The Digital Word

How does one write a simple story anymore in this day and age of mashups, GIF’s, iMovies, and of course the omnipresent, YouTube? It’s hard to believe that writers of simple books, i.e. words on a page, are even still sought after by publishing companies. Who knows? Perhaps in this very generation, we will witness the death of the novel…or at least, the novel as we know it: Words on a page. According to NY Times writer, Kevin Kelly, “Once, long ago, culture revolved around the spoken word.” And now? Culture is shifting yet again. 

Image Credit: All Rights Reserved Streamline by Rachel Ryman
Image Credit: All Rights Reserved Streamline by Rachel Ryman

“The past is a rush of data streams cut and rearranged into a new mashup, while truth is something you assemble yourself on your own screen as you jump from link to link.” -Kevin Kelly


This begs the question (particularly for those of us whose life work is in teaching the younger generation the in’s and out’s of the written word): How will we adapt? How can we, as educators, take our students – and indeed, ourselves – from book fluency to screen fluency, from literacy to visuality” How can we maintain our validity and efficacy as classroom teachers and not end up by the wayside, discarded VCR’s & Sony Walkmen in the vast wasteland of obsolescence?  Simple. iMovies! (I jest. Of course it’s not simple, but honestly, iMovie and it’s iterations are a part of the solution!) 

As a part of our culminating task for our current English 10 unit, we are asking our students to write a 500 word essay based on the prompts from the National Public Radio program, “This I Believe“. Their job is to write the essay and deliver the content in a way that goes beyond pen and paper. Up to this point, our options included: live speech; pre-recorded “Ted Talk”; a PSA; or any other format they could come up with. But now I see that this is a great opportunity for students to try out the concepts of digital story-telling. I’m excited to share with them some of the resources from this week’s Course 3 reading list, including the wikispace, “50Ways” which provides a clearcut plan for telling a digital story.

We can also direct students to, formerly known as “The Center for Digital Storytelling” which is, just as it sounds – an online platform for regular people to share their not-so-regular stories. The goal of this organization is to “create spaces for transforming lives and communities, through the acts of listening to and sharing stories.” I plan to share the digital story below as an example for my students. And hopefully, I will return to this post with an update and perhaps, to share a student’s digital story as well!  


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