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:
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Online Photo Sharing in Plain English

I am double posting this here and here.

To piggyback my previous posts about design and photography and Flickr usage, I would like to offer this short tutorial video about online photo sharing. Thanks to the folks (Lee LeFever) at Common Craft for once again making this an easy to understand topic. So don’t let a little fear of a software program slow you down from joining the fun and learning of photo sharing.
Download Video: Posted by leelefever at TeacherTube.com.

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Just a Little Glitchy

WO_podcasting_iconI am not sure how many others use Google Apps for Your Domain, but our school district implemented the suite about four months ago. We love it. I only hear good things about the tools they can use and the power of the email engine. So we finally find a software package everyone can agree on! Yeah for us.

Well, we started noticing a few little tinks in the armor after the Christmas break. Just a few teachers a day have called to say when they access the start page it freezes up on them. Now, all of our staff have full control over their start pages as far as what widgets they add to it, so that leaves a lot of room for different scripts being run (as best I can tell from my little programming mind). After a few hours of playing with it, we found the solution that has taken care of every teacher so far.

Pretty simple, actually. Upgrade to IE7 or move to Firefox. Something in IE6 and older (yes there was one or two 5’s out there) did not play well with Google Apps for Your Domain (or some widget on it). Now we just have to get to every teacher machine, turn off deep freeze, update to IE7/Firefox, restart, test, refreeze, test again, and then move to the next one. Oh what a life!

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Google Docs and the Writing Process

Janelle BenceGoogle has teamed up with Weekly Reader to create lesson plans for the revision stage of the writing process.  This is a great way to learn revision while collaborating in a cool read/write web sort of way.  These lesson plans are directed toward teenage students, but any teacher worth his or her salt can adapt and modify to fit other ages.

Learning Google Docs has saved our middle school campus a ton of time by sharing documents and spreadsheets campus-wide eliminating the need to walk to check a sheet in the office or meet just to agree on a revision or final copy.  Our students need to begin learning this process as well.  Revision is the toughest part of the writing process because the ownership is so near and dear (or laziness sets in).  Take this chance to engage your students in the process by utilizing the free tools we have available on the Internet.  You will be surprised how many decide to voluntarily work on their writing at home.  Seriously.

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Now SnagIt is free!

Earlier in the week I shared that Camtasia was giving away their older version of screencasting software for free. Now they have added SnagIt to the list of free offerings.

Here is an update from Miguel:

UPDATE: 11/28/2007 – Free Screen Capture program

SnagIt Pro is now giving away retail editions of SnagIt screen capture software for free. Follow these steps to download SnagIt for Free:

1. Get the demo version of SnagIt 7.2.5 via FTP at ftp://ftp.techsmith.com/pub/products/snagit/725/SnagIt.exe
2. Request a SnagIt 7 Software key

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Camtasia for FREE!!

If you have ever wanted to be able to record what you were doing on your computer screen for either archive or playback at another time (think tutorials, review, video, etc), then this is the software you need. Camtasia has long been recognized as the leader in screencasting software. The only downside is that they do not have a Mac version yet, but you never know. I heard rumor it might be in the works.

So, thanks to a post by Miguel Guhlin on this offer, you can go download Camtasia’s last version (3.1) for free. Considering the newest version (4.0) runs around $100 or so, this is a great deal. Take advantage of it. It is an awesome tool to use in the classroom.

Download here.
Get your software key here to unlock it.
Check out some tutorials here.

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Hey English teachers! Show your students this citation machine!

Dave Warlick has a great little tool you might find useful in your own writing as well as with research projects with your students. The Citation Machine will work in either APA or MLA format. Want the citations to look right? He seems to have it down pat.

WARNING: This little tool gets very slow around the end of semesters when college kids begin final drafts of their papers. I guess that shows you how popular a tool it really is, huh.

Try it out.

Podcasting in the Classroom

Tim Wilson, a technology integration specialist from Minnesota, hosted a session at NECC last year (NECC will be in San Antonio June 2008). The audience put together a list of classroom uses for podcasting. Tim blogged about it and offers this list:

Collect field notes during a science field trip
Living museum, researching characters
“Radio shows”
Creating audio guides for local museums
Teacher powerpoints
Early language learners, (rhyming, etc.)
Staff development
Screencasts
Language learners recording assessments
Discovery Education videos
Science reports
Art projects
Digital portfolios
Weekly classroom news
Serial storytelling
Reflective journals
Summaries of school events
Broadcast school sporting events
Roving reporters
Capturing oral histories (family history)
Podcast vocab words and spelling lists
Flashcard practice with iFlash
Musical compositions
Soundseeing tours

Since podcasting is new to many in our school district, I thought I would offer this list up and see if anyone was interested in trying it out.  If you are, give me a call.  We have the equipment available for our staff to try these things out.

Any other ways to use podcasting that you can think of?

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Grading the Electronically Submitted Essay

As an English teacher, I always wanted ways to limit the papers I had to lug around. It can be a mess, and at times I had a fear of losing what my students had spent (hopefully) many hours creating. I longed for the electronic submission days, but I always wondered how to find an easy and effective way to grade these and return them electronically with my notations.

Well, in steps a blog post from The Visual Lounge. This blog is mostly about making screencasts of different things, but the one that caught my eye concerns Alisa Cooper, an English professor at Maricopa Community College. Alisa takes you through the steps of creating a custom grading toolbar to add to your Word toolbar area. It is a great little tool. As usual, there will be a little bit of time needed to start with, but once it is in place, it is ready to go for every paper you grade.

So take a look at the screencast here and take a shot at making your own. Have your kids submit their essays electronically to you one time. Assess them using your new toolbar and send them back to them. I view this as more of a conference stage than maybe a final draft grading, but you can decide what works best for you. Let me know how it goes.

And if you are interested in making your own screencasts like Alisa, shoot me an email or a comment below. I’ll see what I can come up with for you.

photo credits

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