“At one time, people used to paint things that could be seen on Earth, things they liked looking at and would have liked to see. Now we make the reality of visible things apparent and in doing so express the belief that, in relation to the world as a whole, the visible is only an isolated example and that other truths are latently in the majority. Things appear in their extended and manifold sense, often seemingly contradicting yesterday’s experience. The aim is to reveal the fundamental idea behind the coincidental.”
Having my students develop a digital story has proceeded with caution, clear instructions and an achievable pace for them. For if a task is not achievable, then what is the point of having learners do it?
There are shades of meaning, mists of cultural references, dreams of simplicity.
Developing digital stories is an awakening of the senses.
In the third phase of this digital storytelling lesson, (A Journey of Stories and Roles, Womb of Words ) students had to print their collaborative fragments from Edmodo and edit their writing. Once again, I reminded students how I was there if they needed any help or had any question. They glanced up but I had become invisible and irrelevant. Only their story existed. Each group had 2 tasks to complete:
Task 1 – Edit and proofread (especially verb tenses, singular/plurals, spelling and connecting words as well as other linguistic features; specific points to pay attention to were written up on board as a framework for students)
Task 2 – While some members of the group focused on the writing, others searched for images to collated into a visual story. I left the choice open should they want to include video and music as well.
The final task which was left for homework, was to create a movie with their visual data and written work. I had wanted students to use Vuvox – it would be an opportunity for them to become familiar with a tool which is useful for presentations, is easy to use and simple to embed in their blogs. However, there was an unexpected glitch: none of the students could sign up to Vuvox. I hadn’t used Vovox myself lately so that is certainly a recommendation I leave to teachers – always find time to check if there has been any change in a tool, whether when signing up or if it continues to be freely available.
However, students themselves proposed an alternative, rejecting any other tool I would have wanted them to learn. They knew how to create movies with iMovie and didn’t particularly want to learn a new way of making movies. I agreed to their suggestion, surprised and frankly pleased to see them take an initiative. But, did I as a teacher really give up my power by giving in to students?
Hall (1976:16) states that culture:
(i) is not innate, but learned,
(ii) the various facets of culture are interrelated,
(iii) is shared and in effect defines the foundries of different groups.
(based on Hall 1976:16)
A teacher’s movement in the classroom may be perceived as a game of chess: in the game of chess, it is the Queen who holds the most powerful role of movement in the game. In the classroom, it the teacher who, while not necessarily acting in an authoritarian manner (Widdowson 1987:86), holds ultimate power. This unequal share of power is inherent to classrooms, and as Jackson (1968) points out, is always present (Jackson 1968:32). Any change in the power structure is one of degree – for just as in game of chess, once a teacher has given up complete power (i.e. when the queen is taken), the classroom culture ceases to be what is conceived as an established classroom cultures. And the sensitive question remains: would learners really desire the total collapse of a cultural system in which each member knows his / her role and the security (i.e. known expectations and demand) that security brings with it?
I dare say that in my conservative context, (or in many other teaching contexts) this would not be likely. Leadership in classrooms is important to learners. Learners expect the established classroom culture to be maintained, despite the momentarily abdication of power and rule setting.
(Image: Still Life)
Still Questioning …
One counter argument I have often heard is what is the point of digital storytelling? How can it assessed? How does creating digital storytelling prepare learners for exams?
My question is, why must teaching/learning only be geared towards examination performance?
In my view, the ability of performing well on examination is the ability to do examinations. If learning is stimulated by inquiry and reflection, then the value of preparing students essentially for examination performance is stifling – more in line behaviourial theories than with cognitive development. The need to evaluate learners and grade them (though with its own merits – cf Hughes 1990, Davies 1988) seems to become at times more important than giving learners space to learn and to inquire into the learning process – i.e. their own individual learning process and the collective learning experience of the classroom. It is this area of conflict – or point of tension – (see figure below) that I refer to, but do not assume to supply ready answers, for that would demand a detailed inquiry.
Despite its tone of slight extremism, the question needs to be put forward: is education to remain as the legitimate process of restraining cognitive abilities and ensuring that behavioural responses – which are so much easier to control – are well activated? Notwithstanding, it is my firm contention that education may – and in many cases, is – more than legitimate cloning. It is with this last observation in mind, that I would wish to
suggest a sense of balance in education – for although I do not suggest that forms of evaluation be abolished, the data seems to indicate that a balance between the demands of teachers, learners and their educational institutions would more fully satisfy the members involved.
Davies, A . – 1988, “Communicative language Testing”, in ELT Documents 127, OUP
Hall, E.T. – 1976, Beyond Culture, Anchor Books, Double-day
Hughes, A. – 1990, Testing for Language Teachers, Cambrige University press
Jackson, P.W. – 1968, Life in classrooms, Holt, Rinehart &Winston
Widdowson, H. G. – 1987, “The Roles of Teacher and Learner”, in ELT Journal, vo1.