INTE 5340 Final Portfolio

IMG_1103Wow! I feel like I’ve come to the end of a long journey. Back in January, I had no idea where my Learning With Digital Stories (INTE 5340) class would take me. I’ve gone down different paths this semester and seen many things and read many stories of adversity. In the process, I’ve been inspired to create my own digital story. The above photo of an old pair of hiking shoes was part of that personal story. I wore them for two summers working outdoor events at the Denver Botanic Gardens in Chatfield. During that time, I faced a number of job-related challenges, from 100 degree temperatures to short-tempered wedding guests! Much like that work experience, I’ve overcome a number of obstacles this semester to better understand the world of digital storytelling and how this form of personal expression can benefit individuals, including myself, who wish to discuss the adversity they have faced in their lives.

Chapter Readings:

I came to enjoy reading chapters of Joe Lambert’s book Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community. The first chapter became the catalyst for my interest in Lambert’s work. Chapter 3 gave me some insight on the long path that Lambert took and the talented people he collaborated with to establish the Center for Digital Storytelling (now StoryCenter) in Berkeley, California. Finally, Chapter 5 gave me an idea of how Lambert and his colleagues at StoryCenter facilitate the creation of digital stories with the authors. I was able to use this chapter as a resource when I created my own digital story about my adversity during my job search. All this insight was made possible when our instructor, Clinical Associate Professor Lori Elliott, gave us the option to read the Lambert chapters (and other readings) in place of our initial assigned text for the semester. It was a welcome change of pace.

Chapter 1: “The Work of Story”

Chapter 3: “A Road Traveled”

Chapter 5: “Seven Steps of Digital Storytelling”

Scholarship Responses:

In addition to the assigned readings, there were a number of articles on the World Wide Web that gave me a better idea of digital storytelling’s impact in society and how it can help people tell their stories regarding adversity. In my alma mater’s alumni magazine, I found an article about how digital storytelling was helping Veteran Administration doctors learn more details about their patients. A fellow classmate, Darren Blackman, commented on how a storytelling project such as that can be “a great way to keep patience(s) as humans not data.” Plus, I discovered a news item from the University of Michigan-Flint about how a $100,000 grant to fund the cleanup of Flint’s contaminated water supply included money to teach local students digital storytelling skills so they can describe what they had been going through during the environmental crisis.

“Story Time”

Digital Storytelling and the Flint Water Crisis

Digital Story Critiques

There was a rich variety of audio and video narratives to view on the internet. StoryCorps offered many examples of people overcoming adversity, including a soldier coping with the death of his comrades (a peer, Alicia Newton, shared this with others on Twitter) as well as a pair of African-American stuntmen confronting racism in Hollywood.  Many of my classmates also found insightful audiovisual narratives on this site as well.  Another website with a wealth of digital stories was, of course, StoryCenter. At the site that Joe Lambert helped build, there were a number of adversity narratives, from a young Pakistani woman challenging cultural traditions by going to college (also critiqued by fellow classmate Kristin Vossler) to an Asian-American conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. Closer to my home in Denver, I found a couple of local digital stories on the American Graduate website, include one young man’s struggle to turn his life around. Each of these unique compositions gave me a perspective of not only how digital storytelling can visualize the concept of adversity, but also how I might be able to express my struggles during my job search over the last 10 plus years.

“1st Squad, 3rd Platoon”

Willie Harris and Alex Brown

“Opening Doors”

“To Be or Not To Be”

“Elisha’s Story”

DS106 Assignments:

These (almost) weekly DS106 projects helped me explore new ways to tell a story either in a couple of hours or in a couple of days. At times, it was challenging to both come up with an idea as well as the best application to utilize in the creation of the assignment. For many of the Daily Creates, I had to think and act (relatively) fast to produce results in Adobe Photoshop, such as these:

“The Words of Shakespeare”

“Old West Wisdom Sayings”

For the Assignment Bank projects, I used a variety of tools, including iMovie, SoundCloud and Vimeo, to create and present an assortment of digital creations.  The last hyperlink listed was easy to record, but it was perhaps the most personal project I completed.

“10 Second Song Mashup”

Motivational Poster

Dear Sixteen Year Old Me

Weekly Reflection:

Every few weeks, it felt good to write down how I was progressing in the course.  Most of the time, I discussed about what I was learning about digital storytelling, but after week 7, I decided to reflect on how a chapter in Joe Lambert’s book was making me think about what I was learning about myself.  Afterwards, it was great to hear such positive feedback from Kristin and Lori about my thoughts.

