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Digital storytelling


Dalibor Svoboda
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Excerpt from: Minutes from the Gothenburg Meeting

E-HELP Gothenburg Meeting – MINUTES by Anders MacGregor-Thunell

Gothenburg (Thursday 8/9 to Sunday 11/9, 2005)

Czech women and resistance, 1940 – 45 – Oral History …..

Dalibor will be responsible for this theme. He will start a thread on the Forum where we will be able to follow the project through “digital storytelling”. Whoever is interested on doing similar research should get in touch with Dalibor. He will also create a tutorial on how to conduct the digital storytelling.

Until today I participated at the Peter Tollmars thread “Using Digital story telling and PowerPoint in History teaching” by a few postings. Because this is not enough according to the Gothenburg Minutes am I opening the thread which I call “Digital storytelling “ with subtitle “History told with the help of pictures”.

I myself had so far produce two picture series which are telling the fate of women who did participate in resistance movements.

The first story “The attack on SS Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich” deals with the assassination of “Reich Protector” Heydrich in Prague and the Czech women who were involved in this courageous deed.

The text of the story is written in English.

The second story "Příběhy bezpráví" is 12 mini stories of Czech people, eight men and four women who were persecuted mostly during the fifties when the communist regime started to reshape Czech Republic. The text of the story is in Czech.

Both stories are produced in PowerPoint. The most important goal when making these two serials was to give them a dramatic edge not to excel in technical perfections.

Right now I’m working with “A history of Czech and Czechoslovakian women during the 19th and 20th centuries.” This picture serial is painting the history of mostly Bohemian women as already told by the lengthy essay published prior Gothenburg meeting. The narrative is planned to be in English. This serial is produced in Windows Movie Maker.

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As promised, Russel and myself had our students make 'digital stories' of their trip to Carcassonne in November. We were both impressed with the whole process. Because the the students knew they we're going to make films of the day they we're much more focused and attentive than would normally be the case. After the films were made we we're able to engage in relatively high level philosophical discussion about the nature of historical discourse. The students had been turned into historical commentators telling 'the history' of their day. The stories were all very different and of varied quality; thinking about why they differed made usually abstract concepts associated with interpretation very concrete. Most interestingly they were able to make qualitative judgements on what constitutes good (and bad) history.

http://194.3.120.243/humanities/y8/term1/c...sonne/index.htm

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As promised, Russel and myself had our students make 'digital stories' of their trip to Carcassonne in November. We were both impressed with the whole process. Because the the students knew they we're going to make films of the day they we're much more focused and attentive than would normally be the case. After the films were made we we're able to engage in relatively high level philosophical discussion about the nature of historical discourse. The students had been turned into historical commentators telling 'the history' of their day. The stories were all very different and of varied quality; thinking about why they differed made usually abstract concepts associated with interpretation very concrete. Most interestingly they were able to make qualitative judgements on what constitutes good (and bad) history.

http://194.3.120.243/humanities/y8/term1/c...sonne/index.htm

I would like to hear more about the learning outcomes of this particular trip.

I am sure that giving school children expensive kit to play with on a school trip no doubt gives them a new "focus".

I remain to be convinced however that such an outcome is likely to be a " relatively high level philosophical discussion about the nature of historical discourse"

If only more historians spent more of their time making home movies of their day trips I would be more inclined to agree :lol:

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I would like to hear more about the learning outcomes of this particular trip.

I am sure that giving school children expensive kit to play with on a school trip no doubt gives them a new "focus".

I remain to be convinced however that such an If only more historians spent more of their time making home movies of their day trips I would be more inclined to agree :)

I agree with Andy that it is not sure that the outcome is likely to be a " relatively high level philosophical discussion about the nature of historical discourse".

What it does: it higly motivates my students to study this part of History. Most of the students seem to be thrilled to use the new technique, more than the historical background of it all.

Edited by Nico Zijlstra
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I am sure that giving school children expensive kit to play with on a school trip no doubt gives them a new "focus". If only more historians spent more of their time making home movies of their day trips I would be more inclined to agree :)

Sorry I just spotted this or I would have replied earlier.

The great thing about digital stories is that it doesn't involve any 'expensive kit' at all. Digital stories do not use digital video cameras but rather still cameras which can be picked up for less than €100 or come free with mobile phones! It is enough that there is one digital still camera that is used to take a lot of photos of all aspects of the trip. Our digital stories were made using MovieMaker which is bundled at no extra cost with XP.

In our example, Russ and myself took a lot of photos and we encouraged the kids to do the same. About 6 or 7 of the 40+ kids took images on their cameras or mobile phones and these were downloaded for all to use at the end of the day. We must have had 400-500 photos for the students to work with. I think it is important that students have to be very selective with their choice of photos so that 95%+ have to be binned. The reflection on the how and why certain images were chosen was one of the key features to the higher order thinking that went on.

