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e-Help Seminars - Peter Tollmar
e-help Seminar 22
Digital Storytelling
Gothenburg 9-10 September 2006

I divided my presentation into two parts

A. Digital storytelling

- What is Digital storytelling?
- Two different ways I have used it
- Showed some Digital stories my students have made

B. Powerpoint

- How I integrate Powerpoint with design history
- Why use Powerpoint in Design histoy?
- Showed some games and animations made by my students

 A. Digital storytelling

1. What/How/Why is Digital Storytelling?

WHAT? A Digital story is a story told with the help of computers. It combines images, text, sound-effects, music and voice-over to tell a personal story.

DS was “invented” in Berkeley in the early 90’s when a group of writers, artists and computer people was trying to find a way to incorporate new computer technology with storytelling.

HOW?They set up the Center for Digital Storytelling in Berkeley and the Digital Clubhouse in New York City, where they held courses and invited people for screenings. They also wrote a manual for how to make Digital Stories: the Digital Cookbook.

WHY?They wanted to find an alternative to mainstream media, and also to let groups who usually wasn’t heard (ethnic minorities in the US army, woman with breast cancer) be heard.

And finally they created some “rules” or guidelines for how a DS should be constructed to work efficiently.

The guidelines are:

1. There must be a point of view in the story. Something important the storyteller wants to tell.

2. There must be drama in the story. It is necessary to capture the viewer. It must be exciting.

3. There must be some emotional content in the story.

4. Voice-over. The storyteller must read is story. This will make more personal and it will be easier for the viewer to connect to the storyteller.

5. Use music as a soundtrack to the story, since it will enhance the emotional feeling.

6. Economy in the use of pictures and sounds. Keep it short and simple.

7. Change pace in the story. A change in the rhythm sustains an audience’s interest.

2. Two different ways I have used Digital Storytelling (or been inspired by it)

a. Learning Bridge

In Learning Bridge we communicate with American students over the internet and go on a two-week trip to USA to visit some of the students and stay in host families.

We run this project to make the students grow and change into more responsible persons. (You can read more at www.learningbridge.se)

In order to emphasize this we let them do a story about a person or an occasion that has changed them or have had a great importance for them.

The have to go home and collect photos and then write a story. One of the students, Sebastian, did a story about his grandfather who had moved to Canada and USA in the 50’s to work in the auto-industry. And Sebastian did a movie about how inspiring this is to him and that he wants to do the same thing. And it also became a historic movie about his grandfather and family history.

When we returned from the trip each student had to make a digital diary of one day, using photos taken during the trip and voice-over.

The programs we use are Windows Moviemaker which the students learn to use in 30 min and also various photo editing programs (Adobe Photoshop mostly). For sound editing we use a share ware program called Audacity available at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

These (and other) digital stories are available for viewing or download on the Learning Bridge web site at http://www.learningbridge.se under "Archives".

b. Virtual history movie

I have also let the students make digital stories in history. Here they don’t make a personal story, but an ordinary short film about an historical event.

The material they use for their movies are all available on the internet. They download a number of movies, maybe 20-30, and then take pieces from all the movies to create something new – tell a new story. Like using sampling technique in hip-hop.

The main source is www.archive.org which is an internet library with movies, sounds and texts. The material is donated by the American government, companies, institutions, organizations etc and is free to use for non-commercial use. The best for movies are the Prelinger archives, which is found by clicking on “Moving images” on the http://www.archive.org web site, then on “Prelinger archives” and finally “Browse by subject/keyword”.

The Prelinger Archive have 2000 movies mostly from the 50’s and 60’s – educational (the banana industry in Central America, nuclear energy), commercials (the new Chevrolet), propaganda (Duck and Cover).

The students have to decide what they want their story to be about - the development of the nuclear bomb for instance – and then start looking for material in the archive. When they have watched the movies available they write the story more in detail (the story is somewhat dependable upon what material they can find). Then comes the process of editing and cutting the movies they have downloaded, making it into a story. And then do a voice-over and add sound-effects and music.

Movies my students has made are available on my web site www.tollmar.com/skola under “Elevarbeten & projekt”.

3. How they work at DigiClub NYC

At the Digital Clubhouse in New York they have a very ambitious community of youths who work with DS. They are not making DS about themselves but about important persons in their local community. Their present project is called Stories of service and is about war veterans – with the focus on veterans from ethnic minorities. They usually start out at the local old people’s home to find veterans. Then they interview the veterans with a tape recorder, and collect photos and other documents which they digitalize.

Finally they write a story from the material they have collected and put it all together.

You find DigiClub in New York’s website at http://www.digiclubnyc.org/ , Center for Digital Storytelling in Berkeley at www.storycenter.org/ and Stories of Service at http://www.stories-of-service.org/

B. Powerpoint and Design history

I have a class that I teach both in Design history and Basic computer skills, and instead of teaching the two courses separately I have tried to integrate them. I give them a lecture in one field in design history and then they have to make some sort of presentation in a given computer programme. In Basic computer skills they are supposed to learn Word, Powerpoint, Excel, Photo editing, use the internet, internet ethics, ergonomcs,...

So I give them very specific exercises which include both design history and the specific computer programme we are working with at the moment.

By integrating the subjects I gain a lot:

- teaching computer skills can boring and abstract if you don’t fill them with relevant content. Earlier the students have made presentations in Poweroint where the content never mattered – now I let them make a presentation about a subject we are working on. Then they get graded both for the computer presentation and the content of the presentation.

- I get more time – now I can use part of the computer skills classes for design history. Probably get 30-50% more time on design history now.

- As with the Digital Story telling the students has to internalize the material to make it understandable. For instance – they make a computer game about the Bauhaus School of Design aimed at a certian age group. They have to think through “OK, what does an average 14 year old now about modernist design? How can I make this material understandable to him?”. I think the students understand more if they have to think in those terms.

Here are two exercises my students has worked with:

- Show the connection between Piet Mondrian and the De Stijl-movement. A painting that is turned into a chair. The idea is to show how art can inspire design. The students learn how to make an animation in PP and how to add sound effects.

- Make a computer game about the Bauhaus school of design. The game should be a pedagogic game, i.e. you must learn something from it when you play it.

Games and animations my students has made are available on my web site www.tollmar.com/skola under “Elevarbeten & projekt”.

Peter Tollmar, Sept. 16th 2005

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