I’ve presented my digital storytelling workshop many times and still there’s always a need to keep it fresh, keep me fresh and on my toes.
I got the Common Conference invitation from my old pal Jane before I left for Israel and sent BOCES my bio and blurb while I via email before we returned, but it was way too early to do anything about it except start to simmer the pot way in the back of my brain. After all there were things coming way sooner than the end of April and I must enjoy the torture of procrastination.
Okay, we are now entering the week of the conference. I have met with the BOCES coordinator, signed on dotted lines in front of an authorized notary and even promised to send them special delivery, a copy of my passport. Things are getting very official, even for a conference presenter.
It’s Monday and the conference is Friday and my deadline is Thursday because that’s the day I will be in New Paltz to get my handout packet xeroxed and of course I develop a head cold/allergy attack Tuesday that takes me through lunch on Wednesday but miraculously, lunch with Marie France at Strawberry Place in Nyack clears my head and I return home refreshed and ready to tackle my challenge.
I spend hours blending fragments together and thinking a lot and not feeling anymore guilt. Nice.
I want to keep the NFA piece that I’ve been using, “Taking Advantage of Time”, even though it’s not as gritty as other pieces. But the power of her voice, transforms the text and that’s magical for me. I watched her closely throughout the process and even though I’m not exactly sure where some of her images and sophisticated word choices came from, her piece is powerful in its full force of words, images and music.
As the piece finishes, I ask the group ( a large one in the first session) to write about what strikes them about her DS piece and everyone, with the exception of two buddies in the back are ready to work with me. (I have to remember to use my digital recorder to document the responses.) I get great responses.
Participants are mining their initial reactions. A man in the back of the classroom remembers his international experience working with engineers new to English and now in a second career as a teacher considers the ELL students he has in his math class and wonders how he could use ds with them.
With my new use of Apple’s Keynote, I’ve added a slide of Lisbet’s text and paragraph by paragraph participants read and comment on the text and layer the text back into the ds and what happened to this text as it was mixed with the media elements.
We look at the DS elements slide I have created one that’s more user friendly than the one in the handout packet, borrowing from Trace and Joe.
Then it’s time for the group to get messy and write. As always, there are some clearly uncomfortable to be writing as a writers, others thrilled to have the chance and some on the fence. I have the prompt on a slide and I don’t want the two in the back to get more distracted with the full packet quite yet. So everyone writes to my standard, Joe Lambert’s fork-in-the-road, a la Robert Frost and there’s plenty of time for them to get into this. They are writing, thinking and it’s silent. There’s an 1 1/2 hour block and then a good snack break almost an hour. So there’s no rushing to the next thing. Nice.
I slowly move them to revision. Pointing back to their draft, mining for golden nuggets. and then selecting one to begin again. The revision can continue from the original or it could something that’s brand new. Always their choice and I want to keep stressing that they should write free and not worry about the next stage, the share. It’s up to them what they share. The key is the process. What happens to them in this writing experience and what could it mean to their students?
They write again. 10 minutes. Then the share. My favorite time of the workshop. Pairs, trios, I encourage strangers to get together and most people seem to be introducing themselves and that’s fantastic. Some are reading their pieces, some are sharing their process . I let them set the time limit now.
The conversation that follows feels like a bonding experience for the group. I am not using my digital recorder again, not scripting this, ugh. Each group shares their writing experience and many offer thoughts and questions. One guy wonders how what ds would look like with natives and I smile. I have Alison’s back in the mix to share next.
The reflections are rich and the many are thrilled to have been writing and unearthing personal life moments. We talk about private/personal, other prompts for different kids, time lines and how to best deal with the teacher and technology. It’s also a perfect opportunity to talk about how I use this prompt with teachers in the HVWP’s SI in a story circle and why this prompt is so good at opening the door to authentic writing.
Now to Alison’s piece. Here I offer them the booklet. I have them read Alison’s early draft and then the final one before they see her DS. I’m cruious to see what they think about her process as a writer and why she has made the changes to the piece that she did and then how the writing works with the media elements.
A thoughtful woman is blown away by Alison’s commitment to the piece as she moved from the early to final draft and the conversation focuses on the commitment to audience and the life experiences of the student brought alive in this process. Alison’s tribute to a family friend lost to cancer is powerful on the page and then the ds piece takes the group to that next layer. We are able to talk here about publishing to an authentic audience. Alison was able to bring Neil’s family a DVD and share the her tribute with them. She presented with me at a faculty meeting and at NYSEC but her most powerful experience was with his family.
It’s a great chance too, to talk about how teachers new to the tech, like I was with Alison can get comfortable with it slowly. Learning first with easy software( Photo Story 3 for the PC and Imovie for the Apple!). I share my one-on-one experience with Alison and a few other students before introducing DS into larger groups. One teacher lights up with that suggestion.
Sad to say, that moving back and forth between DS on disks and the Keynote presentation, I pressed the wrong key and the computer and LCD projector started fighting. I lost the promise of taking the group through a few slices on the PC software. And one woman was so disappointed. I promised to support her as best I could with an email. And thrown off as I was sprinting to the end I lost a bit of my concentration with the last few comments. But as the group left a number stayed behind, passing up a spot of the food line to continue on with me. NICE.
As everyone left I needed to figure out what went wrong and get ready for the next session. I grabbed a Jenny Craig protein bar, my water bottle and I took a walk to the cafeteria. Break time. I ran into more of the group and spent time answering questions. What a great time!
Workshop two was a breeze. No computer glitches, the group was much smaller and I was relaxed and with them. Success and exhaustion. I had a long ride to Paramus and I needed something to eat. Diet coke, pretzels, frozen yogurt, bathroom breaks along the Thruway and Tuvia waiting to get me to take a nap before we left for dinner in Hoboken.