“Getting Farther Away From the Campfire”

My Digital Story:

All of these readings, articles, blog postings and creative assignments inspired me to compose my own digital story about my adversity during my job search. I choose to put together a montage of still images featuring items or articles of clothing from jobs in my past. With a little music and narration, I was able to tell a story of the rugged career path I have taken over these many years.

“Mementos of Adversity”

So, I’ve come to the end of my journey this semester in Learning with Digital Stories. I’d like to thank my peers in this class for their critiques and comments as well as our instructor, Lori Elliott, for her guidance, energy and encouragement.

Sincerely,

Mark Hahm

Future (2017?) M.A. graduate from the Information and Learning Technologies (with emphasis in eLearning Design and Implementation) program from UC-Denver

Digital Story Critique: “Elisha’s Story”

For this final critique, I chose I story from American Graduate, an ongoing project to help local youth in their quest to avoid the pitfalls of life and graduate from high school. A local public television station, Colorado Public Television 12 (CPT12), supports this project. Digital storytelling plays a key role in this initiative and CPT12 has posted a variety of videos created by American Graduate participants. One of them is a story about a young man’s struggle with the aftermath of his parents’ herion addiction in “This is My Story: Elisha’s Story.” As in previous critiques, I judged this digital story on the following assessment traits (as established by Jason Ohler in his book Digital Storytelling in the Classroom):

Originality, voice, creativity – Elisha narrates his own story, starting with how he and his family became homeless when he was 10 years old. The initial footage shows Elisha glancing at the camera from under a bridge somewhere in Denver. The footage changes to different locations in Denver as Elisha talks about how unstable his life became over the years.  He mentions dropping out of school, becoming a gang member, and doing drugs. Throughout the video, Elisha appears tense and defensive, which partially explains the title of his story, “Keep It Moving.”

Writing  – Elisha’s narration is rich with details and has a steady rhythm.  It’s not exactly poetry, but it’s solid storytelling. He mentions vivid images like”rats”, “roaches”and “40s.”  The tone and delivery is very genuine and honest.

Media Application  – There’s a good mix of video footage, narration and music. The audio mix is just right. There’s a simple transition between a selection of jazz music and a piece of hip hop near a point where Elisha decides to turn his life around and go back to school.

All semester long I’ve been examining the topic of adversity and how people can tell stories about how they cope with circumstances that fate has brought to them. The American Graduate series is a good example of young people expressing how they have struggled and survived with adversity in their short lives.

 

Chapter Review: “Designing in Digital”

DS image

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve gained a lot of insight from Joe Lambert’s book Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community over the last several weeks. In addition, I’ve viewed a number of digital stories on StoryCenter, the organization that Lambert helped to develop in California. Recently, I created a digital story of my own for my Learning with Digital Stories class (INTE5340) at the University of Colorado-Denver. I incorporated about a dozen photographs of objects I had collected over the years from various former employers to create a 3-minute story called “Mementos of Adversity.” As much as I wanted the images to speak for themselves, I needed to include some detailed narration to give the viewer some idea of the significance of the photographed objects. After reading this chapter, I’m wondering if what I created in iMovie last week could be improved.

In the beginning of the chapter, Lambert comments, “Originality is all about shared culture and context, what I might find trite and sentimental, you might find engrossingly powerful” (p. 106). Lambert uses a digital story entitled “Camaro Boy” as an example. The creator, Robert Kershaw, took an old photograph of his favorite car and cleverly deconstructed the image over the first 55 seconds of the story. Kershaw was able to “reveal” sections of photo to draw the viewer into the story. In addition, he includes a cropped image of him when he talks about his haircut and sunglasses. These are very effective visual design techniques that seem best utilized with images containing people’s faces. My recent presentation was primarily objects, so I chose slow and simple zooms and pans, even though Lambert comments that such actions “should be practiced with constraints” (p.111).  I chose a steady visual pacing of images, but that’s not always the preferred method. Lambert notes how Kershaw changes the pace of images after 2 minutes to a faster pace that illustrates the change in Kershaw’s life over 20 years. “Life went on, like a flashing of scenes before our eyes, is suggested by the urgency of the pace” Lambert comments (p.110).

