The Strength of Weak Ties

Everyone participates. Everyone contributes. Leveraging the power of digital networks to connect people, resources and ideas to drive creativity and innovation forward...and actually accomplish something!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

DST: Life 'Round Here Project

Over the past three years, my network has become absolutely essential in how I function professionally. Being connected has been an enriching learning experience for me, and has caused me to reflect on and rethink much of what I believe about education. It's only logical to use these same networks to our advantage with kids, to put our kids in contact with experts, and most importantly, in my opinion, with other kids in other classes.

Enter the Life 'round here project, spearheaded by Chris Craft.

If you haven't seen the project, it's a digital storytelling project. From the wiki page on requirements:
I am going to begin with a discussion about life in other countries and the stereotypes we have here in the USA about other countries. We will then move into a discussion about real life in our area, and about how it is not quite as rosy as the tourist brochures might lead one to think. I will then ask the kids to begin thinking of how to tell the story of what life is really like here in the USA, in the south, to be specific.
Chris already has six classes besides his own participating, including his kids from South Carolina, and others from Australia, New Zealand, and Thailand. He's asked that these kids craft similar messages about their lives.

As many of you know, I'm a big fan of digital storytelling and the promise it holds for helping students craft important messages that can be distributed through the networks of the Web. Harnessing the affinity that students have for these technologies, and then directing those energies towards producing a product of meaningful value, one that can help to create a competitive voice, is an important aspect of what learning should be about in 2007. Doing projects that help kids from different parts of the world understand each other, like this project, are what we need to be doing more of.

So what's next for a project like this?

I think that assessment should play a critical part. Obviously, the projects will be assessed (or judged) and the best will emerge. But I think there needs to be more:

First, will the value of the process of digital storytelling as a learning tool be evaluated? Is it better than what kids have done in the past with other instructional methodologies? Does the process add value to the learning experience? F
or example, are other literacies, such as visual literacy, developed within the context of the storytelling experience? Do these skills improve, and how is that known?

Second, what is the value of making this a worldwide program? I mentioned earlier that I felt projects like this have the potential to promote understanding between different cultures. How can the connections between classes be utilized to add that value I mentioned earlier? For example, will the students be expected to evaluate each other's work and learn how to judge fairly and comment accordingly? Will the students be asked to reflect on the messages contained in the digital stories, and respond in kind? Will there be a conversation between kids started by the stories, and how will the teachers continue that? Will these conversations be evaluated for their impact on learning?

OK, so I have a lot of questions. But I think we need to begin to ask these when we ask kids to do these kinds of projects.

Congratulations to Chris on stepping out there and getting a nice project going. If you haven't looked at the wiki, please do so. I'm already looking forward to what the kids that are involved will produce.

tags: chriscraft digitalstorytelling liferoundhere07


  • At 4:52 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Hi David!

    Great questions as always, and much that I had not thought about. I'd love some counsel here but I have been thinking along a few lines...

    1. There is a rubric in process to have a less-than-entirely-subjective process for determining the best stories.

    2. I was thinking of an end-of-project survey that I would ask students to take to help evaluate some of the questions and possibly make for a reflective question.

    Don't leave me to figure this all out, if you've got some great ideas of things I need to add, please let me know. I want to do the best by my kids.


  • At 7:15 PM , Blogger Barbara Barreda K-8 Administrator, Tech integration advocate, Going 1:1 with netbooks said...

    Hi David,
    Good questions. Clarence and I had some similar questions and we are hoping to get some idea of what it means to connect kids/classrooms/teachers on a daily bases and how that will change teaching and learning. (see Clarence's blog)Projects like Chris's would be a nice way to connect us with a more global audience. I will go look at the wiki.
    I also agree with Chris- we need to figure this out together. Looking at the impact on learning and being deliberate about the literacies we are involved with is the next step in advocacy for 2.0.
    On another note I want to work with my staff on digital story telling. Might you be available to do a skype videocast presentation at some point? The time is right for us to embrace new things this year If you get a chance take a look at our new mission statement and shareyour thoughts!


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