Kenya Escape Through Digital Storytelling

Ellen Petry Leanse has a powerful story to tell of her escape from the political unrest in Kenya during the presidential elections over the 2007 Christmas holidays. She and her 12 year old son were there volunteering in an orphanage as well as other humanitarian work.

I first encountered her story January 15th on Guy Kawasaki’s blog as a guest post. Her writing moved me. Something inside of me kept saying to contact her and help her share what she and her son went through. As Google would have it, her email came up in the first try, and by 8:11 AM I sent off a personal plea to her to share her narrative through digital storytelling.

By 9:34 Ellen had taken me up on the offer and we were off on a plan. Since she lives in CA and I live in TX, logistics said the use of Web 2.0 tools were in need. With very little instruction, Ellen had read her blog post over the phone into my GCast account (I gave her my PIN to access it). The recording quality was awesome! My next step was to gather pictures of her events. By 9:57 she emailed me a picture to get my mind rolling with ideas. A trip to her Facebook photo album allowed me to harvest a number of great shots. I visited Flickr, did a Creative Commons search, and borrowed a few very well taken photos from others witnessing the events in Kenya. I was well on my way to helping Ellen and her son. Or so I thought.

Honestly, as I moved through the process, the story began to touch me even more. Then it hit me. Now, it was helping me. I needed to tell her story to others soon, and I had plans to present a professional development session to a private, Christian school. Their curriculum is driven by the Classical Education model(I can hear them shriek from here as I link that to Wikipedia ;). For those not familiar with the model, it is founded on a trivium consisting of the school of grammar (K-5), logic (6-8), and rhetoric (9-12). Students at this school must complete a rigorous course load that includes fine arts, several languages (Spanish, Latin, with Greek as a high school option), and a senior thesis. The thesis is based on a 20-30 minute presentation (after a year of research on a self-selected topic) in front of a panel of professionals and then defend it for a like amount of time from the panel’s questions. And this is high school. Wow! Now consider that they start defending and debating their work in middle school and you have some real world preparation going on there.

Since this was a curricular program unlike many that I had been involved with personally (although I had studied in my graduate work), I knew I needed some professional opinions. Enter Jen Wagner and Vicki Davis. These two ladies gave me advice about the Classical private school setting via email, previous blog posts, and even Twitter. Both offered even more assistance, but they had done such a wonderful job with the digital archives of their blogs sharing their work, I didn’t need to bother them any more. The common thread was found, and I knew what I needed to do. Not focus on technology. Huh?

I decided I was going to use digital storytelling to help drive home the importance of these tools for students to use on their own. My focus was the six senses Daniel Pink shares in A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning. Those senses really drive home the importance of preparing our youth for a continually changing economy.

Classical Education’s focus on logic and rhetoric in the secondary classes are a perfect fit for what Pink has in mind. I zeroed in on Story because it can drive emotion in a person. How you tell a story is so important to how it is perceived/received. The strength of logic and rhetoric from the presenter’s side of the table relies heavily on one’s ability to gain audience buy-in. Story can do that. Story can make or break a case in front of a panel (or classroom). This is what these students are looking for to give them an edge in the world outside of K-12 schooling. As we have read with the articles on over-achievers and their battles to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack for college admissions, Story can be more important than ever.


Here is what I shared with the teachers after presenting Vision of Students Today (both the K-12 and Wesch’s versions), Pink’s views, and renderings of revised Bloom’s:Blog post from Guy’s blog
How to Change the World- Guest Post- “We Got Out of Kenya, But What About the People Who Live There?”_1200867570845This post had an emotional appeal to it for me, but not everyone is as visual mentally when they read as I am. So there had to be another step.


GCast GCast Podcast (Click on MP3 link to hear audio recording.)Add to my PageEllen did a wonderful job of reading her ten minute post over the phone. Not only did this add to the impact of the story, it allowed me to have an audio archive in her voice to build on to the story’s presentation. And…GCast is FREE.


Animoto
Download Video: Posted by woscholar at TeacherTube.com.
This piece is perfect for those wanting a short, visually driven narrative. It delivers the story (without the personal narrative). Animoto offers a VERY easy method to create 30 second videos for FREE and with NO hassle. I find this to be a powerful way to begin a writing session. Use it for the prompt. See what develops.