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I agree with Andy that it is not sure that the outcome is likely to be a " relatively high level philosophical discussion about the nature of historical discourse". What it does: it higly motivates my students to study this part of History. Most of the students seem to be thrilled to use the new technique, more than the historical background of it all.

I wasn't suggesting that philosophical discussion is inevitable, just pointing out that it happened on this occasion and had been unexpected.

I think it is also worth noting that IST students do not consider this to be a new technique and are not 'focused' because of the technology, they make real digital films with really 'expensive kit' all the time. For our students, (I think) the attraction was the unusual approach to the history. Most were focused making notes on what they were being told by the guide or what time they were having lunch because they knew they'd be using this info later to make their films. I was reminded of one of John's favourite themes of the motivating impact of 'students as historians'. Here we turned the students into historians of their own past. What I think they grasped was the deep subjectivity of writing history. They experienced first hand how their versions of the past was constrained and necessarily contrived. Students can rarley understand how and why historians can disagree when working from the same sources. In this example, their work inherently demonstrated it.

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The reflection on the how and why certain images were chosen was one of the key features to the higher order thinking that went on.

Evidence of "higher order thinking" in the selection of photographs and then perhaps adding a commentary on some whizzy presentation is to be welcomed but is not perhaps the same as evidence of "relatively high level philosophical discussion about the nature of historical discourse".

Do for instance the majority of your pupils understand what you mean by "discourse"?

Do they have an understanding of what historians actually do?

I fear you are making some rather grandisoe claims for what sounds like quite a nice day out.

Perhaps you could invite some of your students to post on the student forum to convince me to the contrary

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I thinka that we don't need starting any philosophical debate to understand why Richard was so enthusiastic about his trip to Carcassone.

His students were intending to do the historian job by using 21st century tools, suitable for 21st century students.

The success of the trip will depend upon different aspects apart from using cameras, but I am sure that every historian from Herodote on would have been very happy for having cameras at their disposal.

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Do for instance the majority of your pupils understand what you mean by "discourse"?

Why would they need to in order to have 'a relatively high level of philosophical discussion'? What they were discussing - the nature (and weakness) of history's epistemological claims and the contrived and essentially aesthetic nature of historical narrative - was made possible by being made concrete in their own experience. Questions like: why are the accounts so different? whose account told the truth of day? which accounts were best and why? etc. produced a high level philosophical discussion that I don't think would have been possible had I asked them to write an account of the day. This is the important point because it highlights the value added of ICT. How many 12 year old students could write a narrative of the day significantly original enough to demonstrate interpretative difference and engaging enough that 12 year old students would be willing to read 20+ similar accounts? As JC suggests, video is a medium they understand.

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What they were discussing - the nature (and weakness) of history's epistemological claims and the contrived and essentially aesthetic nature of historical narrative - was made possible by being made concrete in their own experience.

My word they did well

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  • 1 month later...

I came back home from Prague yesterday late evening. I spent two days by visiting and interviewing for the E-Help project interesting women.

Now I have in my possession two filmed interviews, each approximately 60 minutes long.

One of the interviews was made with Dana Zatopkova, javelin gold medallist from Helsinki Olympic. At the same Olympic her husband Emil Zatopek took unprecedented 3 gold medals in three running events.

For those who do not know the Zatopek story you can read about it at:

http://www.radio.cz/en/article/33656

The other interview was made with Julie Hruskova. Julie Hruskova crossed repeatedly Czech borders with Austria and West Germany after the communist regime established itself as the ruler of Czechoslovakia, helping persecuted persons to escape. Julie Hruskova became also active résistance fighter against the regime but was betrayed, sentenced to 15 years of harsh labour and served 11 years in prison camp. As other women political prisoners she got amnesty 1960.

To my knowledge there doesn’t exist any home page about Julie Hruskova yet.

I hope that I can accomplish more interviews with other interesting women in due time and then put all of them together into a short documentary movie.

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Czech television, Channel 1 is sending every Monday right now a documentary called “The Stories of Iron Curtain” (in Czech “Příběhy železné opony”) .

The newspaper “DNES” ( in English “Today”) describe the documentary in these (rather cryptic) words:

“Who murdered and forced to murder at the strenuously guarded borders of communist Czechoslovakia? We are delivering heartbreaking stories in a new documentary about bravery and death done by Czech television according the script made by journalist of MF DNES Ludka Navara.”

Very fast did I produce yet another PowerPoint presentation of these stories based on the newspapers articles.

My thought is that I in the near future shall put together stories told about women’s fate in “The Stories of Iron Curtain” and “Stories of Injustice” (in Czech "Příběhy bezpráví") which I described in previous posting at this thread together. The result should be a digital story made in Premier or Movie Maker with English speaking voice guiding the viewer through.

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