Tag Archives: Graphics Interchange Format

Warning: Under Construction … for the next several years

What is #ETMOOC

Time has flown by once again and #etmooc is coming to an end. When I first started to read the posts and tweets about the course ending, I thought, “Wait, already!? No, not yet!” I couldn’t believe we had reached the last week, which meant it was time for closing thoughts and reflections.

As I began to think back on all of my experiences in #etmooc, an image came to mind of two open palms, held together to provide a foundation and support for this new community. That’s how I imagine #etmooc as the “official” course ends. We are all sitting or standing, talking or creating inside this safe space we have built together for one another. A supportive, affirmative space that’s also open and accepting of so much. It’s a community that’s accepts that people are extraordinarily busy and as much as they might like to learn, they also have busy lives to lead. So there’s no need for apologies when you have to step away for awhile.

It’s also a community that has been built around a few core ideas or topics and deepened by questions and provocations. We have not been afraid to push one another to think differently or more deeply about current issues around forming a digital identity, supporting open source projects and platforms, and numerous other challenging topics. And once these provocations have been raised, there have been numerous questions, wonderings, and curiosities posed to the group to discuss and examine together.

Questions

We have encouraged one another to grow by pursuing new goals and trying new tools. I know I have jumped into GIFs and explored a number of new sites and projects thanks to this course. We have opened each others’ eyes to new resources and provided support to test them out without worrying that we are making mistakes, being silly or sharing things that don’t matter.

And maybe most important, we brought all of these things together by actively and consciously working to build new connections. We strived, as a community, to connect in new places like Google+ or Twitter and we visited each other’s neighborhoods and left comments on other participants’ blogs so that they would know we were listening and waiting for their next contribution. Even though most of us have never met in person and might never be in the same place at the same time, we have established ties that can continue to connect us after this “course” ends. Because the reality is that #etmooc is much more than a course or even a space for dialogue, it is an entire community built upon this foundation we have forged together.

Through our creations, discussions, questions, relationships, tools, technologies, and open sharing we have joined all of our palms together to serve as the foundation for our future constructions. It’s a construction site that is waiting for us to build upon it, to build future collaborations, to engage in shared writings and explorations, and to start new projects to support future good.

Although people are saying their “goodbyes” and we are collecting artifacts in this shared space, these are simply the next layer in our community. I don’t see them as the end but rather the beginning of the next level in this shared space, on this foundation we have built and I don’t think there’s anything stopping us from continuing to build more, if we’re willing.

Of course without the live sessions and blog prompts, it will be more challenging to stay as engaged and other events or projects might occupy more of our time but I think that simply means the ways in which we continue constructing our community might shift. We might build more piecemeal or more slowly or maybe in smaller groups but we’ll still be united by our foundation. I am so happy I had the chance to contribute to the foundation and I can’t wait to put on my digital hard hat and continue building this amazing community with everyone.

Under Construction

Image: “A Hard Hat” by Dwight Burdette is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported 

Bringing Stories to Life – Digitally!

ds tools

Last week, I spent the majority of my #etmooc time trying new digital storytelling tools (GIFs, Flip Books, Visual Poetry5 Card Flickr) and posting about my explorations and learnings. This week, I wanted to hold off testing more tools (PopcornMaker, Inklewriter & Stop Motion are high on my list!) so I could take time to reflect on the concept of digital storytelling and consider the value of it in the classroom.

Over the past few years, as I’ve learned of new tools and experimented with ways to engage children and adult learners in digital storytelling, I have been impressed with the depth of expression I have seen. Digital storytelling seems to break down barriers (e.g., fears, time concerns, language) that often prevent people from engaging in tech use. Once people see how easy a tool like Voicethread or Storybird can be to use, they are excited to tell their own stories and to collaborate with others in creating.

I think our motivation for connectedness and the inherently personal nature of stories is why I find digital storytelling so powerful. Everyone has a story to tell and I love providing my students and teachers with tools to bring those stories to life.

Last week, when I was experimenting with different tools, I was caught up in the excitement and natural engagement that comes from active learning and discovery and the knowledge that I had the power to create and share something with the world. It’s empowering to have that “I can do this” moment and to be able to add a new tool to your toolbox, one that is fun to use and allows you to convey a story in just the right way (whether that’s through visuals, audio, text, or some combination).  I want all of my students to have those moments and realize that there is a large array of tools they can use to share their stories and they don’t all have to choose the same one.

As I thought about my explorations last week, I realized that another important factor motivating me to create and share was the knowledge that I was part of a community that was listening. I had an authentic audience that was waiting for stories just like mine and I was able to visit that community at any point to ask questions, find support, and learn from the stories everyone else was telling. I want to reflect more on the how valuable it is for our students to know they have an online community who is listening to them and willing to read their work and hear their stories. How can we cultivate that community for and with them? Certainly sites like Edmodo and hashtags like #Comments4Kids help but how can we ensure that our students aren’t sending meaningful projects and stories out into a silent and empty online space?

The benefits of incorporating digital storytelling in the classroom seem clear to me:

  • Learn how to communicate/tell stories through different media (e.g., video, dictation, writing, pictures)
  • Examine the value of different types of stories and storytelling methods (e.g., poetry, short stories, six word stories, picture stories)
  • Build an understanding of technology as a tool to create and tell stories
  • Provide opportunities for students to collaborate on stories
  • Explore the ability to tell the same story in a variety of ways
  • Identify ways that culture and context can affect a story and ways of telling a story
  • Practice creating stories to teach an idea or new concept to others
  • Gain comfort using, mixing, and re-mixing content and digital tools to create stories

I’m sure there are more but these seem like some of the core skills and understandings that can be acquired by incorporating digital storytelling in the classroom. They connect with the 21st Century Skills of communication and collaboration, creativity and innovation, and critical thinking. These are also skills that will be valuable as students grow older and need to tell stories on college applications or to their employers. When you pitch a new product or propose a new scientific investigation, aren’t you telling a story? The more I think about it, the more invaluable (digital) storytelling seems to become given how much of our lives we spend telling stories, in one form or another.

With that in mind, I want to re-examine my own curriculum and consider how digital stories are already being incorporated and if there are more/better ways to integrate them into our classrooms. We have already created a number of digital stories this year but I want to keep pushing myself and my students’ to continue discovering, experimenting with, creating, and sharing digital stories. How are you using digital storytelling in education? 

Elmo Loves You - A Valentine Digital Story

A Digital Valentine Story

Image Credit: Sesame Street