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
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.
This was produced for community engaged research:
This is an example from a final group project for a Psychology class.
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 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.
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.
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.
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: email@example.com
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
Wednesday Oct 26 3:30 GIS Lab WordPress is an open source digital publishing platform t
hat is great for building quick and easy websites for orgs, portfolios, research and more. Led by George Witteman of VC++ and Academic Computing Services.
High Performance Computing & Amazon Web Services
Friday Nov 4 2:00 Sci Vis Lab
Come and learn about the “why” and “how” of high performance computing and the resources available at Vassar. Specific topics will include an overview of the field of HPC, and an introduction to Amazon Web Services. Led by Academic Computing Services’ Chris Gahn.
Intro to HTML and CSS
Wednesday Nov 9 3:30 -Web Design 101 – I Sci Vis Lab, Bridge Building
Sometimes Tumblr, Squarespace or WordPress just won’t do it! George Witteman of VC++ will walk you through the beginning steps of hand coding a website.
Game Design 101
Wednesday Nov 16 3:30 Sci Vis Lab, Bridge Building
Ever want to get a taste of making a video game? Thinking of an alternative to another boring paper? Learn the basics of game design by hacking pong! Tom Lum of Indiebrew will lead a hands-on workshop on simple game programming using Love2D.
3D Printing Open House
Wednesday Nov 30 3:30 Library Electronic Classroom 160
Curious about 3D Printing? Come to our open house where we’ll discuss and visit campus resources for 3D Printing. Hosted by Amy Laughlin of Academic Computing Services.
Sound Editing with Audacity
Wednesday Dec 7 3:30 Library Electronic Classroom 160
Interested in podcasting? Perhaps have an interview you need to edit? Come to this workshop and learn tips on making good recordings and the basics of editing sound files with Audacity. Led by Baynard Bailey of Academic Computing Services.
I am a long time fan of Vimeo and I’ve used it to share video for a bunch of Vassar projects over the years. (FTR those who don’t know, Vimeo is “a video-sharing community for original creative work and the people who create it”.) I was excited to see that Vimeo has launched a series of videos under the heading of “Vimeo Video School“. The series is really well done, practical, and even entertaining. I have watched and sent out links to a lot of instructional videos over the years and I have to say, this series is as good or better than anything I’ve ever seen (in the genre). Here’s an example from the series “Mastering Mobile Video“:
In addition to the Mobile Video Series (which by the way totally vindicates my ire when I see people shooting their video in portrait mode) they also have these series of lessons:
If you want to download the audio or the video from a YouTube video, here’s a great resource for you: http://offliberty.com/
It is very straightforward. Paste the YouTube url into the box, and press the power button. After a shortish wait (can be longer if the video is long) you will be given the choice of downloading the audio as .mp3 and/or the video as .mp4.
The demonstrative part of this video begins at 51 seconds in.
I can imagine any number of situations where this utility would be extremely handy. (It is always good to have a backup plan when you are teaching a class.) However, as the website points out, “Sometimes browsing offline content requires permission from its author or owner. Remember to be sure that you have it.”
I found a good idea for Vassar faculty in my email today and I wanted to share it. One of the ideas mentioned in 10 Things the Best Digital Teachers Do seemed like a simple yet powerful idea that might be useful to some.
If you are rethinking how you are teaching a course and want to invite the students to collaborate on redesigning the course, stick your syllabus in a wiki (like a Google doc or a Moodle wiki) and invite them as collaborators and rewrite it together. I imagine the process could be very invigorating.
This week we had the final presentations for EDUC 373: Adolescent Literacy. In the class, area middle school students team up with Vassar students to develop digital storytelling projects. The students explore a number of multimedia formats, including but not limited to podcasts, PowerPoint, digital photography, digital stories and video. We had a really great sharing session as family members joined us to celebrate in their work.
You can view their projects here, thought it doesn’t really tell the full story. This was my fourth time helping Erin McCloskey with this class. This semester was a real high water mark for collaboration, attendance and productivity. The Vassar students spoke very articulately about how much they learned while working with their middle school partners. The students evinced great pride as they shared their blogs, videos, photography and stories. During the semester, I spend the workshop time helping different groups with one technical problem or another, so I don’t often get to know the students very well, but the relationships and personalities were on display yesterday afternoon as the students presented their various projects.
One of my favorites was the “Rainbow Food Review” where the participants tried eating unique food combinations simultaneously:
I was impressed with the variety and creativity of the media shared. Mya and Diamond discussed their fashion blogs along with their DIY makeup video. Tori and Simone created a short film based on the concept of an Alien Talk Show. Some students shared with writing, poetry and photography (sometimes all at once). Others presented slideshows summarizing their various projects.
Erin McCloskey discusses the class here, illustrating how the class benefits both the Vassar students and their literacy partners:
In my opinion, the underreported story here is how often Vassar students (Education students) are involved productively in partnerships with diverse community members. Many of the middle school students return year after year to participate in these digital storytelling workshops!
Anthropology Professor April Beisaw is a very active user of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and other technologies in her research and in her classroom. ACS recently produced a video featuring Professor Beisaw employing mobile mapping devices in the field (devices she was able to purchase via the Frances D. Fergusson Technology Exploration Fund). Using the GPS mobile mapping device makes it easy to collect data that can then be imported/loaded into GIS to make nice maps. The video features April Beisaw using mobile mapping devices for field research.
