By telling their stories through multimedia, students develop skills in critical thinking, writing, research, and collaboration, as well as owning their learning and effecting change.
This story first appeared in Edutopia.
Perceptions of people and events are very much dependent upon who you are and what your experience has been. Events in Ferguson and Baltimore, among others, highlight our misunderstandings of each other, and how the same facts can be interpreted entirely differently. What's worse, people of color and underrepresented groups are defined by journalists covering these events, who themselves don't reflect the ethnic composition of our country as a whole.
Recent studies have proven that stories can change perceptions and even make people more tolerant. Rather than wait to be defined by others, it's important that students learn to create understanding by sharing their story, their worldview, their concerns, and their triumphs with others.
Groups like Youth Radio empower teens in poor and minority-majority neighborhoods to become multimedia journalists. Kids in these programs learn how to tell and share their own stories with a local or national audience.
No matter your class demographics or grade level, ELA and social studies teachers should integrate similar projects in their own classrooms, because every student will benefit from learning to craft a compelling visual story backed by persuasive facts and ideas.
What Is Multimedia Storytelling?
Students use video, audio, photography, web, and social media to craft documentaries and nonfiction stories about the world around them. These interdisciplinary projects allow students to focus on creating an authentic product that many people outside the classroom and their neighborhoods will see.
Why Produce Multimedia Stories?
Multimedia storytelling is a perfect match for Common Core curriculum, so we can finally feel confident about integrating it into our classes. There are many benefits to these kinds of projects.
How to Do It
Mobile devices make it possible to author and share video stories and documentaries with a global audience, and to have an impact on society. Most students have access to a smartphone or tablet, and many tools for authoring video and social media stories are free. There are even some free lesson plans for multimedia journalism, video, and photography that teachers can use to empower students right away.
Begin by having a discussion with your students about misperceptions that outsiders might have about their community and themselves. Then flip it and consider what misperceptions your students have about others. This is a great opportunity to find out how and why we end up with the wrong idea about others.
Producing Your Stories
Audio documentaries are easy to do with services like Soundcloud and the new Story Corps app. Many of the same techniques apply to video documentaries, so it might be helpful to begin with audio and move to video.
Making video documentaries is complex and takes a lot of time, so scaffold the projects to make the process enjoyable, and you'll end up with a product the students can be proud of. Begin with class exercises and learn from mistakes before you go out into the real world.
Steps in the Process:
Publishing Your StoriesAudio stories can be hosted for free on Soundcloud, and hosted automatically if you conducted interviews using the StoryCorps app. Video projects are best when hosted on YouTube and Vimeo, although many schools block these sites from their networks. Consider creating a teacher account on these sites so that you can upload student work separately.
Adobe Spark Page is a great app that allows you to combine video, photos and text in an interactive gallery viewable on any web browser, so this might be a good solution if you have limited access to video hosting sites.
Social media is also a great way to publish and share your completed work. Share links via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or your favorite network. The projects have an impact only if others see them, so publicize and let parents and community members see their stories.
Multimedia stories are fun challenges for your students and empower them to share their ideas and concerns with the wider world. We owe them the opportunity to become multimedia literate and to develop the courage it takes to have an impact on society.
Michael is an award-winning media arts teacher, speaker and consultant in Los Angeles.