Digital Storytelling Work at Vassar

I love teaching digital storytelling workshops to classes at Vassar. The students seem to enjoy it and the faculty are pretty happy with the results. Departments include French, Japanese, Psychology, Education and Anthropology. I was reviewing students’ examples in preparation for the upcoming LACOL panel and I was blown away by all the amazing and diverse work done by the students.

Here’s a quick summary of the kinds of digital storytelling projects that I have helped classes with over the years:

French – Digital Storybooks for FREN 206 with Mark Andrews, Tom Parker and Susan Hiner.

Japanese – Digital Storybooks for 200- and 300-level courses with Peipei Qiu and Hiromi Dollase.

Psychology – End-of-term research presentations with Mark Cleaveland’s students

Education – Semester-long collaborations with Adolescent Literacy students and their middle school partners (workshops every week)

Anthropology – A variety of uses, including digital ethnographies and engaged research

We use Final Cut Pro X at Vassar for these classes. FCP X is a powerful and easy-to-use editor. It is available in the Library’s Electronic Classroom and Digital Media Zone. Students with Macs can get a 30-day free trial license.

The goals vary by classes. Sometimes the professor wants a rich medium to tell a story. In Mark’s class, he wanted polished presentations that acted as crucibles to bring together all their research. For 

Lessons Learned:

  • Provide lots of support
  • Don’t assume the students know how to do things
  • Sound is more important than video
  • Things improve with iteration
  • Set clear expectations 
  • More faculty / instructional technologist collaboration is better
  • It is helpful if the faculty member can model or provide examples
  • Allow time for things to go wrong
  • Try to keep track of where you put things
  • Measure success by faculty “happiness” level

This is an example of a digital ethnography.

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This was produced for community engaged research:

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This is an example from a final group project for a Psychology class.

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French 206

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Japanese stories (behind Moodle login Moodle

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Main Campus Orthomosaic

The VSA organization Vassar Urban Enrichment asked us to create an aerial image of the entire main campus (i.e. not including the Vassar Farm, Townhouses, golf course, etc.) After a few tries with the ACS drone, we determined that the wifi signal it uses to communicate with its controller was insufficient for handling the distance we needed and the occasional obstacles in between. Drone pilot Chad Fust then used his own drone, which uses an RF signal, rather than wifi, and we were able to complete the project in two sections. The result is a merge (“orthomosaic”) of about 900 individual photos.

 

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Puzzle Pieces

We recently used the drone for a fun project: getting an aerial photo of a large sculpture project. Sculpture student Antoine Robinson had created an interactive art project, comprised of 30 plywood boxes painted with a design. Passersby will be able to move the boxes around to “solve the puzzle,” or create their own arrangement.

Puzzle Sculpture

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Beaver Pond

Prof. Lynn Christenson of the Environmental Studies program and Keri VanCamp of the Collins Field Station are interested in using the drone to acquire various types of imaging of the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve. One area of focus is the beaver pond, which they’d like to view from above at different times of the year and over the years. After several unsuccessful attempts, we were able to collect a series of 200 images and stitch them together into the following visualization.

 

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Early Spring Workshop Series 2017

ibook on macbook air, ipad and iphone

iBooks Author Workshop 

Friday Feb 3rd 2:00 pm Main Library Electronic Classroom 160

iBooks Author is a free program that allows anyone to create digital books with illustrations, audio, and interactive glossaries. iBooks can be shared or sold via Apple’s iBooks Store and viewed on any Apple device, or exported to other formats. Hands-on workshop led by Steve Taylor of Academic Computing Services. Open to the campus.

 

Final Cut Pro icon, desktop and camera

Final Cut Pro X

Wednesday Feb 8th 3:30 Library Electronic Classroom 160

Interested in learning editing video or recording a narrated presentation? Come to this hands-on workshop where you will learn to use Apple’s professional but easy to use video editing software. Led by Baynard Bailey and Amy Laughlin of Academic Computing Services. Open to the campus.

wordpress logo

Setting Up a WordPress Site 

Wednesday Feb 15th 3:30 Library Electronic Classroom 160

WordPress is an open source digital publishing platform that is great for building quick and easy websites for orgs, portfolios, research and more. Led by George Witteman of VC++. Open to the campus.

 

Linux Penguin

An Introduction to Linux: World’s Best OS!   

Wednesday Feb 22nd 3:30 Sci Vis Lab, Bridge Building

Linux is a free and open-source operating system used in all sorts of devices. Come and learn about the Bootloader, the Kernel, Daemons and the Shell!  Discover
why Linux runs most of the internet and how it is the one of the most reliable and secure OS’s available. Install it on your own machine! Led by special guest Stefan Crain of The Jahnel Group.

 

Photographing artwork lines

How to Photograph your Artwork

Friday March 3rd 2:00 Taylor Hall 328

Need to put together your senior portfolio? Want to submit work to galleries or other
exhibition calls for entry? Come to this workshop and learn how to photograph 2D and 3D artwork. Led by Amy Laughlin of Academic Computing Services. Open to the campus. Contact: amlaughlin@vassar.edu

 

illustrator environment pencil imac

Poster Making

Wednesday March 8th 3:30 Library Electronic Classroom 160

Need a poster for an academic conference? Want to print a giant poster for your event? Come to this hands-on workshop, learn basic design and how to use Adobe Illustrator to lay out a poster. Learn about campus printing resources. Open to the campus

 

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Visualizing the Greenway Site

In January, ACS was asked to create an aerial photo of the Greenway site. This is an area in the college’s Ecological Preserve that was originally created as a composting area, but over time had become a dumping site. While the college has begun to clean it up, some interested students wanted to document the clean-up over time. We were able to create this image, comprised of 57 individual photos.

 

While we were pleased with that result, we were surprised to realize that the photo-stitching software that we used— Pix4Dmapper Pro— also created a 3D visualization of the site, which you can see at this website (click on “3D.”).

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Succession Plots

In December 2016, Environmental Studies major Rachel Marklyn asked us to produce an aerial view of the succession plots, on the environmental preserve. The succession plots are designated areas of a field that receive different treatments— mowing, tilling, and goat grazing— at different intervals, in order to study the long-range effect of those treatments on forest growth.

For Rachel’s senior project, she was creating a series of information signs for the preserve, one of which was about the succession plots. The wintertime photo was not very colorful, but the borders of the different plots were clear.

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Towers and Gargoyles

One of the big reasons that ACS acquired a drone was to support the work of Prof. Andrew Tallon, who wished to make videos and photos of the out-of-reach aspects of gothic cathedrals. In order to learn about and get practice with flying close to buildings, we made several flights around the tower of Main Library. To focus our efforts, we specifically targeted the 8 gargoyles that reside near the top of the tower. (We eventually photographed all of the library’s gargoyles– there are 36 of them!– though most were photographed without the drone.)

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Our First Drone

In November 2015, responding to a Frances D. Fergusson Technology Exploration Fund grant proposal submitted by Prof. Andrew Tallon, Vassar’s Academic Computing Services group purchased a 3DR Solo Quadcopter, with a GoPro camera.

3dr-solo-sm

The drone is available for education-related use by anyone at the college, though it can only be operated by CIS staff or (possibly) an approved person with sufficient training. Prof. Tallon will have priority in its use, since it was purchased at his request.

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