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    Digital storytelling is the practice of combining narrative with digital content, including images, sound, and video, to create a short movie, typically with a strong emotional content. Digital stories can be instructional, persuasive, historical, or reflective. Constructing a narrative and communicating it effectively require the storyteller to think carefully about the topic and consider the audience’s perspective. Digital storytelling relates closely with Marshall McLuhan’s ideas, who emphasized how technology could change patterns of human communication. McLuhan stated that technology could be used to amplify or accelerate existing processes.

            Digital storytelling has many uses within the realm of education. Teachers can use digital storytelling to help students realize their creative talents. Students can use digital storytelling to develop their communication skills. Storytelling facilitates and prompts students to ask questions, express opinions, construct narratives, and write for an audience. There are many studies that support the idea that by having students tell stories in their own voices, children develop greater self-esteem and confidence.

            Digital stories typically begin with a script. Storyboards can be created simply by using a table in Microsoft Word. The storyteller assembles the media to support the ideas and emotions in the script, including music or other audio, personal or public domain images, animations or video, and other electronic elements. Stories result in short movies usually ranging from a minimum of two minutes to a maximum of eight minutes long.

            Digital storytelling is significant because the oral tradition of knowledge transfer and exchange has served as the basis for education since humans began teaching one another. Digital storytelling creates opportunities to reflect on life and find deep connections with the subject matter or a course. Just as we have used blogging this semester in New Media Studies, digital storytelling is another way that students can deepen their connections with course content and follows the dual-coding theory of cognition. Dual-coding theory postulates that both visual and verbal codes for representing information are used to organize information into knowledge.

            My creation is a digital story using Microsoft PhotoStory3. There were some glitches with my experience. I could not get the music and narration to synch together, and also found that once a segment of narration was recorded, I could not edit part of a segment without re-recording the entire piece. My microphone was relatively inexpensive, and it would have been smoother with a higher quality microphone or mixer. However, the overall result of the experience was that it forced me to reflect on my experience at Mary Washington and create a story based on my experience in my own voice. With all of the rushing to get assignments done at the end of the semester, the digital storytelling project was valuable in that it forced me to think about what I was doing, rather than constantly react and work to meet deadlines. It made me take a step back and consider what the meaning of the experience was while I was going through it, which I think is precisely why educators are so excited about the benefits of digital storytelling for students.

Permission for Photography

For my final project on digital storytelling, I am hoping to take a few pictures during our New Media Studies class today. Dr. Campbell has given his permission, but said that we’ll need to see how the rest of the class feels.  If the class agrees, I will have permission forms to pass around. Here is a copy of the form for advance consideration.

Permission for Photography


For valuable consideration received, I grant to Elizabeth Downey, a student at the University of Mary Washington (UMW), Class of 2008, and his/her legal representatives and assigns, the irrevocable and unrestricted right to use and publish photographs of me, or in which I may be included, taken at UMW on April 10, 2008, individually or in connection with other material, in any and all media now or hereafter known, including the internet, and for any purpose whatsoever, specifically including illustration, promotion, art, editorial, advertising, and trade, without restriction as to alteration.

o       I understand that my name will not be published.

o       I am a legally competent adult and have the right to contract in my own name. I have read this document and fully understand its contents.

o       I hereby release Elizabeth Downey and his/her legal representatives and assigns from all claims and liability relating to said photographs.



Signature                                                                   Date


Print Name

New Media Studies on Wikipedia

I added a few lines to the article on New Media Studies.  Learning how to add/edit content was not difficult, it just took time to become familiar with the mechanics. Now I have a much better understanding of the scope of Wikipedia, and find the amount of time people all over the world contribute extremely impressive.

Response to Turkel

Turkel argues that many people compare video games to television, categorizing both as “mindless addictions.” She differentiates between the two, highlighting the fact that television is something you watch, whereas video games are something you do. The article points out the complex skills and strategies that video games require, and addresses the ways in which playing video games are valuable. For children, Turkel explains, the simulated world of video games serve as a bridge to new worlds and to the larger computer culture. Turkel recognized the negatives of video games: “[f]or many people, what is being pursued in the video game is not just a score, but an altered state” (509).