Professor Beisaw continues to be a dynamic user and an advocate for using various GIS (Geographic Information Systems) technologies in her classroom. Last year she asked that QGIS be added to the base image for public computers on campus. I didn’t know about QGIS until April pointed it out to me. QGIS is a free and open source tool that empowers users to “create, edit, visualize, analyze and publish geospatial information”. It is also cross-platform, so that means you can use it on your Mac, Windows or Linux machine. (As an educator, I really appreciate it when software is free and cross platform!) Not too long ago, April gave a little demo in her office showing me and a couple Economics professors how to import maps into QGIS and how to get started creating your own customized maps. It seemed like a great tool for teaching and research, although there is a bit of a learning curve.
All of these maps were made with free QGIS:
I should also mention that Vassar has a GIS lab (using ArcGIS) in Ely Hall 114 and that GIS is available on the SciVis Lab machines. Vassar GIS users can also arrange a consultation with Stephanie LaRose, who is a GIS specialist that comes to campus a couple days a week. If faculty or students are interested in pursuing any of these technologies or resources and would like help, please contact Academic Computing Services by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not too long ago I posted about Final Cut Pro X being an awesome tool for students new to video editing. I was in a class yesterday where the students blew me away with their outstanding work, after just one hour’s worth of training. I was so excited, I wanted to share their work with you.
The Context: The past few years I’ve worked with Professor Erin McCloskey and her EDUC 373: Adolescent Literacy classes. During the course of the semester, Vassar students are paired with area middle- and high school students. They work together developing stories, podcasts, videos and multimedia. We’ve used WordPress blogs to host, document and present their work, to share with classmates and parents. For the Vassar students to introduce themselves to their middle-school partners (and to their VC peers), we asked them to produce 1 to 2-minute digital autobiographies.
The Workshop: Last week during class, I trained the students in FCP X, and this week they posted their stupendous digital autobiographies. I asked them during their presentations if they had ever edited videos before. Most had little to no experience with video. I wanted to share these videos as the assignment really played to the strengths of the students. These are highly personal and very charming.
Student Videos: Here are a few representative examples (but all of the stories were great in their own way):
I showed them how to make their autobiographies in FCP X, but a few students did some interesting things on their own. Logan made an animated movie using his laptop’s camera. Stephanie combined her love of photography and used the YouTube Editor and FCP X to make this video.
We had a great class yesterday (2nd in the semester) sharing these videos with each other. Next week the VC students will use their videos to introduce themselves to their middle- or high- school partners. Professor McCloskey led a dynamic follow-up discussion where she asked her students to reflect upon the difficulties they encountered creating their videos, and how that experience could possibly provide insight when they begin to work with their adolescent literacy partners.
Last summer the decision was made to use Final Cut Pro X as the supported video editing software for Vassar students. CIS deployed FCP X in the Film Department’s editing labs as well as in the Digital Media Zone in the library. To help us adapt to the switch from beloved FCP 7 to FCP X, we organized an on-campus workshop with Roberto Mighty. For two days Film faculty and CIS employees worked shoulder to shoulder, getting valuable hands-on experience with an interface that was new to most of us. There had been quite a controversy about Apple’s changes from FCP 7 to FCP X, and most of us were apprehensive about the switch. But after two days of excellent instruction, our general sense was that the FCP X could generally do anything FCP 7 did, and it did some things better. I was looking forward to using it with students.
Using FCP X for Digital Storytelling
Past years I’ve worked with French Faculty with students who were tasked with creating digital storybooks. (For more on the pedagogical goals of this project, I invite you to read Digital Storytelling in Intermediate French.) Early in the fall, I met with Tom Parker and Mark Andrews to discuss their classes’ projects. In small groups, the students compose and illustrate children’s storybooks in French, which they scan and narrate. Previously we’d uploaded the images to VoiceThread and done the recordings via their online Flash interface. Students were able to upload and record easily enough, but I found other aspects of VoiceThread lacking (editing, layering audio, search, embedding, restrictive licensing, to name a few). FCP might be harder to learn, but once learned, they would have total flexibility on how they created their projects and they would have a skill that might be used for another project or life after college. Tom and Mark were amenable to the idea so we tried it out.
I only had an hour with the students so it was a bit of a challenge to cover the essentials in such a short period. Luckily, their projects only required them to import their scanned storybook pages into FCP X, then record narration. We spent a fair amount of time doing practice narration. We touched briefly on titles, incorporating sounds and music, and exporting. Students that had brought scans of all of their storybook pages were able to get a significant amount of work done during the workshop. One of the classes was able to have a follow-up workshop where I was able to work with each group, advising and troubleshooting. This was extremely valuable and I wish we had been able to schedule this for both classes. Generally speaking, students adapted well to FCP X and were quite successful. I don’t think I would have been confident enough to use FCP 7 in the same way. Here is an example:
I liked how they were able to incorporate both their narration and some sound effects. The use of titles, music and end credits added a bit of polish too. I should add that most of the students I work with have little to no experience with video or sound editing.
America in the World Digital Narratives
Eve Dunbar and Carlos Alamos co-taught AMST 250: America in the World this past fall. For one of their major assignments, students could choose to write a paper, create a podcast, or a a digital narrative. I trained the entire class to edit audio, but a couple students were interested in using video for their digital narratives, so I met with them one-on-one. The students were able to start editing after an hour of training. Here’s an ambitious project that a student put together based on interviews she made using her phone:
FCP X FTW!
So for me and my work, FCP X has been a win. It is an easy to learn and very capable video editing platform. Students are able to get up and running with their video projects in a way that would have been too daunting to attempt in FCP 7. (One hurdle is that special formatting is required for projects on external drives to show up in FCP X.) Students do have the option to download a trial version of FCP X, which is often all they need to get through a project.
I’ve already got one class scheduled to use FCP X this semester: Candice Swift’s ANTH 245: The Ethnographer’s Craft is going to use FCP X to create digital enthnographies; they will use Final Cut to create voice-overs on top of stills and video. I am looking forward to this FCP X project and others like it this spring.