In addition, Lambert uses a second storytelling example of a man named Robert Gerli who created a audiovisual traveling memoir during a trip through Europe. Lambert comments how Gerli was able to allow his audio narration to be driven by the visual elements.  There’s a consistent use of a visual portrait to introduce members of his travel group and create a pattern that Gerli uses later in the story. Sometimes repetition does have a purpose.

One thing in particular that Lambert said caught my eye. “We are leaving an era of keyboard and mouse based computing, the world will soon be screens small, medium, and large that we touch to design and communicate” he comments (p. 112). To a certain extent, I believe this to be true. People are communicating and sharing raw expressions of themselves by smartphone, tablet and laptop. The composition and refinement of such raw expressions, however, are still being assembled on editing systems with computer monitors, keyboards and mice. The large 27 inch canvas of my 8GB RAM iMac gives me an opportunity to create digital compositions with a wide range of content. I doubt I could accomplish such things on my iPhone.

Thank you Mr. Joe Lambert for your insights. I’ll keep an eye out for your writings online.

Digital Story: “Mementos of Adversity”

For my Learning With Digital Stories class (INTE 5340), I created a digital story about my adversity in my job search. I’ve kept some items from the various places I’ve worked.  Some of them from companies that went out of business and some from companies where I was downsized.  Wanted to keep it simple with photos, narration and music.  I used Audacity to record my voice and iMovie to put it all together.   Comments appreciated.

Digital Story Critique: “Roller Coaster”

This week, I decided to check out another adversity story from the StoryCenter site. I found a piece entitled “Roller Coaster” by Denise Ward. It’s often difficult to listen to another person’s struggle after a tragic event, but it’s good to know at the end that people can overcome trauma. As in previous critiques, I judged this digital story on the following assessment traits (as established by Jason Ohler in his book Digital Storytelling in the Classroom):

Story – Like many good stories, Ward tells hers in the first person. She gives the viewer some historical background about the 25 years her air medical organizing had operated without a crash. She draws the viewer in further by giving a descriptive timeline of the day her rescue flight crashed. She gives a name (Brent) and a face of the pilot who died on the scene. She furthermore describes the scene in the hospital emergency room and what she needed at that moment. Ward talks a lot about how the rescue organization she works for feels more like a family that can work together to resolve any internal crisis. At the end, Ward comforts the viewer by mentioning that she has been able to continue with her job for 10 years.

Media application – There is a good mix of content, including still photos, program memorabilia and background music. Ward creates a nice collage of visual images using a series of soft transitions. Many of the photos emphasize Ward’s interest in her air rescue work as well as her compassion for her co-workers. The instrumental music creates a relaxing tone that does not distract from her narration.

Media Grammar – This is the one trait that could use some improvement. Ward’s images, most of which are probably from photographic prints,  seemed to have been scanned at a low resolution. Noticing digital pixels in a presentation can be distracting. In addition, Ward has the images moving around sporadically at the beginning. Many people attempt to use what is referred to as the Ken Burns effect with images, but it’s not always effective. It would have been better to have the photographs move slower or perhaps as little as possible.     

On a side note, I like how StoryCenter has a dedicated YouTube site for exhibiting the works of their storytellers. Not ever organization does this and it makes it difficult for people to both find and share good digital stories.

Scholarship Response: “Moving Pictures”

1024px-Austin_Hall,_Harvard_University(By Daderot (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

This week, as I was conducting a Google search for the words “digital storytelling” and “education”, I came across a recent article from the website Harvard Law Today.  The article, “Moving Pictures”, discusses how law students are using documentary film making and digital storytelling to tell important stories about injustice.  One student interviewed is Sam Koplewicz, who heads an organization called the Harvard Law Documentary Studio.  He comments, “I think film moves us and interacts with us in a way that writing can’t.”  Koplewicz visited a refugee camp in Greece and interviewed young children through barbed-wire fences.  The Harvard Law Documentary Studio, or “Doc Studio” for short, has participants produce six films a year.  Another student, Andrea Clay, is creating a documentary on the development and utilization of the Socratic method in the education of law.  Other topics addressed by student filmmakers include gentrification, religion and political refugees.  Near the end of the article, there is an interview with a filmmaker and Harvard Law School lecturer named Rebecca Richman Cohen, who teaches courses in digital storytelling and documentary film.  She comments on how video recordings can help attorneys in arguing cases of clients that are located in remote places.  “Video lets lawyers bring clients’ voices directly to policymakers, judges, and mainstream media… it can expose corruption and law violations … and enhance public understanding of the law” she says.

