Friday, May 21, 2010

Digital Story Telling: Week Two

What a week it has been trying to learn how to become an effective story teller. In addition to readings from Presentation Zen and Digi Tales the course has us working with VoiceThread. Finally, an Internet site where I can begin to put together images, text and audio to tell a story! I experimented with VoiceThread and created a short story about a Wild Turkey I encountered during a morning walk. I uploaded 5 digital pictures that captured the event and added a voice commentary. If you want to hear my story just click here.

I have big ambitions and high hopes for digital story telling. In the software industry I could prepare and present a digital story about a customer request for new functionality. Instead of listing what we need to provide to customers, I could present it in the form of a customer story. At Pharmacy OneSource our customers are mainly pharmacists, so I might tell a digital story about a 'Day in the Life of a Pharmacist' which would add a personal, human element. At the Hoofer's Sailing Club I might create a digital story where I share what happened when I did not check my rigging on a windy day and what ensued.

In my readings from Presentation Zen and Digi Tales it was stressed over and over how important it is to storyboard and design a presentation before creating the final presentation product. Yes, this all made sense and who wouldn't do that? Well, I set about creating my class VoiceThread presentation on the Civil Rights Movement. I immediately parked myself in front of my computer, logged on to VoiceThread, started browsing and grabbing images for my presentation - then recorded the voice-overs for the slides. Mission Accomplished? Hardly!

Although I read the course materials, I had not devoted any time to going analog (offline with a pad of paper) to think through the core idea and supporting elements to craft a great presentation. I had gone computer geek first and focused on the presentation tools and then tried to kludge together a story after the fact. Ouch. I played the presentation back and I even I got a little lost trying to find the riveting moments or continuity that would have made it better. It didn't help that I could hear my own pauses as I tried to figure-out what would have made sense next. I deleted the whole thing and started over.

I have a ways to go to become a better story teller. It took the experience of playing back my own work and hearing how I told a story to realize that I need to plan-out, sketch-out and storyboard first. Story telling is such a powerful way to reach an audience and until I improve, all the free slideware presentations I create and even my Blogs will never convey meaning and respect to my audience.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Digital Story Telling - Week One

The latest MEIT course through Cardinal Stritch University is titled, 'Digital Story Telling'. I have to confess that I am full of stories that I want to share - and The Internet would seem to be a good place to share them. The week started with readings from Bernajean Porter's 'DigiTales: The Art of Telling Digital Stories'. Porter introduces to us the importance of storytelling and its significant role in learning. Porter gets into what makes a good story and a lot of it hinges on the story teller having content and making a connection with the audience.

Garr Reynolds' 'Presentation Zen' takes a minimalist approach to presentations. Less is indeed more. But what does this have to do with telling stories? Have you ever read a Tom Clancy novel where he devotes a paragraph to the politics of a person holding a door open - and then never brings-up that person again in the text? Not to pick-on Clancy, but didn't those details clutter-up the flow of the story? What purpose did they serve? As a reader I find that I start skimming Clancy's work looking for the real story.

Reynolds devotes time explaining how PowerPoint and other slideware shifted presentation emphasis from content to format. PowerPoint permits one to use a multitude of colors and create endless text and bullet slides to the detriment of the intended audience. There is a tendency to use way too many colors, graphics and text that wind-up detracting from the very content we want to present.

John Sweller came-up with the Cognitive Load Theory and this applies to current state of slideware presentations. Sweller maintains that humans have a limited amount of 'working memory' (think computer memory). When humans are subject to a presentation where the presenter reads from the text slides in front of the audience - this becomes an adverse learning event. The audience is simultaneously bombarded with verbal and visual forms of the same information causing the working storage space to rapidly deplete. Concurrent use of both forms wastes audience bandwidth and takes resources away from processing the content.

Well, back to storytelling. I am anxious if not champing at the bit to get going creating digital stories! Class assignments had us viewing different videos of presenters and people telling their own stories. Some of the videos were riveting to watch and others plodded along. So how do I become a good digital story teller? I have to start with finding my exemplars and then gaining insights as to how they were able to generate and hold the audience's interest to the very end. I have the technological tools but I want to make sure that I design my stories first so that the focus can be on the message - not the media.