Part I: Characterizing a Neighborhood
We begin with materials from Pearson Foundation’s Digital Arts Alliance Project, the essay assignment, and a class schedule for preparing for the Pearson residency. Students form groups, choosing partners or trios to work with, workable numbers for sharing computers. Then collaboration begins as each group brainstorms, talks, compromises to decide on their topic. As usual, I break down the process into workable segments to help students at each step and to keep them on schedule. I use the same process I always do for this composition assignment, but work on modifying for the digital component.
The first step due from the students is a Topic Statement. They state their thesis and outline supporting details for key words in the thesis. Here I had to modify the original assignment—some “digital tweaking” to include a digital story component: I added the list “assets I have” and “assets I still need” columns for each supporting detail section. (Neighborhood Essay Assignment Outline.pdf) We focus on the essay as voiceover narrative for the digital story, following the writing-as-a-process procedure with three drafts—1st Working draft, 2nd Sophisticated draft, 3rd Final draft. At each drafting step, students are thinking about and collecting assets for their digital story. An interesting recursive process is happening as new images change the nature of the written text. Lots of productive talk and sharing happens along the way.
When we finish the sophisticated draft, two groups combine to become a response group. They are responding to their written essay text as usual, but also planned image assets for the digital story come in to the discussion. (Digital Film Narrative Response.pdf) Once they have their Final draft, students may start practicing reading the narrative aloud for recording. The next step is the Storyboard. Students copy their narrative on to their storyboard and use this worksheet as both a planning tool and as a resource when they’re working on the computers actually making their digital stories. ( DAA storyboard worksheet.pdf) Pressure builds as our deadline approaches—all components are due to me on the Friday before the Pearson residency week, so all groups will be prepared to make their digital stories.
We spend an intense week with Pearson in our classroom making the digital stories on the computers they provide. (Later Pearson will make individual copies for each student of his/her story as well as class sets for me.)
The week following the residency we focus on our inquiry. I ask students to write an essay reflecting on their experience with the digital story project overall. I also ask them to reflect on what they have learned about writing. (See Rodolfo’s reflection) Finally, we plan our Film Festival where we will share and celebrate our work.