However, the dangers of video games have become more recognized since the publication of Turkel’s article in 1984. Video games have become increasingly sophisticated, and advances in graphics and animation make it even more likely to blur the lines between reality and the gaming world. McLuhan stated: “[t]he effects of technology do not occur at the level of opinions or concepts, but alter sense ratios or patterns of perception steadily and without any resistance” (207). The negative effects of video games, particularly on children whose brain patterns are still developing, needs careful consideration.

Response to “Immigrant”

Many parts of this story reminded me of the book Feed by M.T. Anderson, which I read in my Culture, Context, and Composition class last semester. Feed is a young-adult dystopian novel, and everyone has a “feed” implanted in their brains connecting to a computer network. One of the characters, named Violet, got her feed later than everyone else, and she isn’t the same because she got her hers when she was seven, as opposed to having it implanted at birth. She is different because she is one of the few teenagers who can remember what life was like, and how her brain worked, before the feed.


In “Immigrant,” no one wants to go back to Earth after they have been exposed to the more advanced Kimonian society. The story ends with Bishop realizing that even though his IQ was so high that he was privileged enough to qualify to go to Kimon, none of the ways of understanding he used on Earth work in Kimon. He realizes that the first step in learning about Kimon is admitting he doesn’t know anything. The connection I make to Feed, which offers a dark picture of the future of technology and how it comes to interfere with the natural thought process, is that I wonder if we could read “Immigrant” through the same lens? Violet, the character who didn’t have the advanced technology, is the heroine of the story. Could Bishop be making the wrong choice, by embracing his supposed inferiority to the Kimonians?


Bishop comes to realize that he doesn’t know anything, and the ways of understanding that he used on Earth won’t work for him on Kimon. So he becomes open to the idea of re-learning. But what if he’s wrong? What if Kimon seems so advanced, but really, there is no way to absorb the culture? What if it’s all a mirage? Maybe deciding that he needs to be re-educated is a grave mistake, and Bishop is just going backward by admitting he doesn’t know. It’s true, not admitting when you don’t know something, and relying on a high IQ and a traditional education, can be a form of ignorance. But it is interesting to consider the situation from a different, more pessimistic perspective.


The quote: “[a] child who is born a slave is better off, mentally, than a man who once knew freedom” is interesting if you apply it to the real-life issues of immigration. Many people risk everything to immigrate to the United States illegally, desperately wanting for their children to be born U.S. citizens. Even though the families have to work two and three jobs, and may barely have time to spend with their children, they feel that it is worth it.


Final Project Update

I have decided to switch my final project topic. My initial plan was to do the project on Skype and conference calling, and although the idea never really excited me, I couldn’t seem to come up with anything else. I have what I think is a better idea, and would like to do my final project on Digital Storytelling.

The idea of combining the art of storytelling with multimedia tools is getting attention from educators, who feel digital storytelling is a valuable tool in the classroom. There are many different types of software that can be used to create digital stories, and for my project, I plan to learn all about and present the various tools that are available. Also, I will present on the use of digital storytelling as a tool for students to combine learning about technology with writing. The thing that I will make is a digital story.

I have my work cut out for me, as I will be devoting much of my time to putting the project together over the next few weeks. But I am happy to have found a topic that I am excited about.

According to Illich, “[New formal educational institutions] should use modern technology to make free speech, free assembly, and a free press truly universal and, therefore, fully educational.” His deschooling concept proposes the idea of a learning network, whereby a student would engage in a self-directed education, utilizing technology to network with teachers and peers. MIT and several other universities have begun broadcasting lectures and posting notes online, giving anyone with the desire to learn the ability to do so. It is possible to search on YouTube for “how to…” and receive instruction on almost anything. In this sense, Illich’s vision for learning networks has been realized. However, people have to be motivated to learn in order to seek out knowledge. I feel that for most people, the only way to become interested enough in something to seek out more knowledge on their own, is to be introduced to a variety ideas through a formal education.

Homeschooling has become more mainstream in recent years, and one method of homeschooling follows the “unschooling” approach, which reminds me of the “deschooling” discussed by Illich. Parents who follow the unschooling method let their children follow their own learning interests. This approach may work well for those with the means to educate their own children. Illich is certainly right that the educational system in this country is flawed in many ways. However, the changes he proposes could never work in the real world. Not all parents are committed to their children’s educations, such as those who homeschool or those who truly understand the public school curriculum. The public school curriculum, with the benchmarks and standards that many feel take away from the organic process of learning, is designed to ensure that each student receives a knowledge-base that can be measured. Although the testing requirements are cumbersome and teachers have to “teach to the test” to comply with rigid standards, these standards force schools to be accountable.

