In my school district, we are currently “tools rich” but “experience poor.” For several years, we had a teacher in one of our small schools who was REALLY into film making with students. He wrote some grants and ended up providing students with high-end video cameras, boom microphones, and a classroom in which one full corner was converted to a green screen recording area (complete with small stage, also painted green); a sound booth was built in a corner of the computer lab with a high-end microphone and sound board. The students who worked with that teacher (including all three of my own children) had amazing opportunities to learn how to use the equipment. However, when the teacher left, the equipment stayed but no one else on staff had the training or passion for digital storytelling and film making to carry on. So…that school has everything one would need to make a feature film but not a single teacher with the know-how or desire to put it to use. A few have been interested, but they have opened some of the Adobe Creative Suite tools and panicked ... and all of the students who were in the classes that used the tools have graduated, so there goes the "ask a kid to teach you" option.
Another of our schools, just up the road, also has tons of tools, but they spend a lot of time taking up space and collecting dust: a HUGE portable green screen set up with fancy lights, high-end digital cameras, amazing software, a portable sound studio donated by our local public radio station … tons of stuff, but again, folks lack training to use the equipment and the “fire in the belly” for digital storytelling isn’t there.
Honestly, I can’t think of a single tool that we do NOT have access to in my district that I wish we had. More than anything, I wish we had hands-on training as a district-wide staff (or least for those who are interested in learning how to use the tools), and then some ever-elusive TIME to practice ourselves…and then time to put what we learn to work in the classrooms.
So, here's the epiphany I had during the course of Section III. Perhaps the reason we aren’t using the tools available to us is because we are simply too focused on the tools! (Duh?!) I began reading this section of the text thinking it would provide fairly specific information about the tools themselves (even though Jason says early on that he wouldn’t). The section title itself (“Going Digital”) had me dialed in for a few chapters of how-to specific to the digital tools. I kept reading…and reading…and reading…and realized how secondary the particular tools really are to the DST process. Perhaps we have actually been kind of UNfortunate in my district to have had such luck in obtaining complicated high-end stuff. The complexity of the tools has turned people off and made them afraid of trying to tell digital stories…because they think they won’t be able to figure out how to use sound board or the boom mics or the madness that is Adobe After Effects. Where we SHOULD begin, I guess, is with some good old-fashioned learning about the storytelling process…all of the phases that come before anyone touches the digital tool required to put it all together. We could begin with the “Making a Cake, Basic Process” idea (p. 175). We have several sets of iPads that could be used instead of trying to master the fancy cameras. The free software on students’ laptops or a basic iPad app could be great starting points instead of feeling like we need to START with something in the Adobe Suite.
I started this class with some immediate angst about how it would require that I learn to use the complicated “stuff”…but, thankfully, after reading the entire text, I get it: A good story isn’t about the tools; it really is about the story.
Ohler, J. (2013). Digital Storytelling in the Classroom: New Media Pathways to Literacy, Learning, and Creativity. Second Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.