We've been a 1:1 school for 5 years, and had Mac labs for years before that - so our teachers have been doing digital storytelling in various forms for quite a while now.
As the examples and uses of iMovie have spread through our campus over the last few years, more and more teachers and students have been using iMovies as a way to demonstrate understanding. When used in the proper way, we feel digital storytelling is a very powerful and creative way for students to express themselves.
However, as with all technology tools, the key is the proper use - and our discussion at a recent PD day revolved around finding the best use of iMovies and digital storytelling in our classrooms. As we have been carefully examining our practice over the last couple years, our teachers have become quite sensitive to the amount of time it takes to produce a high quality iMovie - particularly if students are making lengthy movies, which most of our students projects are.
During the PD day discussion, one of our teachers made a great comment - that writing for video should be noticeably different than writing for an essay. Video and writing are two very different forms of communication - and therefore our students should be thinking and communicating differently with video than writing. As a staff we began to discuss where the medium of video should be used - and how to actually get students to think differently using it.
After the discussion, one of our Humanities teachers, Rick Fawcett, wanted to explore how video might add a new dimension to the story-writing process. Rick’s grade 7 students were in the process of creating short stories. The main focus of the study was geared towards plot and character development. Having students develop a Hollywood-style movie trailer forced students to think about their plot idea and how to best "sell" it to the audience. The iMovie program allowed students to create dramatic and powerful visual representations of their plot in a short presentation (under 1-minute). The project brought together many different facets of communication. Visual, written and oral communication elements were essential to the success of the projects.
The other powerful outcome of the ‘story trailers’ is how they surfaced the concept of 'theme' in writing. Our Humanities teachers have often discussed how difficult the concept of 'theme' is for many students to grasp, particularly in our younger grades. When creating these trailers, Rick asked his students to not tell the plot of their story, but to capture the theme. What emerged from this task was that a number of students realized their stories actually didn't have a strong theme - a powerful understanding that didn't surface until the students were asked to create the trailers.
In preparation for the story - students had already worked through a character sketch, using Pixton to create an image of the character as well as illustrate their stories. The students were now able to use the same images (and create new ones) to create their trailers.
Creating trailers alongside short stories worked well with another new idea we’re trying. As a school we are also beginning to experiment with digital publishing (both for students and teachers) using ePub format. The fantastic thing about ePubs is the ability to embed images and video into the digital documents - so the stories Rick's students created can be combined with their video trailers into one engaging resource.
We have created a site where we're trying to create and share some of our digital publications. We use Apple for our servers, including creating blogs and wikis for students, so it was easy to set up a simple webpage to host and share ePubs. This site, and the resources it contains, will be the topic of our Innovation in Education Series on Digital Publishing on March 23rd. We are just in the early stages of trying out digital publishing, and would encourage thoughts and comments on the idea.
So if you have an iPad, iPod or iPhone you can go to this link and download a sample ePub document with two student stories, character sketches and video trailers. There are a couple other ePubs on the site that we are experimenting with.
If you don't have a device that can read ePubs, here's a couple of the student story trailers: