“Teaching” Blogging and Digital Storytelling

I was writing an email to someone about blogging and digital storytelling and figured I would cut-and-paste it into  a post 🙂   So not exactly a polished post, but there might be some tidbit of advice in here that might help you “teach” blogging and digital storytelling in your classroom.

It is nearly impossible to learn how to blog and create digital stories from books and articles.  They might be useful in getting adults and kids started, but nothing replaces “doing it.”  After blogging for a while and making a few digital stories people are then usually open to hear advice from another person and then take in what they read.  It is hard to read about how to do something you have never done before–almost every person’s schema contains no experiences that can be connected to blogging or digital storytelling.  That is why teaching blogging and digital storytelling is messy…very, very messy…and instructors must embrace this fact.  The first posts and videos are usually a wreck.  Instructors want to step in and “fix” things, they want the final product to look polished and simply be wonderful.  Most teachers became teachers because they succeeded in classrooms in which answers were supposed to be found nearly instantaneously, assignments were to be done quickly, tasks based on memorization made things neat and tidy as to understanding what was right and wrong, and when in doubt….just following the teachers rubric or directions led to success.

Successful blogging and digital storytelling does not follow a recipe.  I am the poster child for that fact.  Just look at the format of this and any other post I have written 🙂  I can remember a best selling author my kids once interviewed said something along the lines of, “kids should not be taught how to write until they are in high school.  Until then they should be allowed to love to write, and write about what they love.” She went on to say how “teaching” writing, or in this case blogging or digital storytelling, removes a students voice from their work.  They grow up knowing how to write, but not having anything to say.

I think the same is true for blogging and digital storytelling.  Too often we rubric the assignment to death.  We create homogeneity in the room.  We do the equivalent of making everyone in the chorus sing the same note.  If everyone grows up to blog and create digital stories with the on the same note, harmony is impossible.

Anyone can research blogging and teach the “steps.”  Sign-up on a site, how to post writing, how to insert an image, etc…  A well written blog is more than just a site with writing, it is an extension of the blogger’s heart and spirit. Some things to think about:

  • You cannot teach blogging unless you blog yourself

  • You cannot guide others to “expose” their inner thoughts and feelings unless you have felt “naked” while blogging

  • Teaching blogging professionally and with students starts off with unpacking the mental baggage that comes along and freezes your finger as you are about to hit the publish button

  • Using blogging posts as HW and “grading” them has to take a back seat to instilling a love for sharing one’s ideas and believing that one’s ideas have value

  • If you can’t break through “Who cares what I think” then you will not be able to instill a love for writing and blogging with your students

  • Teaching students how to manipulate their blog settings and having them alter their site before posting is very important.  It leads to a sense of ownership.

  • It is a huge benefit to write the first couple posts in class with the instructor present.  This allows all tech problems to be answered promptly and allows the focus to stay on the sharing

  • Do not underestimate how time consuming it is to blog with students.  What can take an adult 5 minutes will initially take an entire period with students. Getting kids signed up, talking about copyright, showing them how to post…it could take three class periods before writing even starts.  It has taken me an entire period to simply show kids how to find and post one image.

Teaching digital storytelling might be more difficult that teaching blogging! Instructors should also have experience making digital stories before having students create one.  One cannot understand the difficulty in making a great digital story without having made one themselves

  • Making a great digital story is incredibly time consuming! If you have not worked with video you cannot understand how much work goes into making a great video

  • Professional video studios would need more than a week to create a 5-10 minute digital story.  One cannot make the jump from never having used video editing software and creating digital stories to creating a 5-10 video.

  • Just teaching about copyright could take 1-2 hours

  • To do it right there needs to be more time, smaller videos first, etc…

  • The amount of time it takes an adult to make a video should be quadrupled for kids. My students just completed a 30-60 second stop action story and it took 7 class days

  • To get to a 2-5 minute video many smaller ones need to be first.  Just doing something simple like placing five images into a video with simple narration or captions can be a mighty task.  Learning how to manipulate video editing software is not second nature to most.  Yes there are apps and programs like photo story, but there are reasons why the videos most watched and most likely to touch a persons heart are not made with a $.99 app.

  • A great video to remind budding filmmakers about what is the most important element in telling a story https://vimeo.com/103740909

I do wonder if calling it digital storytelling taints the art form.  Digital storytelling is an eduword.  If anyone in the “real word” was making a “digital story” they would simply call it a film.  Calling it film-making gives it a real authentic vibe.  It is after all what we are doing when making a digital story.  The word film does not imply length.  There are shorts, documentaries, animations, and a myriad of more complex and simple types of films.  At the heart of a great film is a great story–it is implied.  Digital storytelling was coined when the first online tools became available to quickly create and post a video.  Now many filmmakers, especially small companies and individuals, record their films digitally, edit digitally, add sound digitally. It is the norm.  We should call it what it is–making a film.

Again, there are apps and quick online tools available to make films, but making one with video editing software is important.  You can make cookies by going to the store and buying cheap pre-made batter in a tube, slice, bake, and yes you will have cookies.  But knowing how to craft cookies from scratch is beautiful, and imparts all types of skills that can be carried over to other tasks.  Building a film from scratch, allows you to do all the little things that helps make a great story.  Most little things needed in a successful film are overlooked by teachers ( https://vimeo.com/107779620 ).  They are just making check marks on a rubric while grading.  When I make a short film it could take me a week to find the right piece of music.  Hours and hours to edit the film so that images hit the right mark in the music.  To make my classroom commercial ( https://vimeo.com/99952723 ) I spent almost 24 hours editing.   Keep in mind I already had the video clips before starting, and that does not include the time it took for me to find the music.  That is about 8 hours of work per minute of video.  Can my video be graded with a rubric?  I know if it had been it would never, ever have been made.

There is a different way to teach blogging and digital storytelling that leads kids to tell powerful stories.  In order for a teacher to be able to empower kids, the teacher needs to find their voice first.  If a teacher does not know who they are as a blogger or digital storyteller, then the kids will never be allowed to get lost, wander, and then find themselves in these two wonderful art forms.