We talked about how computerized video technology can transform and manipulate human life in class today. There are a number of videos posted on YouTube of prisoners from the biggest prison in the Philippines doing dance routines — these videos seem to demonstrate this concept.

It is really wild to watch but also to think how the act of making these videos and posting them does transform and manipulate both the prisoners and the viewers. I wonder what it takes to get this kind of cooperation and how many hours the prisoners have to practice, what methods are used to keep so many people cooperating, etc. The video can be edited to represent the performance as a bunch of happy guys and it all looks so innocent!

Prior to class, I wasn’t confident enough in my understanding of Viola to formulate a response. When I read over the article, I thought that there must be a higher level of understanding that I wasn’t getting. Our class discussion today made me realize that while my initial understanding of Viola wasn’t too bad, there were definitely some overarching concepts I had not penetrated.

For example, the article concludes with the section, “The Porcupine and the Car.” The porcupine, by reacting instinctively to the threatening car, thinks he has won a battle but totally doesn’t get the fact that the car’s driver took mercy on him. The porcupine escapes fully of bravado, totally oblivious to the larger world around him, and misses the opportunity to achieve a higher level of understanding of the whole because he is isolated in the bubble of the part.

This story can be applied not just to the issue of taking enlarging our own understandings of the vast potential of technology to use as a tool to augment the human intellect, but also to our lives as college students, as we discussed in class. It resonates with me in particular because I have taken a long, circuitous route to get my degree.

I never admitted it out loud, but have always felt that many people with their degrees somehow “got it” more than I did. It wasn’t necessarily because they knew more facts or had higher IQ’s, it was just their overall manner. They had learned something that I hadn’t yet learned. Now that I am about to graduate in May, I am on the last leg of my formal journey to “get it.”

As I suspected, the college education I have received at UMW has pushed my mind to that higher level of analytical thinking that I would have never reached without completing my education, and it has positioned me to think in a way that will help me to continue to learn throughout my life. Hopefully, I am starting to “get it” now! Thanks to Western Civ, and studying the French Revolution, I was able to see the whole of what McLuhan was talking about in his references to De Tocqueville. Taking Linguistics, where we probed Sausurre and the relationships of the signifier/signified, provided a foundation to relate to our discussion today about Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker.”  It is cool when these connections happen.

Laptops in the Classroom

A Google web search on “Laptops in the Classroom” turned up 388,000 pages. I read a couple of articles and some teacher perspectives on the issue, and while some people feel very strongly that laptops are either only beneficial or only detrimental, there is definitely no clear consensus on the issue. Proponents cite many positives, including the fact that students can use their computers to do research and work in groups on assignments. Opponents focus on the fact that laptops distract students from engaging in lectures. Many feel that using laptops to type notes, rather than doing so the old-fashioned, pen-and-paper way, promotes a stenographic note-taking style that does not give the student time to reflect and interpret material in the way that slower note taking by hand does.

This issue is a hard one, and I can see the merits of both sides of the debate. I don’t have a laptop myself, but would certainly like one. I would definitely bring it to class to use for note taking, but could see myself getting sidetracked by checking emails, reading the news, etc. Ultimately, I think the only way to deal with the issue of laptops in the classroom is to embrace it, because the technology is here. The question of the most effective use of the technology, however, is still at hand.

It would be helpful if there were a way to give students quizzes using their laptops, and have students submit their quizzes electronically. The quizzes could be fed into a program that would automatically grade and record the scores into an electronic gradebook, and then post a graph for the class to see how well they did in relation to each other. The teacher would get automatic feedback and be able to concentrate on specific aspects of the lesson, rather than wait until later on to assess students’ progress. I think that it is important to examine not just ways laptops can help students learn, but also how they can help teachers teach. Maybe not at the college level, but at the elementary and high school levels, teachers already put in many extra unpaid hours. If laptops were used at the high school level for purposes such as instant-quizzes, teachers could spend more of their time teaching content.

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