Tuesday, September 14, 2010

L.A. Middle school selected for month-long Digital Storytelling Residency ...with Me!

I'm thrilled to announce that in association with the Skirball Cultural Center I'll be leading a month-long Digital Storytelling Residency for the students in Mrs. Scaltrito's 8th grade class at Notre Dame Academy in West Los Angeles.

This in-school residency will take inspiration from objects in the Skirball’s core exhibition. I will guide this middle school class through the process of creating high-quality documentaries. Students will learn to use still images, storyboarding, and editing techniques as a way to illuminate themes of heritage, immigration, community, and identity. The student films will then be presented by the student directors at the AFI FEST Screen Education screenings taking place at the Skirball in November 2010.

'Our American Stories' Documentary Film Residency is based upon my very popular 'Thousand Words' lesson that develops both technical production skills but also important storytelling skills. How an image is composed, read and interpreted can give that image the power to inspire and arouse great passion and sometimes great change.

I originally developed this lesson for my video class at I-Poly H.S. that would challenge my students to 'read' a picture and to really think about how they use, and often misuse, editing tools such as transitions and effects.

First, I set up a series of photo buckets with my Picasa account containing some historic photographs by Dorthea Lang and Lewis Hine from the Library of Congress' collection. You can see all the photos here, here and here. Pretty powerful stuff!








I assigned the students to make a 90 second photostory with photographs from folders that corresponded to their last name. I asked them to look at each photograph for a minute and develop a point of view and a story from 6 of the 10 images provided. The goal is to get them to narrate a story, visually and for them to learn the narrative value of properly used editing tools like transitions and pan & scan techniques of the Ken Burns Effect.


In addition to using the editing tools, they also composed their own music with Garage Band. The students seemed to get a lot out of the project, and as usually the case with good project-based assignments, I found them doing a fair amount of independent research about their photographs. Research that went well beyond what I was looking to teach them about making good editing decisions.

Here are some nice examples of completed "Thousand Words" projects:

Anne R.'s take on the the Internment of Japanese Americans during World War 2 from Dorthea Lange's photographs.


Karissa N. was moved by Lewis Hine's images of child labor in America during the Industrial Revolution.

Looking at the results, ultimately I think this approach was far more interesting for everyone than a dry tutorial on effects and transitions....not that there is anything wrong with that. :)

I can't wait to showcase the work of Mrs. Scaltrito's students here on Lights, Camera, Learn! here and during the AFI Fest in November. Stay Tuned!

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