of planning for the spring and my new work after my grant is over… which I’ll discuss when it becomes public in less than two weeks. I also get to help plan a Digital Storytelling conference at Kean University in June. We will be putting together a resource DVD on Digital Storytelling for all of the participants. I also led a digital storytelling workshop at another university. It is always fascinating to see what the participants can produce in just two days using iMovie4. There were the personal stories that brought a tear to your eye… I wasn’t sure several of the participants would get through their audio recordings without crying. Then there were the quasi-documentaries. A successful two days.


Tuesday, December 07, 2004


ePortfolio Australia conference

Thoughts after the end of the first ePortfolio Australia conference

I am so impressed with the Australians. They really get it! This conference is smaller than the EuroPortfolio conference, but there is a lot of energy. Many people understood what I meant about assessment for learning (as contrasted with assessment of learning). It was also fun to have people walk up to me and say, "I have your CD and this is what I've done!" I feel more and more like Johnny Appleseed, planting seeds and watching them grow. Also, I made contact with someone who is working with a consultant in the Seattle area and may organize another ePortfolio conference for teachers in Australia in August or September. I hope I can come back when it is springtime here!

I chose to visit the Fraynework digital storytelling center just a few blocks from the conference location which was at the University of Melbourne. I never knew this non-profit organization existed, but they have been doing digital media production for the last nine years, Established by the Sisters of Mercy, this organization has about 20 employees doing web, multimedia and video production for CD, DVD and the WWW. As I watched their "Lore of the Land" CD on Australian Aboriginal people's relationship to their land, I felt like I could have been watching Alaska Native people who have the same worldview.

As the director of the center talked the opening presentation on the second day, she talked about the purpose of portfolios to be both for personal as well as social transformation. While social transformation hasn't been central to my vision, I can see the power of helping tell the stories of those whose voice is rarely heard. I was very impressed with her emphasis on social transformation.

There is so much going on here in Australia that links electronic portfolios and digital storytelling. Access to the Internet is another issue. There is no wireless available to conference participants, although I can go upstairs and get enough connectivity to download my e-mail. I only have full wireless connectivity in my hotel room at A$5 for 15 minutes at a time. I am finding that restriction reduces my communication, but it is not as much of a problem as not having my computer. I can prepare items to e-mail or upload to my website, and wait for the few minutes when I can be fully connected, But it forces me to be organized for those few minutes online! It also makes my replies very short!

Labels: ,

Friday, December 03, 2004


Australia-Day 2

Arrived yesterday morning after traveling for more than 20 hours. After an afternoon nap, I had dinner with the local organizers of the ePortfolio Australia conference. Today, I met with faculty at RMIT who are interested in e-portfolios, primarily in the medical imaging program. There was one student present, who has been publishing his artistic works online, and his contribution was a valuable addition to the discussion. I also had an opportunity to see examples of some student portfolios (created with HTML authoring software), as well as some anonymous student feedback on the portfolio development process. They are taking the approach that the student should develop their own metaphor for their portfolio while including links to the program's required elements. The emphasis on creativity within an HTML format leaves the students freedom to express their personality, although in the survey many students complained about this lack of structure.

Our discussion focused on how to make the portfolio more than another assignment, to engage the learners in a more intrinsically motivating process and to see the relevance of their portfolios in the profession that they are preparing to enter. I further emphasized the "life skills" approach to using multimedia and web-based forms of communication in this century. But I also realized that I was talking to a small group that was at the cutting edge of portfolios at this institution. We have a long way to go to make the portfolio process accepted in the mainstream of formal higher education. But as we discussed, these activities are happening all around us, that if higher education doesn't start using some of these strategies, it will become more irrelevant to young learners in a digital age.

I am so impressed with the interest in digital storytelling here in Australia, with the Australian Center for the Moving Image (ACMI), Fraynework digital storytelling, and Once Upon a Time digital storytelling all here in Melbourne.


Saturday, November 20, 2004


UBC e-Portfolio Conference

Yesterday I provided the keynote address at the University of British Columbia's e-Portfolio Conference. The theme of the conference was "reflection is not a mirror, it's a lens." I modified my presentation from France and Montreal by adding new ideas on reflection, especially as it relates to the work of Jennifer Moon, James Zull, McDrury & Alterio (the storytelling researchers from New Zealand) and the foundational thinkers: Dewey, Habermas, Kolb, and Schön. It was exciting to be able to explore these ideas, and to share my own synthesis of the literature on reflection, before I related these concepts to digital storytelling and blogging.
Supporting Reflection in Electronic Portfolios: Blogs, Wikis and Digital Storytelling
This presentation will focus on the role of reflection in electronic portfolios and the tools for scaffolding reflection: blogs, wikis, digital stories and built-in forms. The presentation will cover a brief overview of the literature on reflection and learning (Schon, Dewey, Moon), including some new perspectives on storytelling as reflection on experience to improve learning (McDrury & Alterio), and the role of reflection in brain-based learning (Zull).
It was such a pleasure not to talk about assessment and accountability; it was so refreshing to focus on deep learning supported by reflection. I had a full hour for my presentation, and included more digital stories; it was nice not to feel so rushed, like the half hour that I was allowed in Montreal and France. Following my presentation, there were three panels: three faculty members from UBC sharing their experiences with reflection for transfer learning; three researchers discussing The Learning Landscape (David Tosh, Tracy Penny Light and Helen Chen by video conference); and a wonderful student panel. I understand that video of all of the presentations will be online soon.

This was the first e-portfolio conference that I have attended in the last three years that included the learners' voices. It was very validating to hear these students talk about their e-portfolio experiences. There were many ideas that the students expressed that echoed some of my concerns:These are challenges that the field needs to address: how to motivate learners to engage in the types of folio thinking that support deep learning. From those students, it was apparent that many were writing their reflections to meet the requirements of the assignment, to get the highest mark, not to really learn from their experience. Many wrote what they thought the faculty wanted them to write, not what they really felt. Perhaps that is another dilemma to add to Joanne's list: the motivation dilemma. These students mentioned that, in their busy lives with many other courses, they only wrote their reflections because it was required for a mark (an extrinsic motivator). Without that requirement, they would not have engaged in the reflection on their own (no intrinsic motivator), even though they got a lot out of the process when they were done. One student indicated that if an activity is not graded it is not valued. What does that say about the impact of evaluation on learning? I know this is the reality of schooling, and these comments came from adult learners who were very articulate. What does that say about trying to get adolescents to reflect on their learning? I think it calls for strategies that are more engaging for young learners. The process of reflection could become the process of filling in blanks on a web-based form. That just doesn't do it! We can do better than that! I think that is why my message about reflective digital storytelling is so well received.

Labels: ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]