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The world of digital storytelling

September 30, 2016
by Stacy Tippens

As I walk around the oval, the leaves crunch under my feet and the smell of fall is in the air.  The beginning of October on the horizon means that we are nearing the end of Mod 1 and all of those amazing student projects are on the verge of completion. This Mod, many of our classes have been exploring the world of digital storytelling. Students have been creating audio narratives, making videos, and developing presentations. Over the next few months, I will feature the digital storytelling projects from the classes here at Madeira. 

Today, I'm going to feature a project that uses 21st century skills to make a familiar educational tool exciting and new. It is a project that not only teaches students to explore poetry but also teaches them about podcasting, digital imagery and video editing.  I'm talking about the Poem of the Week project in Ms. Meyer's ninth grade English class. 

When I was in school and my teacher mentioned that we were going to do a literary discussion about poetry, a collective groan could be heard from the entire class. It was going to be another classroom discussion centered on a piece of poetry that many of us were hard-pressed to truly understand, and we certainly don't remember today. Let's fast forward to 2016. Students are still doing literary discussions about poetry, but how do we add 21st century skills to those discussions and make them more dynamic? How do we create a project that will not only teach about poetry but will also be something that the students will be proud to share and talk about for years to come? The answer lies with digital storytelling. 

 Ms. Meyer’s students were given a list of poets related to the material their classes would study in “Coming of Age." In small groups, the girls chose a poem, did some research about the poet, and then, each group was tasked with recording the poem and having a group discussion about it in Madeira's podcasting studio.  They added pictures and music to match the theme of poem.  The Poem of the Week literary discussion project was born.

How was this different than traditional discussions about a poem? Yes, students had discussions, but those discussions were recorded and it allowed for further reflection and feedback. Yes, the students had to recite the poem, but because they were able to record multiple takes, they could practice and develop their recitation skills to develop more thoughtful narration. Yes, students analyzed the poem, but because they were also adding visual and musical elements to the piece, they needed to study it further to choose art that matched the tone of the poem, or select music that reflected the tenor. 

Not only were students digging deeper into the meaning of their selected poetry, but they were also learning 21st century skills. They learned to edit audio and video into a cohesive, high quality digital story. They learned to use an audio mixer, they recorded and edited audio with Audacity, and they created video with WeVideo.  These students were truly harnessing the power of digital storytelling, and I can't wait to see what they do with their new skills.