It’s remarkable how the power of digital storytelling can be utilized by anyone with the right amount of determination and production skill.  To have young legal minds at one of the United States’ most prestigious law schools embrace that power is quite remarkable.

 

 

Chapter Review: Storyboarding

DS image

 

 

 

 

 

In chapter 8 of Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community, author and Center for Digital Storytelling co-founder Joe Lambert discusses the importance of storyboarding as a visual tool to organize a digital story. Having worked in television production myself, I’ve found that storyboarding is useful when trying to present a new client with a unique proposal. As Lambert says, “The art of film storyboarding has taught anyone working on a story (from mega-movies to digital stories) one important lesson: planning on paper will save the enormous expense of time, energy, and money when it comes time to produce your work” (p.97).

Lambert illustrates this point by giving a scenario of a man name Rick, who wanted to create a photo montage for his parents’ 40th anniversary. Rick had a lot of ambition, a ton of content, but very little production planning. In the end, the final project was a disappointment. I found this scenario interesting because I completed a similar project last August for my parents who celebrated their 50th anniversary. It took months to gather all the photographs, weeks to choose the best visual sequence and background music, and hours to ultimately decide on the final cut. Plus, I decided to show the 15-minute presentation to my parents to make sure no particular family member had been omitted. In the end, my family was very impressed by my work.

The 50th anniversary photo montage would not have been possible without a significant amount of planning. In creating digital stories, storyboarding can help a digital author in planning available content, such as photos, video, narration, music and text. Lambert gives an example, which is part of a tutorial called MomnotMom, that allow a digital storyteller to visualize the various elements that will be incorporated into a project. In many ways, it looks similar to a timeline one would find in a video editing application such as WeVideo, iMovie, or Adobe Premiere. In many ways, creating a storyboard is like creating a rough “off-line” edit of a multimedia project without actually using an edit software. One just needs to get a piece of posterboard, Post-it notes and a Sharpie marker. Personally, I would recommend a larger canvas to visualize the story, like a whiteboard in a conference room or classroom (if available).

Lambert concludes the chapter with a digital storytelling example entitled “Ray’s Story.” Unfortunately, there was no mention to where this digital story could be found online. I attempted to do a Google search using the keywords “StoryCenter” and “Ray’s Story”, but there were no clear results. Still, I was intrigued by Lambert’s comments of how the StoryCenter facilitators collaborated with Ray to help create his story about growing up in West Baltimore. Lambert mentions the term “story circle” as a way of the facilitators helping Ray shape the details of his story. He comments how “It’s a matter of listening hard to what the photos are saying, to what’s in between what the storyteller is telling you, in order to find the questions that will help someone discover their insight and their voice” (p.104).

Overall, I’ve been intrigued by what Joe Lambert and his StoryCenter colleagues had implemented to facilitate digital storytelling. Looking forward to the next chapter.

 

 

 

Digital Story Critique: StoryCorps – Willie Harris and Alex Brown

HarrisWNPR13-636x424I just can’t get enough of NPR’s StoryCorps. This week, I wanted to take a listen to one of their audio-only digital stories. One that stood out was a recording of Willie Harris and Alex Brown, the founding members of the Black Stuntmen’s Association. These movie daredevils talk about the adversity of getting into the film business in the 1960s and the recognition they have received for their tireless efforts. As in previous critiques, I judged this digital story on the following assessment traits (as established by Jason Ohler in his book Digital Storytelling in the Classroom):

Story – Harris and Brown share vivid details of how practicing stunts in a public park in the late 1960s drew the attention of the Los Angeles Police Department, who assumed they were Black Panther members.  There’s a nice interplay between them, even when discussing the racism they endured on Hollywood movie sets. Their story flows in a simple chronological order, which gives the listener a solid historical context.

Originality, Voice and Creativity – At times, the listener can hear the subtext of emotion from Harris and Brown. It’s a revealing first-person account from two individuals who have been at the forefront of changing hiring standards in a company town such as Hollywood.  Harris’s mention of the emotion he felt going back to post-Jim Crow Mississippi to be recognized for his accomplishments is especially poignant.

Media Grammar – StoryCorps productions are always know for their impressive recordings and this is a perfect example.  Every word and subtle emotion from Harris and Brown comes through clearly.

I think I’m addicted to the adversity stories on StoryCorps.  That’s a good thing.