Working with the Video Crew at STARR 09

I spent this past Saturday at the NY State Fairgrounds offering my sage advice and guidance to the Video Crew for STARR. STARR (State Teen Action Representative Retreat) is a 4-H event that happens round about this time every year. This was our second year working with video and digital storytelling and thanks to the supremely organized Celeste Carmichael this years activity was more focused and intentional than the previous. Celeste is a Youth Development Progam Specialist here at Cooperative Extension and she is very much more organized than I am, which seemed to make a difference. (Perhaps a lesson here I should heed?)

You can, most likely, imagine the activity. I won’t go into detail regarding technical issues, the flakiness of some operating systems and related topics. The continually memorable thing about any of these events I  participate in with kids and digital storytelling is the boundless energy and creativity they bring to the tasks. Something doesnt work as expected? Try it this way…fluid and flexible in ways we loose as adults, it is energizing to work with them.

We had 4 teams of 3 working with this challenge: You have 4 minutes to creatively get this message across to VIPS everywhere by showing the activities happening at STARR. You will be making a movie – and can do this with still shots, video, audio…etc.

Given the limited amount of time this event takes, they produced 4 videos of varying quality – but all decent. You can check them out at youtube:

I, of course, snapped a few pictures during the course of saturday:

Career Ex ‘08 – Digital Storytelling – Day 3

Things have wrapped up, kids are getting ready to travel home to the 4 corners of New York state and I’m a bit exhausted. Unlike previous years I flew solo and there were moments when another brain and set of hands would have been welcome, but we survived. 4 videos produced, some new skills learned and a long weekend coming up. My immediate, after event, thoughts/questions are:

What happened to iMovie? – It’s been a while since I used iMovie. As a matter of fact last years CE may have been the last time. In the interim it went and changed on me and all I can ask is – What was Apple thinking? The interface is gnarlier, much more confusing to work with and some effects …basic effects like slow motion …have been stripped away. I used to love iMovie for work with teens who have never done video before but now I may have to take a look again at MovieMaker, as painful as that is to contemplate.

Did we accomlish our goals? – A qualified yes, I believe. Given the groups size (20 participants), the time frame and my lonely self we covered some contextual material before unleashing the technology but I just didn’t have enough time to work with each of the three teams they divided into to reinforce some of the fundamentals about structuring stories and so on. Next year I may limit the size down even further and have been wondering whether some sort of pre-screening is possible or desireable.

Given a few days more willl filter in but for now….it’s over, we did some things, no one got hurt and I’m thinking about next years programs, so it must have been good.

Career Ex ’08 – Digital Storytelling – Day 2 A.M.

Off to the races, so to speak. Today began at 8:30 – an ungodly hour to have to be functionally interacting with others, in my opinion, but the schedule abides. After a brisk discussion, everyone was anxious to get out there, start doing things and so out into the world they headed. It always amazes me – the energy, the creativity that can happen – and I really shouldn’t be suprised. I am hopeful that this experince provides a space to encourage some exploration that is otherwise unavailable on a day to day basis. After 7 years of doing this event I like to think I’ve found a balance between providing the right amount of structure and support without narrowing the field of potential action.

Things move in parallel, that goes without saying, and so perhaps some of the increase in flow and succesful completion of projects during these sessions is the inevitable result of pre-existing exposure to technology but I would like to think that some small spark happnes here. Yes, I still want to be the cool instructor guy that kids want to hang out with and learn from – ego, as well as schedules, abides – but I hope some of it is the program, the space and freedom to express.

This year I have 5 or 6 returning participants who were in last years session and at least one who is marking the third year of participation in my/our session – something must be clicking.

Pictures from yesterday afternoon and earlier this morning are up at the digital storytelling blog.

Career Ex ’08 Digital Storytelling update 1

Startling realizations thus far:

  • I wildly overestimated any interest in things political ( ie Lincoln, Obama, narrative and counter narritve as illustrated in current political events).
  • Popular music can be quite depressing….and also quite meta/self referential in it’s thematic content
  • The more things change the more they stay the same

more to come….

Career Explorations 2008 – Digital Storytelling

This year’s Career Explorations program begins in a few short hours and I am quite hopeful that I’ll drop in at least 2 or 3 blog posts during our session, but I had the same hope last year and never quite made it, so we’ll see. We have about 12 hours total during the next 3 days to explore some existing, and create some new, digital stories. And, new this year, I’ve set out some goals and done some focused pre-planning – we’ll see how that goes, too.

Once we begin to produce new content it will be posted to the our Youtube channel and linked from the Digital Storytelling blog. By tonight I should have some images to post, but for now here is our sechedule. More to come, I hope.

Tape delayed from…Career Explorations 2007

Career Explorations, a yearly event from 4-H, is going on now at Cornell. Our program this year is titled “Connect,Create,Collaborate” and, much to my surprise, has 2 returnee’s from last year. Think thats the first time that’s happened in one of my sessions….But on to whats going on.

We kind of threw it open a bit wider this year. Our promotional blurb encouraged artists, musicans, writers and techno-geeks…and we got them. A great mix of skills and talents that has really cohered to create something online. You can take a look at whats going on by visiting the site they are building, which is still very much in progress at this moment.

We have 24 participants, which includes our 3 chaperones, working together in 4 groups. The design team has been working with WordPress (my current favorite tool to build sites with) and hacking the css under the tutelage of web programmer Teri Solow. We have a production team using their discrete ninja skills, wielding Photoshop, iMovie and Audacity to great effect. And we have 2 content teams capturing life with video and still camera, a Roland R-09 mp3 recorder and pencil and paper.

To state the oft stated obvious…kids these days are very fluid with technology. But even given this, I think there have been a few kind of whizz bang moments. Putting new tools into teen hands and then being able to back it up with skillful mentors/instructors willing and able to help them take an idea, execute it and then unleash it into the wild is not the common experience, I believe. Sure kids pick up new tech easily, and yes, as evidenced by YouTube, they can produce video but the mentoring experience provides some depth, perspective and a safety net to help them engage the tools more fully. At least thats what I hope we’re providing.

And here are some shots from our first day of work:

Using AudacityPaper and pencilPaper, pencil and a scanner

Teri teachesI’m explaining….somethingEditing video

Design and Tech–2004 PD session

IMG_0436.JPGFor several years I have run a participatory design session with 4-H teens focused on mobile devices. This session is in late june and runs for 3 days. We discuss the impact and implications of mobile technologies and then break into design teams to brainstorm around a particular concept.

In this program we will explore and re-design common technology tools including cell phones, gps devices, and hand held computing devices. We will also take a look at the design process and the impact of users on design evolution.
Issues of form and function and the design decision process will be explored. Design teams will be formed to begin the preliminary design process for a new device. Design materials for this session will include paper, pencils and markers.

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