Voicethread
[kml_flashembed movie=”http://voicethread.com/book.swf?b=45226″ width=”400″ height=”400″ wmode=”transparent” /]
Voicethread gave me the chance to use the entire audio clip with 25 pictures. As many of you know, the audio commenting feature of Voicethread will be a great way to extend the conversation for Ellen and her son with others interested in what they lived through. I have comment moderation on temporarily until I am sure Ellen is ready for the conversation to take place. After all, it is her story to tell.

My last piece needed to be high impact. While sorting through the pictures in my office, I dreaded the time it was going to take to choose music for the background. A story this emotional had to have something special. I had my iPod playing in my Altec docking station, randomly choosing the order of songs for me. Since I was concentrating on the photos and the story they were telling me, I was just subconsciously listening to the music. That is, until Brandon Heath’s “The Light” came on. I started humming while I was working. Then the lyrics started coming out (good thing everyone else had gone home for the day). I got to the chorus, and it hit me: “Stay close you people with your broken hearts….as we move toward the light” That was it. Perfect. The good Lord blessed me once again. I fired off an email to Brandon (music minister in The Woodlands, TX) to ensure permission to borrow his song for this cause with the understanding that if he did not like the final product I would pull his music out of it immediately.

Next thing, download Ellen’s audio narrative, edit out parts that fit the pictures and music and yet keep the strong storyline intact. After a bit of time in GarageBand editing the audio and iMovie piecing the video together, I was ready. One week, almost to the minute, after reading Ellen’s post, I found myself presenting her moving story to a K-12 school needing to hear what she has to say and willing to learn about the tools it takes to tell the world.


TeacherTube
Download Video: Posted by woscholar at TeacherTube.com.
Thank you, Ellen, for your wonderful heart and willing spirit. Your words are now a part of the many that hear them from this blog and beyond. I pray your works in Kenya expand the lives of the families you touched there.Thank you, teachers of CHS, for your open minds and hearts. I know you have the best things planned for your students. Your enthusiasm is unmatched by any group I have worked with. I thank you for inspiring me to keep up the faith. We can improve what our students face in the classroom. I will be your willing guide any opportunity you will let me.


Photo Credits from Presentations:
Ellen Petry Leanse
http://flickr.com/photos/tarique/archives/date-posted/2005/02/15/
http://flickr.com/photos/dennissylvesterhurd/
http://flickr.com/photos/iaindc/
http://flickr.com/photos/runningtoddler/
http://flickr.com/photos/lo_/
http://flickr.com/photos/7270375@N03/
http://flickr.com/photos/httpwwwactionpixsmarukocom/
http://flickr.com/photos/bjornsk/
http://flickr.com/photos/paulkist/archives/date-posted/2007/11/26/
http://flickr.com/photos/44222307@N00/archives/date-posted/2008/01/01/
Music in iMovie:
The Light by Brandon HeathTechnorati Tags: , ,

7 thoughts on “Kenya Escape Through Digital Storytelling

  1. Scott, what a powerful piece you have co-created and thankfully shared! I just finished listening to the TeacherTube piece and am heading back to listen to the other ways you have shared Ellen’s story, along with the digital storytelling technology components. Being able to listen to one person’s account of the events in Kenya is a reminder that history really happens one story at a time.

  2. Scott
    This is amazing resource and an incredible way to tell a powerful story.
    I thank you and Ellen for sharing it with us.
    Nothing brings the headlines closer to home than a real voice and a real person.
    Kevin

  3. Thank you Ellen for sharing your story! I teach teachers all the time about the power of words and digital storytelling. Your story made it so real for the last group I just worked with on digital storytelling. Powerful! Thank you.
    Tricia Scott, Delaware Writing Project

  4. Thanks so much for sharing this powerful story. The story, the voice, thephotos, and the description of your process is priceless. I have posted a link to this on our South Central Kansas Writing Project ning and will share with others as well.

  5. Everyone has been great with their response to this. Thank you all so much for the links into it. I am glad to see the National Writing Project folks taking notice. Digital Storytelling is so important in engaging our kids in literacy these days.

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