Tuesday, July 13, 2010

504 (DST) -- the power of story mapping

We're well into the digital storytelling course and I'm already turning in videos late. I've found with Wilkes courses that there are no simple assignments. Last week's challenge was to figure out how to blend unit's lesson about how to create stories with emotional impact for an audience with the assignment requirements to introduce myself and where and what I teach to the others in the class. (This was doubly difficult because I no longer have a class or students or even access to a school now that I've retired.)

I found some great online resources by Jason Ohler to help me understand the purpose of story mapping using a process he calls VPS (creating a visual portrait of a story). Although at first glance, VPS seems to be about the plot line, it's really intended to add a sort of emotional tension to a story by ensuring that 3 key elements are present: a problem, a solution, and a transformation.

At the end of a presentation to a group of teachers in Alaska, Ohler was asked by someone in the audience how to guide her students to turn photos taken of a school trip into effective stories and her replied that they should be asked: "What did you learn? How are you different?" and to think: " I was one person who did not know something, but now I'm a different person because I learned this thing" and then tell the story of that change.

Ohler says that this VPS mapping-- the building of the emotional flow of the piece -- must come between the idea and the story boards: "Transformation keeps us watching. ... The story fails without our being able to witness that change. ... The new you has to win and the only way for the new you to win is if you change."

Twenty Revelations about Digital Storytelling in Education- Jason Ohler
View more presentations from jasonohler.
My first idea for the Introductions assignment did not meet Ohler's criteria at all. It was a cute take on how to present my story, but did not contain that essential transformation, and I was completely stuck. Finally, my husband persuaded me to take a night off and we headed to the Harrison Festival of the Arts to hear Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks amongst an audience of mostly over 50 counter-culture folk. The next morning the new idea seemed to be waiting for me in the shots I'd already taken and the images I'd been experimenting with in my video editing program.

Here is the final cut and I'm pleased to say that this one has received Bob's seal of approval. It means a lot to me that he likes it because week after week during the Portable Video course he patiently sat and walked and posed and acted as I fumbled with my camcorder and tried to get shots that would show some originality and a minimal attempt to follow lighting guidelines and the rule of thirds. Tomorrow and Thursday he'll be out with me again so I can take pictures for this week's door scene. I could not do these courses without his constant unselfish support, and having finally created a video that speaks to him touches me deeply.

Final reflections:

(1) I've been thinking back to my math presentation at ISTE and now understand that part of the reason it succeeded so well is that it incorporated Ohler's 3 elements: problem, solution, and transformation.

(2) Lesson planning is all about going directly from an idea (content, skills, standards, learning outcomes) to the 'storyboard' (plot line/instructional sequence). But what if teacher training institutions took Ohler's ideas to heart and added his 3 key story elements to that conventional process? What if we all had to think deeply and incorporate into each lesson and each unit the ways it would transform the students we teach? What if before we were allowed to plot out the what and how of any lesson we were required to let go of tired generalizations and pat answers and dig for personally meaningful changes that should emerge from we're doing in the classroom every day? I think that would truly revolutionize formal schooling. Instead of "No Child Left Behind" -- we'd be in the vanguard of a new movement called: " No Child Left Wondering Why."

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